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Bring-Backs From Somalia Deployment

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#1 bryang

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Posted 01 July 2014 - 09:05 AM

During the 1980's, leading up to the 1990 fall of Somalia's government, our unit conducted deployments to train Somali soldiers.


In 1989 I was tapped for deployment to Somalia, where we conducted training for the Somali Army's 31st Commando Brigade, at an airbase called Baledogle (outside Mogadishu).  I was a young Intelligence Sergeant, and as the unit didn't want to advertise this to our Somali hosts, I went in as a "Medic." 


This cover worked out well, as it gave me access to everything and everywhere in the area.  The Special Forces medical team included our Battalion Surgeon and three Special Forces Medical NCOs (and me), and conducted medical missions for both the local population as well as for livestock.


I had no real medical training or knowledge.  It caught me off guard the first time I accompanied them to help operate a clinic for a nearby village.  The Battalion Doc assigned the trained Medic Sergeants to work internal illnesses, external diseases and injuries, dental issues with himself operating the pharmacy.  The Doc then came to me and introduced me to a male Somali Army Nurse, and told me that I would be performing triage - making best diagnosis on each patient and sending each to one of the Medics for treatment.  I quietly whispered to the Doc that I wasn't actually a Medic.  He smiled and said "well you are today!"


I managed ... a lot of horrid things I witnessed among the sick and injured people.  I had to guess the weight of people coming to my station and dose out liquid de-worming medication, having each open his/her mouth as I squirted the medication in via a syrette. Lots of disease, weird skin conditions, ring worms, worms that people coughed and brought in for us to look at.


The missions out to treat livestock was, in itself, another deal altogether.  We chased cattle and shoved caulking guns (with tubes of de-worming medication) into their mouths and forced the meds down ... wrestled with the bulls to do the same.  One day I was tossed in the air, landed under the bull, and got my head stomped into the muck for my troubles.  Medics had to ease me up and steady me until I got my bearings back.


I wrestled with goats, was spit on and nearly bitten by a camel we were trying to treat (filthy, nasty damned beasts), and got to help hold down a large cow while the Doc cut and drained a huge cyst on its side.  The goo he squeezed out of it was just plain gross - looked like tapioca (I haven't touched tapioca since).


Grateful village elders often sent a son to milk one of the herd, which was presented to us as thanks.  Each time a wooden bowl filled with warm milky liquid, with little specks of stuff floating around in it.  We always passed the bowl around, drank, and thanked our hosts.  Never had fresh from-the-cow milk before.  Didn't like it.  The camel milk we had to drink wasn't any better.


Anyways, the travel gave me exposure to much of the area, which aided me in my actual work.


The Somali civil war was in full swing, with different factions advancing on the capital.  We had to be armed, as we occasionally came under fire.  Embassies began to evacuate and we were eventually pulled out of the country.  The Air Force had a C-141 standing by in neighboring Kenya, and with roughly a 12-hour notice we boarded and left.  We each carried certain sensitive items on the aircraft, leaving the remaining equipment behind.  As I understand it, after our departure the U.S. government announced that it had officially suspended military assistance to Somalia.


In 1993 I returned.  Different mission.


Anyways, here are a couple Somali military insignias I obtained while there in '89.  The small pin-on disks were pinned (I believe) to the uniform collar, and the larger oval insignia is a beret badge.


Somali Insignia.JPG


A couple photos from this deployment:

Somalia '89 2.JPG Somalia '89 3.JPG




As I relook over this posting I realize that I've doled out more info than on just the items I've brought back.


If overly long, I appologize, however these deployments were so damned long ago that I find that I'm remembering more as I write it up.  I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to 'copy & paste' these narratives to a separate word document in order to keep it for the benefit of my family.

#2 doyler

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Posted 01 July 2014 - 09:18 AM

Thanks for posting Bryan.
I enjoy reading your deployment accounts and seeing the items you brought home.The naratives add a lot of depth to the posts and the items you kept.

#3 jgawne

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Posted 01 July 2014 - 10:12 AM

Yeah, that's neat I have to wonder at just how many people's lives were made better by health programs just like this run by the US military.


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Posted 01 July 2014 - 10:21 AM

You've had an amazing military career. Thanks for sharing you experiences on this and other posts.

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