Friday, February 17, 2012

General's failed mission actually succeeded

Maj. Gen. Wm. Garrison did something rare – he took the blame for a total success

“It was about killing people before they killed you.” - Maj. Gen. Wm. F. Garrison

Hico – When the Blackhawk went down, there was but one man who stood ready to take the responsibility.

Maj. Gen. William F. Garrison “did something very few people in leadership do nowadays. He took the blame,” wrote Mark Bowden, the Philadelphia “Inquirer” news hand whose series of articles later became the book, “Blackhawk Down,” and then morphed into the popular motion picture by the same title.

From retirement on a ranch in Hico, a colorful west Texas community nowhere near Six Shooter Junction, but well within the jurisdiction of the Western Distict of the U.S. Marshal's Service, he has chosen former Deputy U.S. Marshal Parnell McNamara as the next Sheriff of McLennan County and backed his selection with a generous campaign contribution of $5,000.

To describe General Garrison's career as colorful though camouflaged in the jungle patterns of a special ops warrior, one of the army of black operators who spook in and out of the shadows of foreign policy, is a whopping understatement.

In a terse, hand-printed letter of 13 enumerated paragraphs headed “Operation on 3/4 Oct. '93 in Mog,” Gen. Garrison summed up his peace keeping mission to Somalia, Operation Gothic Serpent, as an abject failure that had but one saving grace.

It succeeded.

After President Bill Clinton took the heat from Capitol Hill, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin resigned in disgrace, and a disgruntled and unknowing public had moved on to more promising pastures of gloom and doom, the General packed up his old kit bag and retired to a ranch in Hico.

In his letter to Congressman Murtha of the appropriate committee, he not only took full responsibility for the successes and failures of his mission, he also pointed out he had done two things.

Following an open statement that goes like this, “I. The authority, responsibility and accountability for the Op rests here in Mog with the TF Ranger commander, not in Washington,” General Garrison wrote that first, the President and the Defense Secretary should be “taken off the blame line.”

Their decision not to use armored equipment in a peace-keeping mission had little or no effect on the overall results of the surgical strike effected by the laser-like focus of the Delta Force operation.

Insertion of armored vehicles may or may not have reduced casualties, he wrote.

Secondly, the original mission, that of capturing alive a Somali warlord who had proven he was total Hell and Jesus about making life miserable for peacekeepers and innocent bystanders alike, had been accomplished.

He delivered Mohammed Farrah Aidid to the proper authorities; his paramilitary unit was thereby decapitated, and every man injured had been brought out of the combat zone before the General and his troopers secured.

No one had been left behind.

In those 13 paragraphs, there is a lesson in semantics any leader should learn.

It's called how to take full responsibility for the kind of failure so often described in the terms of political correctness as a nine-car quitting time freeway smash-up causing back-ups clean to Santa Barbara and halfway to San Diego.

Those are the kind that are actually to be categorized in the scope of historical perspective as a total success when couched in the terms of pragmatic expedience.

It's a new kind of war.
But, then, it's always a new kind of war and black ops types are always on the cutting edge of new and improved. Anything else is old - and inferior.

In a recap interview following his rescue from Red Brigade kidnappers who snatched him from his Vienna apartment, NATO Deputy Chief of Staff James L. Dozier characterized using the Army as it was then constituted and organized to go after terrorists as “kind of like going after a fly with a sledgehammer.”

The Army had plans, and General Garrison was one of the few who were chosen to carry that new kind of fight to insurgent terrorists, to meet them where they live, take them off the count through arrest – if necessary, to terminate them with extreme prejudice.

He proved his mettle early on in his career on the battlefields of Vietnam after, as he likes to say, the Army chose him.

Gen. Garrison was drafted in 1966 after attending the University of Texas – Pan American Campus, at Edinburg-McAllen in the Valley.

He graduated from OCS, volunteered for Airborne Ranger training, then shipped out for southeast Asia.

From that initial experience commanding covert warriors in the Phoenix Program, men who tracked down and arrested, interrogated and disposed of enemy agents of the Viet Cong and NLF for the intelligence community, he learned a lot about how to use the flyswatter and spare the sledgehammer.

General Garrison served in the operations squadron of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta as commander of the Intelligence Support Activity during the years 1985-1989.

That's how he came to be commanding a unit of Delta Force warriors on those fateful two days in Mogadishu in 1993.

Following the utter success of that abject failure, he was rotated back stateside to the upper echelons of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center where he served with distinction before his retirement in 1996.


  1. Thank you for your time away from civility to stand up for those with no legs. May God bless all of your days and those who you were chosen for.

  2. "He delivered Mohammed Farrah Aidid to the proper authorities; his paramilitary unit was thereby decapitated.." is a false statement. I was there.. Bgd. Gen. Solmazturk (R), former Commanding Turkish Unit Somalia.

  3. Anon is correct Aidid was not delivered to anyone, He was killed, A day later General Garrison retired.

  4. “It was about killing people before they killed you.” - Maj. Gen. Wm. F. Garrison I was most impressed by this statement by Gen. Garrison. Bear in mind that both statements are direct quotes, properly attributed. - The Legendary

  5. Aidid wasn't captured or killed by TF Ranger, he was killed by rival warlords in 1996 after UN had pulled out. Just look at his Wikipedia page. Garrisson succeeded because he captured two high level Aidid associates, which was the stated goal of the operation.