The Mogadishu Diaries 1992-1993
Mogadishu Diaries is a work of historical fiction. It is a personal account based on real events and conversations extracted from my journal and my memories of them. In order to maintain anonymity, in some instances I have changed the names of individuals and altered sequences of events.
Mogadishu Diaries Bloodline was subjected to a Department of Defense pre-publication review on 8 January 2013. Clearance for release and publication was granted in December 2013.
Copyright © 2013 Eddie Thompkins III.
All rights reserved.
New Paradigm Publishers
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.
I served in Mogadishu, Somalia with the author. Although we supported different missions, we shared many of the same experiences. I find the book Mogadishu Diaries exceptionally detailed and accurate in retelling a story that so many have forgotten.
Somali Warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid ruled the streets of Mogadishu with an uncanny elusiveness that frustrated US/UN coalition strategists. Our mission was to quell intra-Clan violence and secure major supply routes for aid. It was assessed that Aidid might be the beneficiary of an intelligence leak. Joint Task Force Headquarters responded with a clandestine Counterintelligence operation designed to identify and neutralize this “Insider Threat.” This classified operation was known as Operation Looking Glass. The Counterintelligence community pinned the success of this sensitive operation on the shoulders of one man. Political infighting would complicate the mission’s agenda, but not after a relentless pursuit to expose a collaborator.
This book is dedicated to all the US Service members who lost their lives in support of humanitarian relief operations in Somalis from 1992-1993
– (Operation Restore Hope/Operation Continued Hope)
1. Proactive activities designed to identify, exploit, neutralize, or deter foreign intelligence collection and terrorist activities against the US.
The Legend of Dr. Louis Johnson Jr.
Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Center, Dam Neck, Virginia
6 August 1999
Today marks the 20th anniversary of my Marine Corps career. I should be on leave, but my Officer in Charge needed a volunteer to attend the Naval Intelligence Mid-Career course. Since I was the only Gunnery Sergeant in my shop who had not attended, here I sit. According to schedule, the next speaker was Dr. Louis Johnson Jr. I had heard of his accomplishments from early on as he was considered one of the brilliant minds of modern day intelligence. Dr. Johnson was retiring in the fall and this was his final speaking engagement capping off an illustrious thirty-five-year career. It was four p.m. and this was the last presentation; I guess they saved the best for last. At the end of the presentation, Dr. Johnson would personally hand out our Certificates of Completion. I found it interesting that the previous speakers had their official picture on their bio page in our student handouts. On Dr. Johnson’s bio, it read “No Photo Available.”
“Marines and Sailors, would you please stand and welcome Dr. Louis Johnson Jr.,” commanded the course chair as he opened the door to welcome the distinguished guest.
We all stood in silence; you could hear a pin drop. I was assigned a back row seat and I wanted to get a good look at this larger-than-life living legend.
In walked a well-dressed gentleman wearing a form-fitted navy blue suit, white shirt and matching dark blue tie.
“Thank you very much for allowing me to address such a fine cadre of seasoned intelligence professionals. It has been said that some people will spend an entire lifetime wondering if they ever made a difference. I submit to you, Marines and Sailors do not have that problem,” Dr. Louis said as he walked through the ranks of the class with an air that exuded absolute confidence.
“In this game, there are no fouls called and there are no timeouts. The adversary is multi-disciplined and innovative, and he will eat your lunch if you give anything less than your very best!” Dr. Louis commented as he removed his glasses and placed his right hand on the shoulder of the Master Sergeant sitting in the first row.
As his presentation continued, it became more interesting. I lost track of time and before I knew it, it was almost five o’clock.
I was captivated, inspired and surprised. He lived up to the hype and more. I didn’t want his presentation to end. His vocal cadence was charismatic and pleasing to the ear. His passion, demonstrated by a range of facial expressions and gestures was nothing short of oratorical brilliance.
Dr. Johnson looked at his watch and solicited questions from the class.
“Sir. Gunnery Sergeant Patterson, from the First Surveillance Reconnaissance and Intelligence Group. Could you tell the class what was the lowest point of your thirty-five-year career?”
Dr. Johnson stroked his salt and pepper mustache as he contemplated an answer.
“Hmm. I have had many tough challenges in my career; however, June 8th, 1980 comes to mind. On that day, I was arrested in Minsk, Belarus in my hotel room around one a.m.. I was charged with cooperation with a foreign intelligence service … Article 356. The State Department diligently petitioned the Belarusian government for my release but we had no political leverage.”
“So how were you released?”
“I was released because of the influence of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Dr. Johnson’s revelation puzzled everyone. We all wondered why the Russians intervened to negotiate the release of an American during the height of the Cold War. Dr. Johnson easily discerned our incomprehension and addressed the class.
“Yes. You heard correctly. The Russians. The Ruskies had significant influence over Belarus and I was released after 90 days in solitary confinement in a one-for-one swap. The U.S. had a very high-ranking KGB Colonel in custody for collecting information on Russian asylum seekers. In the end, I was released and the Russian KGB officer was deported to Russia. I never found out what was in the deal for Belarus. I simply did not care at the time.”
The Marine to my left, whom I called Spring Butt during most of the course, had a comment (one of many he had during the week).
“You mean he was declared Persona Non Grata,” Spring Butt commented in a weak attempt to demonstrate his knowledge to the class.
Dr. Johnson placated the young student and answered him.
“As I stated, he was deported. Persona Non Grata is a legal diplomatic term that typically implies diplomatic status. The KGB officer was under non- official cover, leaving him vulnerable to arrest and prosecution.
“I have time for one last question and I would like the most junior ranking member to have the opportunity.”
We all looked around trying to figure out who that was. Then the class chair interjected.
“Stand up, Gunnery Sergeant Miller?”
Gunnery Sergeant Miller was caught off guard and stuttered a bit before gaining his composure.
“Gunnery Sergeant Miller, from the Third Marine Expeditionary Force G-2. Dr. Johnson, what was the most memorable operation that you supported?”
Dr. Johnson began walking to the front of the class and grasped the certificates on the podium, and with his free hand, he pointed to Gunnery Sergeant Miller.
“I am glad you asked that question. I have planned, executed and supported many operations in my career, but the operation I am most proud of is Operation Black Boots. I say that with all sincerity because I am convinced we saved lives. Sometimes you have to think outside the box and embrace a paradigm shift.
We accomplished that with Operation Black Boots and it was a big success.”
“Today I pass the torch to you. Just tell me one thing. Class 6-99…Do you have it?” Dr. Johnson bellowed from the podium.
“Sir! YES SIR!” the class responded in unison. “After thirty-five years in the game, I stand relieved of my watch.”
When he concluded his presentation, he was given one of the longest standing ovations I had ever witnessed and it was deafening. As I stood to applaud, a wave of emotion came over me. I quickly reached for my prescription sunglasses to conceal my unexplained response. I was emotional because I knew this man, he was a friend. More than a friend. I became nervous because I knew I would have to shake hands with him and receive my certificate, and pretend we were strangers. Although I could never acknowledge our past, it did not stop me from reminiscing about a chapter in my life that I would never forget.
Next Wave: Mogadishu Somalia
14 February 1993
I had been in Mogadishu now about two months and our sister services, particularly the U.S. Army began to settle in for the long haul. Temporary structures were replaced with more robust and permanent fixtures. The only upside was that shower facilities were being erected. For the first two months, we used five gallons plastic water cans to bathe. Bathing was out in the open, at least for the males.
Newbies checking into camp with their crisp dry- cleaned uniforms and gung-ho attitude began to grate on me. Two months in Mogadishu seemed like life without parole. I started a journal the day I arrived to capture all of my experiences during the deployment. The journal entries over the last two weeks were almost identical, except for the meals I ate. The arrival of such large numbers of personnel signified a longer commitment than I expected. I could tell by the upgrades on the compound, this was going to be much longer than a six-month deployment.
My last Officer in Charge was an absolute nightmare. When he was relieved of his duties and sent home due to the Commander’s “loss of confidence,” I didn’t lose much sleep. I was just hoping his replacement would be more reasonable and fair.
It was 9:30 a.m. and I could already feel the beads of sweat forming underneath my camouflaged T-shirt. As I reached for my canteen, I saw a three-vehicle convoy of newbies passing through the front gate creating a light sand cloud. Some troops were singing Marine Corps songs, the ones we were now prohibited from singing back home because of vulgarity. They obviously didn’t have a clue what they signed up for. As they dismounted, they looked around and observed the “Mad Max” like conditions they would come to know as home. Many had the “WTF” look on their faces. I remember that feeling well. I scanned the first two trucks to see if I knew anyone. “Not this time,” I thought to myself as I turned my back and headed to my cot in the old Marine House.
“Hey Pint,” someone called from behind.
Pint was my nickname back in high school. I was called Pint because I was one of the smallest wrestlers on the Varsity team at 126 lbs. Only one person in the Corps knew me by that name … Eric Sherman.
I stopped dead in my tracks and made a quick about face.
“Sherm! My man!” I said as I playfully punched him in his chest. I was thrilled to see Eric. Eric and I enlisted in the Marine Corps together under the old buddy plan right after high school in 1979. We first met at summer camp in 1973, and at the age of twelve, we knew everything there was to know about girls, or so we thought. Besides the fact he was about a half foot taller than me (6’3), forty pounds heavier (230 lbs.) and White, we could almost pass for brothers.
“Welcome to the Mog,” I said as I extended my arms and did a 360 pivotal turn.
“Man! It is hotter than sin here. Dude, something smells like ass, what is that?” Eric complained as he covered his nose with his T-shirt.
“It takes about a week to acclimate to the weather, and the stench is the smell from the latrine. Actually, the smell is not that bad right now because the latrines were emptied a few hours ago,” I added.
I started to chuckle to myself as I saw Eric’s eyes starting to water.
Eric began staring at me, as if I had three heads or something.
“Your face. Dude, what happened to you?” Eric lamented.
“What? What’s wrong with my face?” I asked slightly concerned.
“Dude. The last time I saw you, you were more of a Bill Cosby type of skin tone. Now you’ve gone all Wesley Snipes on me,” Eric laughed.
“Yeah man, this is my Mog tan. Don’t worry, you will get yours too, sooner than you think. Check this out; I went to the doc last week because I thought I had skin cancer or something on the back of my neck. Turned out I had my first case of sunburn. Scared the mess out me,” I said as I showed him my war wound.
“Clay, I fought like hell to avoid coming here. I have a wife back home who really needs me,” Eric complained.
Eric was a confirmed bachelor and the news surprised me.
“Sherm… congratulations. I didn’t know you had a wife,” I commented as I started to shake his hand.
“Oh, I didn’t say she was my wife,” Eric said jokingly.
“Same ol Sherm,” I responded as I shook my head.
“So when did you pick up Gunny?” Eric asked, still speaking through his shirt.
“On the last year’s Gunny board,” I responded as I motioned to him to follow me to reception.
“Yeah, me too,” Eric replied as he waved to a young Lance Corporal standing next to his sea bag looking around.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“Oh that’s my troop, Lance Corporal Sullivan. We’re stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego.
“Sullivan, this is Gunny Thompson. We came in the Corps together,” Eric said as he slowly lowered his T- shirt from his face.
“Orahh Gunny. Where’s the chow hall? I am starving. All we had to eat on the plane was bologna sandwiches with furry mold inside,” Lance Corporal Sullivan lamented.
“Oh, you didn’t know? It’s the beginning of Ramadan and there is no eating between four a.m. and eight p.m.,” I replied as I winked at Eric.
I tried to keep a straight face but the bewildered expression on the young troop’s face was too much, so I let him off.
“Just kidding. Lighten up; the only thing that keeps anybody here sane is their sense of humor.”
I pointed to the tent where we ate chow and told him the noon meal would be served in about forty minutes.
As the three of us headed toward the reception tent, we saw a very tall and distinguished Black gentleman jump off the truck. Several Marines were assisting him with his gear. He had to be an officer, and a high ranking one at that. You could tell by his carriage and demeanor.
“I wonder what rank he is?” I asked Eric.
“A Major, maybe…I can’t see his rank.” Eric replied.
“No way. Probably a Colonel, I’m guessing.
We both shrugged our shoulders and continued on our way to reception. On the way, I kept looking back at the gentleman who walked in the other direction with two junior Marines carrying his bags. I saw very few Marine officers that carried themselves like he did. The few that did were General Officers. I wanted what he had, absolute confidence and poise. I knew I would run into him again, but it would be much sooner than later.
14 February 1993
As we stood in the chow line, I began to fantasize about my favorite foods back in the States.
“Man, I could really go for a Denny’s Grand Slam about right now,” I said to Eric as we slowly moved through the line.
“No, how about a Wendy’s double bacon cheeseburger,” Eric commented.
“Man, don’t even go there. How long have you been in country?” I commented as I pointed to my watch in jest.
“I wonder what’s for lunch, I am starvin’ like Marvin,” Sullivan asked as he removed his bush cover as he entered the tent.
“We eat duck every day here in the Mog,” I responded.
“Duck every day?” asked the naïve Lance Coolie. “Yeah, whenever we eat, we duck in, grab a bite, then we duck out to make room for others,” I said with a grin.
Inside the Operations Center, the night shift was relieving the day shift and the Colonel had a few words to pass.
“There are a few new faces that I want to recognize and personally welcome them aboard. When I call your name, please stand up.
“Major Lewis, my new Operations Officer, Gunnery Sergeant Sherman our new Logistics Chief and Lance Corporals Sullivan and Jones our admin support. Last but not least, Dr. Terrance Gaye. Dr. Gaye is a State Department Liaison Officer here and he brings a lot to the table. Dr. Gaye, the floor is yours,” the Colonel said as he stepped aside, waiting to shake hands with our new civilian onboard.
“Good evening Marines!”
“Good evening,” the crowd responded faintly.
Dr. Gaye was unimpressed by the half-hearted response.
“Maybe I did not project my voice loud enough,” Dr. Gaye joked as he looked at the Colonel.
“Let me try this one more time. GOOD EVENING MARINES!”
“GOOD EVENING sir!” the crowd responded with much more vigor.
As soon as he began speaking, I nudged Eric.
“We were both wrong. He’s a civilian,” I whispered, as I marveled at his confidence and the manner in which he engaged us.
“As I look into the crowd, I see a lot of strange looks … you are probably wondering why I am here. Raise your hand if this is your first time here in Mogadishu,” asked Dr. Gaye as he scanned the crowd from left to right and back.
Everyone looked around and slowly raised their hands.
“As I passed through the gates, just a few hours ago, I felt a sinking feeling in my heart. In 1987, I reported here for duty, as a diplomat to the U.S. Mission. I forged many close friendships here, many of which did not survive the civil war. In this very building, the Marine House, some of the wildest parties you could ever imagine were hosted…right here. Where you are standing right now was once a dance floor. I departed Mogadishu on 5 January 1991 as we closed the U.S. Mission. It was a historic but sad day. Mogadishu was a thriving city at one time. But, unfortunately, as a country falls, so do its people. What you see here, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of civilization. And it could happen anywhere given the right circumstances. In closing, I have just two requests, if I may. First, understand that the threat here is very real. Moreover… dignity. Whenever you engage with the locals, show the same level of dignity and respect you would to a neighbor back home. Do not dehumanize them because of their circumstances and disposition. And finally, may God help us, may God help us all. Thank you,” Dr. Gaye said as he made his way through the crowd and out of the Operations Center. Two aides scampered close behind.
I wasn’t sure if what I had just heard was meant to be a pep talk or not. But it motivated me.
15 February 1993
The next morning Eric and I stopped by the Operations Center on the way to morning chow to read the Plan of the Day. As I picked up the clipboard, Major Lewis summoned me into his office. I told Eric I would catch up with him later.
“Sir, you wanted to see me?” I said as I poked my head into his office.
Major Lewis was standing in front of his desk reading something in a white notebook and did not respond.
“Major Lewis? Major Lewis?” I repeated.
Then he sat on his desk and sighed before he spoke.
“I was just reading over your Fitness Report (eval) from Captain Shaffner. He gave you just one Excellent.”
“Wow. I’m kind of surprised. Captain Shaffner and I didn’t have the best working relationship, I expected much worse,” I commented with a great sigh of relief.
A competitive fitrep was Outstandings across the board. I gladly accepted a fitrep with just one Excellent.
“I’m pretty sure this will finish you,” said the Major as he took a drag off his cigarette.
“Sir, one excellent, I will take that all day long. The rest of the O’s will take care of it,” I said reassured.
“You don’t get it, do you?” remarked the Major in a condescending tone as he handed me my fitrep.
“What is there to get?”
“There are no Outstandings. You received one excellent in personal appearance but the rest are Above Averages.
I was stunned. Evals like that were typical for Marines who were reprimanded with a long history of infractions.
“Sir. That’s a career killer. That will put me and my family on the street,” I said as my voice began to vacillate in panic.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. As Officers in the Marine Corps, we are paid good money to make tough decisions. I suspect this was an easy one. Captain Shaffner was a fine officer and you sat idle as he lost his career. You could have saved him.”
“Sir, I knew the Colonel took the document from the safe. But I had no idea Captain Shaffner would forge a destruction report to cover his tracks,” I said as my anger began to percolate.
I needed to cool down and fast. I was speaking to an officer and did not want to say anything I would later regret.
“You failed him and the entire Officer Corps. You had crucial information and you kept silent,” Major Lewis said. Then he blew three perfect smoke rings in my direction.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. I wish I could have had the opportunity to have met you earlier in your career. Things would have been very different.”
“Do you think I would be a better Gunnery Sergeant?” I asked less angry.
“No. I would have weeded you out a long time ago. You would not have made it this far.”
My fist tightened and I wanted to walk towards him. But then logic kicked in. Maybe he was baiting me to push me over the edge. I wanted to expose Major Lewis for who he really was. I just needed to find the three 6’s in his scalp to prove it.
As I walked out of Major Lewis’ office, I realized I had just signed away my thirteen-year career. The fitrep was above the threshold precluding me from challenging it, but damaging enough to ensure I would be passed over twice. Two passovers were all that was necessary to separate you unless you were at the eighteen- year mark, I had thirteen. “Maybe the Army would take me,” I thought to myself.
But I loved the Corps and anything less would leave me unfulfilled. I sat on a crate just outside the office with my face buried in both my hands. I was depressed. Minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder from behind me.
“What?” I asked without looking up.
I then saw a silhouette in front of me between my clasped fingers.
“Dr. Gaye! Sorry sir, I thought you were someone else,” I said.
“Normally, when I see someone troubled, I respond by telling them they could be in a worse place. But then, this is Mogadishu,” Dr. Gaye said lightheartedly.
He extended his right hand to pull me up. “Thank you sir,” I said.
“So what is so bad that made you throw in the towel before the fight started?”
I didn’t know Dr. Gaye, but his demeanor allowed me to open up to him, so I began my rant.
“Dr. Gaye, my Marine Corps career is done. I don’t know what I’m gonna do to support me and my son. I’m a single dad.”
Dr. Gaye seemed genuinely concerned. “Accompany me to JTF Headquarters. We can chat while we walk. I can tell you are emotional. If you want to make a rational decision, you must remove emotion from the equation,” Dr. Gaye said as we both passed a very surprised Eric enroute to JTF.
“I’m desperate for an answer, but how do you take emotion out of the way?” I asked.
As we passed other Marines on the compound, I felt uplifted and somewhat important being seen with Dr. Gaye.
“It is simple. Just for a moment, think about what advice you would give your best friend if he or she were in the exact same situation,” Dr. Gaye said as we slowed our pace and eventually stopped in front of the flag pole.
“I would tell him to stay strong and don’t give up? I replied unsure of myself.
“Okay. Your best friend is looking for a course of action, not a pep talk. Close your eyes and think….”
After I closed my eyes, I let out a big sigh. I was able to examine my situation from a bystander’s perspective. I sensed a feeling of mental clarity.
“I would tell my friend to request an appointment with his reviewing officer to voice his concern,” I replied as we resume walking and began approaching the JTF HQ building.
“Then do that, my friend,” Dr. Gaye replied as he smiled and placed his hand on my shoulder.
“I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.” “Gunnery Sergeant, what is your Christian name?”
“You mean my first name? My name is Clay.”
“Inside the workspace, I’d like you to address me as Dr. Gaye. When we’re off the clock, call me Terry. Clay, I think you have an appointment to make. We will chat again.”
“Thank you very much Dr. Gaye, I mean Terry, I mean Dr. Gaye.”
Man, I sounded like a complete dork. But Dr. Gaye was the man. He was so smooth it was criminal. He then shook my hand before departing.
“Ciao,” Dr. Gaye said as he winked and smiled.
Dr. Gaye removed his bush cover and proceeded into the building. It is amazing how a few choice words from a concerned individual can completely change your outlook. My Dad was a master at that. I now had a plan and I felt empowered. I would speak with the Colonel and fight for my career.
15 February 1993
“Yo, Pint,” Eric called out as I walked into the Operations Center with a renewed confidence. “’Sup?” I replied as I stopped to talk to him.
“Dude, don’t gimme dat. I saw you hanging with the Doc. What was that all about?”
“Let me rewind for a second. I just got an adverse fitrep from my former Officer-in-Charge. You know, the one that got fired?”
“Dayuuum! That sucks. That’s the kiss of death right there man,” Eric lamented with concern.
“Well, Dr. Gaye said I should challenge it.”
“Of course. You have the right to challenge an adverse fitrep.”
“Well, technically it’s not adverse, so I can’t rebut it. But it’s bad enough to ensure I will get passed over twice. I’ve got one shot to plead my case with the Colonel and I need an iron-clad defense.”
Eric placed his forefinger on his temple and began brainstorming before he came up with a defense.
“I know what you should do. Claim the fitness report was the result of a personality conflict based on you getting him fired.”
“I didn’t get him fired, he got himself fired when he forged the destruction report. But I know what you mean. I will say it was his way of paying me back. Thanks man, I need all the help I can get right now, my Marine Corps career is on the line.”
I fist bumped Eric and marched to the Operations Center. I was nervous and my heart was racing. I was just hoping the Colonel would be in and available.
As I walked towards the Colonel’s office, I saw him on the phone. I took a deep breath and sipped from my canteen to clear my throat.
“Yes General. I will pass the word to the officers and Staff NCOs during passdown. Out here!” the Colonel said as he hung up the phone and noticed me lurking around his entrance.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. Do you need to see me?”
My adrenaline levels were off the charts, they had to be, it was game time.
“Yes sir, if you have time.”
“I always have time for my troops, take a seat,” the Colonel said as he stood first and seated himself after I was in my chair.
“My fitness report sir. I would like to speak with you about my marks. I think Captain Shaffner is being unfair in his evaluation of me.”
“Ahh. Major Lewis was just in here and placed it in my inbox. And yes, I have read it. I am not a mind reader but I suspect you would like me to mark “non- concur.”
“Sir, I would be most appreciative.” The Colonel sighed before speaking.
“It doesn’t work that way and it is not that easy. I place a tremendous amount of confidence in my officers to grade our enlisted troops. It would take a compelling and persuasive argument for me to side against a reporting officer. You have five minutes to convince me. This is your chance. Go!” the Colonel said as he sat back in his chair in receive mode.
“Colonel, I am confident that my fitness report is Captain Shaffner’s last act of defiance as a result of him being terminated over a forged document. When he took me off patrols and stuck me on night shift, that was another example of him trying to harass me. Because of the unique circumstances of me being involved in his termination, I would like to have Captain Shaffner recused from writing my fitness report.”
I was gaining confidence in myself. I never used the word recused before, but I heard it used on an episode of “Law and Order” and it seemed to fit the situation.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. I have heard many reasons to mark “non-concur” and side against a reporting senior, but your argument ranks with the best. It is both persuasive and compelling.”
As soon as I heard the words persuasive and compelling, I felt there was hope. I wanted to slap Captain Shaffner upside his big head. In my mind’s eye that’s exactly what I did. I couldn’t let him win this.
“Unfortunately, there is one small problem with your argument,” the Colonel said as he removed his glasses and handed me my fitness report.
“What, sir? What’s the problem?” I replied as I felt a knot growing in my stomach.
“Son. Take a look at the date of the fitrep. It is dated two days before the incident, before he doctored the report. I am very sorry.”
I wanted to beg. And I could have easily lost my cool right there. But it was too late and all the begging in the world would not save my Marine Corps career. All I had was my pride, and I was determined to hang on to it as best as I could. I had to resist the quiver that wanted to control my lip as I began to speak a few words.
“Sir, thank you for allowing me to have my day in court and speak my mind,” I said as I stood and began to plan a graceful exit.
I hated the thought of Captain Shaffner ending my career. At least he was able to reach retirement. I would not be as fortunate. For the first time in my life, I remember thinking “Evil prevails.”
“Gunny Sergeant Thompson. Sit back down. If I am not mistaken, Captain Shaffner may have done you a favor. Hold on one second,” said the Colonel as he rummaged through a stack of papers in his desk drawer.
“Sir, I am sure Captain Shaffner didn’t do me any favors. That I am sure of,” I said as I sat back down.
“Yes. I have it right here. Look at this organizational chart for the Operations Center,” the Colonel said.
“Sir, I am looking but I don’t see anything. What am I looking for?” I said as I scanned the document up and down and left to right.
“When Captain Shaffner put you on the night shift, he put you in a Master Sergeant slot.”
“I’m not following you sir.”
“If a Marine is working beyond the grade of his rank and particularly if he is outside the scope of his military occupation, the Reporting Officer must annotate that in the evaluation. Captain Shaffner did not acknowledge either in your fitrep. This is what I am going to do. I will personally address those key bullets in my Reviewing Officers comments.”
“Do you think it will make any difference?” I asked.
“I have sat on a few promotion boards where this has happened, and in those instances the fitrep was either tossed or weighted based on a collective body of past reporting.”
“Were the Marines promoted?” I asked eagerly.
“On two separate occasions, the board recommended promotion. In the other cases, it really didn’t matter because there was a trend of poor performance.”
I started to get my confidence back. I felt a debt of gratitude to Dr. Gaye and to a lesser extent my best friend Eric. I didn’t have a guarantee, but I had hope, at least for the time being.
Crocket and Me
16-19 February 1993
One of the newbies assigned to our shop was Lance Corporal Jones, but everyone called her Crocket. Crocket was built kinda like a guy and I suspected she might be a tom boy.” Others were much more crude in addressing her physical appearance. When Marines observed her for the first time, most did a double take because it was hard to distinguish what gender she was. The fact that she had short-cropped red hair did not make it easier. I stood behind her at evening chow and I was surprised to find she had a very feminine voice. She had the voice of a young school girl but her physical appearance did not match her voice. I don’t know what I expected her to sound like, but all I can say was, she surprised me.
I was supposed to meet Eric at the Chapel for Sunday worship. He wasn’t particularly religious, but he got his best sleep there. While I headed to the Chapel, I observed Crocket being harassed by a few young Corporals. They formed a half circle around her and the shortest of the bunch was the instigator, egging everyone else on. He was laughing with his buddies and grabbing his crotch as he addressed her. As far as I was concerned, this was completely unacceptable behavior in the Corps and anywhere else on the planet. I really disliked bullies and especially those that harassed females. It was time to end this nonsense.
“Hey Corporal. You got a problem with your crotch?” I said as I approached the hecklers.
“Ah, no Gunnery Sergeant. We were just leaving the area,” said the Corporal as he and his buddies came to a semi position of attention.
“Cause if you do, they have cream for that at sick bay,” I said as I dressed him and his buddies up and down.
All of his buddies started snickering at him under their breath, and now he was the butt of the joke.
“Crocket, I was just on my way to the Chapel. Where are you headed?”
“Do you mind if I tag along? I’m new here and I don’t know very many people yet. And thank you for looking out for me,” she said with a smile.
We walked into the Chapel and I didn’t see Eric so I took a seat on an empty cot. Crocket sat next to me. I saw Crocket as a little sister and she probably saw me as a Gunnery Sergeant, which was cool.
For the last few days, I had many discussions with Eric about a female Somali interpreter whom I was crazy about. Her name was Ayan. Ayan was a dead ringer for the super model Iman and was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in person. After a very rocky start, Ayan and I began to have extended conversations and she offered to teach me her language. Prior to her offering, I spent many hours in the male linguist tent with the hopes of her taking notice of me studying their culture and language. It was beginning to work as we started feeling more comfortable around each other. On the way to the recreation tent, Eric noticed a woman he hadn’t seen before on camp with a friend by her side.
“Who is that? Dude, she’s not Mogadishu fine, she’s just fine period,” Eric said as he did a serious double take.
“Eric, that’s her! That’s Ayan, you know. The one I’ve been telling you about.”
“I thought you said she was an interpreter, because the one I am checking out is a Fly Girl.”
Eric was actually referring to Tootie, Ayan’s roommate on the University compound about a five- minute drive away. Tootie was a Senior Airman in the Air Force. Everyone called her Tootie because she looked exactly like Kim Fields from the TV show, The Facts of Life. She even had the smile, complete with braces.
“Man. I think I just met my future ex-wife,” Eric said semi-seriously.
“Eric. Weren’t you the one that said marriage was like having a cable TV subscription with one channel?”
“Yup, and the cancellation fee is a mother!” Eric replied.
I saw Ayan waving, trying to get my attention. “Clay,” Ayan called out to me as she and Tootie waited for the Humvee to pass to join us.
“Hey, Eric. Here they come now. Don’t call me Pint in front of Ayan, okay? I’m serious,” I cautioned him.
(hello) said Ayan as she approached Eric and I.
(How are you?) I responded with a smile from ear to ear.
I then initiated the double air kiss with her.
“Ayan, Tootie, this is Eric. I’ve known him since we were kids.”
Immediately Tootie cozied up to him and smiled flirtatiously. Then she addressed him.
“Is it true that the Marines are a Department of the Navy?” Tootie asked sarcastically with her hands on her hips.
“Ah, yeah. That would be the Men’s Department,” Eric responded as he closed the gap between them.
The instant attraction between Tootie and Eric was so overpowering it was almost off-putting for Ayan and I. Both Eric and Tootie were in predator mode. Ayan and I resorted to small talk while pheromones were colliding with pheromones. To some degree, I was a little envious because ever since high school, Eric demonstrated a natural charisma towards girls, and with me it was a struggle at times. We both were in the presence of our “dream girls” and although I had a two-month head start, Eric was already light years ahead of me. I wanted Ayan to respond to me like Tootie responded to Eric.
No Graceful Exit
19 February 1993
Later that night, I was in the interpreter tent playing a card game they taught me called Arpaa Turup.
Most nights I would get slaughtered and the linguists got a kick out of watching me stew in defeat. For the most part, I am very calm and measured in how I respond to situations, except when playing cards. With a deck of cards in my hand, I become an absolute lunatic and the biggest trash talker you ever met. I think I got that from my Dad. Whenever he beat me at anything, he would just give me this long smug stare and sit back in his chair with his arms folded across his belly. Then he would break out in unrelenting laughter.
This night would be different, the cards fell just right. I was dealt incredible hands all night long. On the last play of the last hand, I stuck my card on my forehead, just waiting to play it. But I had to preface my final play with a few words to my opponents.
“Shh…Shh. Did you hear that?” I said as I was about to play the last card.
“Hear what?” Mohamed and Yusef asked.
“The sound of you getting your butt handed to you on a silver platter! Boom!” I said as I stood up and slammed my card down on the table Detroit style. All the cards went flying and then I moon walked around the card table in a victory lap.
I was so caught up in my own little world, I didn’t take notice of their reaction. They were not pleased by my antics and clearly, I embarrassed myself. The tent went quiet.
“Okay … that was a little over the top. Note to self, silence is golden. Sorry guys, I forgot where I was. My bad,” I said as I sat back down and apologized profusely.
In the middle of my apology to the group, a young Corporal stuck his head in the tent and looked around. “Is there a Gunny Thompson here?”
I was so glad there was a station break in the middle of my foolishness. I now had a perfect exit strategy and I would take advantage of the opportunity.
“Yeah. That’s me Corporal, I will be with you in a moment,” I said as I looked over my shoulder.
I apologized once more to the group before I got up from the table and made my way out of the tent. They let me off the hook by mocking my words and mimicking my version of the moonwalk around the card table. They laughed and waved as I vacated.
“Gunny. Let’s go for a walk. Follow me,” the Corporal said as he began walking.
This was most bizarre. I didn’t have a clue what the Corporal wanted, but he seemed nervous. I scratched my head and followed him under the moonlit sky.
“Okay, I would ask if I’m on Candid Camera, but that can’t be the case. What’s up Corporal?”
“I just need you to follow me to the tent at the end of the row here.”
“Okay. But, I want to get this right out in the open. I don’t give it up on the first date and I have a strict Ninety- day rule,” I said using humor to mask my utter confusion.
We reached the last tent on the left a tent, which I knew to be an empty supply tent.
“Okay, Corporal. If you don’t tell me what’s going on right now, I’m popping smoke. This is stupid.”
Then I heard a booming voice behind me coming from inside the tent. It scared the mess out of me.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson.”
“Whoa! What the…?” I said as I turned around quickly.
A Master Gunnery Sergeant emerged from the darkness of the tent and sent the Corporal off.
“Come in. I will explain everything in just a moment,” the Master Gunnery Sergeant retorted as he ducked his head and disappeared into the tent.
I let out a big sigh and followed, confused as all get out.
Inside the tent was a control center of some sort with blackout material over the windows to contain the light. It was fully staffed and it reminded me of the TV series Mission Impossible. There were large screen monitors with live feeds and high tech communications equipment that I only saw in movies.
“What is this place?” I asked as I looked around in amazement.
“My name is Master Gunnery Sergeant Pritchard and this is the Sixth Counterintelligence Team,” he said as he grabbed a chair for me to sit and then showed me his badge.
“I must have really screwed up to find myself here. What did I do? Is this about the rape a few years ago?”
“Rape? No. No it’s not,” the Master Gunnery Sergeant replied, slightly unnerved.
“Okay. I will shut up and let you explain.”
“The Commander of Marine Forces here has asked Counterintelligence to assess the potential for an Insider Threat.”
“Now I am really lost. What’s that gotta do with me?”
“Naturally, we must take a hard look at our linguists who are natives. There is a potential for conflicting loyalties. Some linguists may harbor resentment towards the U.S. mission here. And that’s where you come in,” Pritchard said as he began typing on portable computer.
“You have placement and natural access. We need you to be our eyes and ears and give us atmospherics and indications and warnings.”
“Can you break it down to me like a two-year-old? I need to know exactly what you want me to do.”
Pritchard sighed and stopped typing, and scooted closer to me.
“For now let’s keep it simple. We want to know if they have access to gear they shouldn’t, like weapons or communication devices. For example, non- government issued radios or facsimiles. We also want to know if they are complying with the Commander’s Policy that clearly states they will not visit or contact family members outside the compound.”
“If I do this, can you tell my Officer in Charge so he can put it on my fitrep? I need all the help I can get.”
“Absolutely not. This is close hold. Which means you cannot tell anyone. I am printing out a non- disclosure agreement now for you to sign.”
After I signed the non-disclosure letter, the Master Gunnery Sergeant revisited the issue about the rape.
“A few years ago, Military Policemen on my base back at El Toro, California needed a sixth Black guy who was similar to me in height and build for a lineup. I didn’t see any reason to say no, so I volunteered, liked an idiot.”
“So what happened?” Pritchard asked.
“The victim, a Major’s wife, identified me as her rapist.
“In fact, she fainted when she saw me in person. She swore it was me, even though the prime suspect was also in the lineup. I could not believe I was getting my rights read and my mug shot taken. Fortunately, I was on leave in Connecticut with my girlfriend when the rape took place so I had an alibi.”
“Well, Gunny. There is a big difference between Law Enforcement and Counterintelligence. We fight that battle every single day.”
I signed the letter of Non-disclosure.
21 February 1993
Eric and I were sitting in the recreation tent watching Boyz in the Hood, for the millionth time. I woke up just in time for the ending credits. I told Eric I would catch up with him tomorrow for early chow. As I was leaving the tent, I heard Crocket call my name from the back row of the tent. I didn’t even know she was in the tent. But her distinct school girl voice caught my attention.
“Crocket. What’s up?”
“Gunnery Sergeant. I can’t thank you enough for putting those guys in their place. I get that all the time and rarely does anyone say anything.”
“Well. I grew up with three younger sisters. And I can’t stand to see bullying,” I replied.
Crocket sat down on one of the cots as if she wanted to talk. I had nothing else to do so I obliged. As she leaned back on the cot, I saw a tattoo on her right arm, which I hadn’t noticed before. It was a red heart with the name “Jessica” inscribed inside. Underneath the heart was a date, but there wasn’t enough light in the tent to make it out.
She leaned forward and sighed and looked at me with a look of concern.
“I was bullied throughout high school and I was just hoping that I could leave that all behind when I joined the Marines,” she commented.
“Why were you bullied in high school?” I asked out of pure curiosity.
“With a name like Crocket?” she responded. “Oh, I thought that was your nickname.”
“No. My name is Crocket Deanne Jones. My father always wanted a son, but he got me instead. Sometimes I think he named me Crocket as punishment for being born a girl.”
“I played softball, basketball and ran track just to get him to notice me, but I would never be the son he wanted.”
Crocket then opened up to me and revealed a more personal side. A side that really didn’t surprise me.
“When I was in junior high, I got caught kissing another girl after gym class. That just made things worse. My parents totally freaked out. I wanted to move after that.”
I had my own experiences with bullying and I felt compelled to chime in.
“Well. I know what it is like to be bullied. I was bullied too. In junior high.”
“You were bullied too? How come?” Crocket asked with her chin cupped in both hands looking at me.
“My father is a Baptist minister from Detroit, and he never let me use slang when I was growing up. I couldn’t say the word ain’t or even the phrase you just used, how come? Most of the popular kids at school spoke street slang and used some profanity. As much as I wanted to speak like them, it wasn’t tolerated in our house.”
“My dad told me that one day I would interview for a job and I needed to be able to speak correctly. He said I was too young to understand, but one day it would all make sense. He was right, Years later, I appreciated him for that.”
“But, I got teased and bullied because I spoke too proper and I didn’t speak Black enough.”
“So we were both misfits growing up,” Crocket said as she smiled.
“Yeah. I guess we were. But that was then …and this is now. We all remember our childhood bullies. I had a few but one name stands out. Antonio Frost. Antonio beat me up almost daily and always chased me home from school, until one day I spoke with my Dad. He reiterated that although he was against fighting in school, he was all about defending yourself. That conversation over dinner literally gave me an enlightened perspective. The next day I went to school, I didn’t run home after the bell. I waited for Antonio instead.”
‘So what happened?” Crocket asked.
“You see, bullies usually are not very bright and they are predictable because they work off a script.
“He approached me with his buddies cracking his knuckles and he was surprised I didn’t run away like I always had. He spit in my face and called me a name in front of everyone. They all laughed as I wiped his spit of my face. I politely asked him to hold my book bag, and like the idiot I knew him to be, he complied.
“And…?” Crocket asked, intrigued.
“With both his hands holding my book bag, I wound up and clocked him as hard as I could in his face and bloodied his nose. Three years of built up torment was unleashed in just a few seconds. It was therapeutic and healing.
“I momentarily knocked him out. I stood over him and looked at his friends who were stunned in their Chuck Taylors. Then I grabbed my book bag and walked home with my sister Cheryl for the first time in a long time. I was never bullied again. I even gained Antonio’s respect and we were cool after that. I wish I had done that long before. Bullies need you to retreat. Don’t retreat.
“Let me know if you have any more problems, okay Crocket?” I replied as I stood and walked with her out of the tent.
Crocket waved goodbye to me and smiled as she departed. It was really nice talking to her, but I had one burning question: Who was Jessica?
A Fool and his Honey
21 February 1993
As I left the recreation tent, I began to reflect on my conversation with Crocket. We both had confided in each other over very personal issues and with that, I felt a trust with her. I was just hoping that if we were to become good friends, it would extend beyond the deployment. Never in a million years would I have imagined I would have anything in common with her at first glance, but I did.
As I headed to my sleeping quarters, oncoming headlights blinded me. I squinted to see who it was, but the lights were just too bright. It was Eric.
“Hop in. You and me have a date tonight,” Eric said as he put the Humvee in park and turned off the engine.
“Man, how many times do I have to tell you…I don’t date White men,” I jokingly replied.
“Not with me, you dufus. I talked to Tootie and told her if I got hold of the Hummer I would stop by the University compound and visit her.”
“Have fun. But how do you plan to get past the gate guard?”
“When I got the vehicle I got the pass in advance. Check it out.”
“Eric. The pass is dated for tomorrow. No way can you pull this off. Man, you are gonna get busted big time.”
“C’mon. I am willing to bet they just wave me through.”
“Eric, I really need to keep my nose clean. Major Lewis is just waiting for me to mess up. If I miss the 0700 morning briefing, I’m as good as dead.”
“I promise to get you home before you turn into a pumpkin, Cinderella. We’re only gonna stay a few hours,” Eric said as he looked at his watch.
“No way. It’s too risky. Check you later bro,” I said as I started walking to my quarters.
Eric started up the Hummer and slowly drove past me.
“No problem. I will tell Ayan you wimped out,” Eric said as he revved the engine and conceded he was on his own. Then he drove off, leaving me in a dirt cloud.
“Hey Eric! Sherm!” I yelled as I sprinted about a hundred meters at top speed to catch up.
I caught up with him and placed my hand on the hood as I tried to catch my breath.
“Ayan? Is she expecting me?” “Duh…yeah. I thought you knew that.”
I was nervous. I was taking a big chance and I knew it. If we could just get past the gate guard we would be home free. I began thinking of how wonderful it would be to spend time with Ayan. I wanted her to know how much she meant to me. Sneaking away to see her under the cover of darkness would surely be a way to let her know. No way would I have wanted to hear how much fun Eric had if I had not tagged along. I made up my mind. I was in. But my heart was racing, hoping to make it past the gate guards.
“Okay, okay…let’s do this,” I said as I climbed into the Hummer, worried about being caught.
As we got within one hundred meters of the gate, Eric looked at me and realized just how nervous I was.
“If you want to bail, it’s cool. But do it now, because there is no turning back after we approach the gate.”
I didn’t answer, but I didn’t get out either. I just closed my eyes.
We proceeded to the gate where the guard motioned for us to come to a complete stop.
“Good evening, Gunnery Sergeant Sherman. Do you have a pass to exit the base?” the young gate guard asked politely, holding his flash light.
“Of course I do, Leatherneck. Here it is,” Eric said as he handed over the chit.
There was a pause, a pause that seemed like an eternity.
“Gunnery Sergeant Sherman. This chit is dated for tomorrow. I will need to clear this with my Corporal. Hold on one second.”
I opened my eyes in absolute panic mode. I looked at Eric and he was watching the guard having a conversation with his NCO.
“Dude, this doesn’t look good. Clay, just chill. Let me do all the talking,” he said.
Both the guard and his Corporal approached our vehicle.
“Gunnery Sergeant Sherman. I will let you pass this time, but make sure your Officer in Charge puts the correct date on it next time,” the Corporal said.
“Be safe,” they both replied as they waved us through.
We passed through the gate and made a left turn onto the main road.
“Dude, your face. You should have seen your face. That was priceless,” Eric said.
“That wasn’t funny. We could have easily ended up as cell mates in the brig. What if they detained us? Then what?” I said as my heart attack subsided.
“If, if, if…if birds had radios in their asses, we would have music in the air,” Eric said as he tried to calm me down.
“Look at me…look at me. Tell me who is the greatest?” Eric said with a smug look.
“Eric, if I never said it in high school, what makes you think I’m gonna say it now,” I said as I regained my composure.
“Okay, you may not say it, but you believe in your heart, I know you do,” Eric said with one hand on the wheel and the other hand punching me in my ribs.
It was pitch black outside with the exception of the starry sky. Mogadishu had the most beautiful moonlit sky and it soothed my nerves.
At that very moment, I realized that there was no need to worry. Guards only checked outgoing vehicles for passes. As long as we stayed until midnight, our pass would be valid. As we headed to the gate of the University compound, the gate guard asked us if we had any stowaway passengers.
“No, Corporal. Just us,” Eric responded.
Eric and I were completely unaware, but there was a “Miss” travelling with us.
Misfortune. And she had plans for us.
Unholy Trinity: Lockdown
21 February 1993
As we passed through the University gate, we decided to park near the basketball courts. The girls lived in the old University dormitory about a three-minute walk away. On the way, we saw several super rats scurrying about. Eric started walking faster and I could tell the rats bothered him.
“Eric. Did you know that rats are very intelligent creatures?”
“So how do you know so much about rats?” He said as he picked up a couple of rocks to shoo them away.
“Biology. Sophomore year. Mr. McCleary’s class, remember?” I reminded him.
“Oh yeah. I got a “D” in that class.”
“Rats have excellent memories,” I commented.
“Big deal,” Eric said as he began throwing rocks to keep the rats at a safe distance.
“Also, male rats can detect if a female rat is diseased. If she is, he won’t mate with her,” I mentioned.
“I wish I had that ability,” Eric replied.
As we approached the female dorms, Ayan and Tootie walked out of the building. Tootie was dressed in green PE shorts and a tan T-shirt. Ayan was dressed in a long reddish-flowery dress and sandals. Her jet- black wavy hair was in in a tight bun in back. I greeted Ayan with a smile while Eric greeted Tootie with a kiss. Sshe didn’t resist his boldness.
“Pint, I mean Clay, its 22:30 now, meet me back here in two hours. 12:30 on the dot.
“Eric, I know you. Don’t be late.”
Tootie stepped between us and assured me that she would make sure he was back in time.
“What are you going to do for two whole hours?” Ayan asked.
Eric put his arm around Tootie and they booth smiled before disappearing into the darkness of the night.
For about 30 seconds there was this awkwardness between Ayan and I. I was at a loss for words. Then Ayan took the initiative.
“يتأت” Ayan said as she began walking.
I stood there with a confused look on my face not having a clue what she just said.
“يتأت means come…follow me.”
As we began walking side by side the conversation started to flow. Ayan was a devout and proud Muslim and she began talking about her mother being a strong advocate of women’s rights under Islam.
“The rights of Muslim women are given to us by Allah, who is all-merciful, all-knowing and all-wise. Islam considers women equal to men as human beings. That is what the Holy Quran states,” Ayan said vehemently as she stared at the midnight starry sky.
I had no real understanding of Islam but I found the passion in her conversation non-threatening to my Christian beliefs and even intriguing.
As we walked along the perimeter of the compound, it almost felt like she was trying to groom me for Muslimhood. I felt a desire to respond with a few tenets of my own faith.
‘Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord’. That is one of my favorite quotes from the Bible. By letting God deal with my adversaries, it prevents me from harboring ill feelings that fester and hijack my mind. If I take revenge on someone, they will know it’s coming from me. If God takes revenge on my behalf, they will know it’s coming from him. I have seen The Lord persecute my enemies to such an extreme even I thought it was excessive. But then I realized they may be paying for harm they have done to others as well.”
“Allah rewards those who pardon and exonerate, but the Quran is very clear on vengeance. The repayment of a bad action is one equivalent to it,” Ayan replied.
All my life I have heard “Never discuss politics or religion.” But it was fine. Neither one of us felt insulted by the other’s beliefs and the conversation never became uncomfortable…until the topic I desperately tried to avoid emerged.
“Allah is all-knowing and all-wise, but some practices in our culture are not tenets of Islam but tenets of Man.”
“Like what?” I regrettably asked.
Those two words triggered probably the most uncomfortable conversation I have ever had with a woman. Ayan commented on “that practice.” Out of respect, her thoughts and words would remain private forever.
Our conversation was so intriguing I forgot to keep my eye on the time. It was 12:15 and the time flew by. On our way back to the female dorms, we heard a barrage of gunfire in the direction of my compound. The volley lasted about ten long minutes. The gunfire we heard was sustained. It was much longer than usual and it concerned me. Ayan and I arrived at the meeting point precisely at 12:30 but there was no sign of Eric or Tootie. I tried to control my nervousness, but all the looking around I did probably gave me away.
Ten minutes later Eric and Tootie met up with us. “Clay. Sorry we’re late. But I’ve got some good news and some bad news,” Eric said with love-bites all over his neck.
“What? What are you talking about Eric?” I replied, seriously annoyed.
“Well, the compound is secured and no one is leaving camp until…”
“Until when?” I asked with anxiety.
“I don’t know man. It doesn’t sound like it’s gonna be anytime soon, according to the MPs on the gate.”
“So what’s the good news then?” I asked. Tootie cozied up with Eric and answered.
“The good news is that you have to spend the night in our dorm room.”
If I had been off duty the next day, that would have been music to my ears. But I had a 0700 meeting I could not afford to miss. Major Lewis would have plenty of reason to have me court–martialled if the truth got out. Once again my career would hang in the balance, but this time there would be no legitimate reason, there would be no defense. This incident would be the last nail in my coffin. Misappropriation of a government vehicle, unauthorized absence in a combat-like environment was enough to bust me down a rank or two and land me in the brig. Eric was covered because he wasn’t expected at the 0700 meeting because he had morning errands to run.
I immediately felt the presence of three ladies of the night.
“Miss Fortune, Miss Staken and Miss Judgement. All three wanted payment for the folly I enjoyed with them. They didn’t want my money, they wanted much more. My career.
I looked at Ayan and she could tell that I was starting to panic a little. She moved closer to me and grabbed my hand. Then she kissed me on the cheek and said two words that temporarily calmed me.
The girls hatched a plan to sneak Eric and I into their room. Their room was on the first floor, and it was the first room on the left, making it easily accessible. Tootie would put a flashlight in their window giving us the all clear. The girls looked left and right before heading into the building. Tootie waved to Eric from atop of the stairs.
Eric turned to me with this look on his face. You would have thought he won the lottery.
“Clay. This reminds me of prom night in a way, remember?”
“Yeah, of course I remember. But back then we drove in a limo and stayed at the Embassy Suites. This is a little different, don’t cha think,” I whispered sarcastically.
Then I pointed to the marks on Eric’s neck.
“Man. Those hickies on your neck are gonna get you in serious trouble. Who walks around with hickies in Mogadishu?”
“I do. Now I know why I came to Mogadishu, Tootle. I have dated some fine women in my life, but there is something about Tootie. I can’t put my finger on it. Dude, she blows my mind,” Eric said as he impatiently awaited the signal in the window.
“So how did you and Ayan get on?”
“We got on great. We had great conversation and walked around the compound, that’s all.”
“Clay, as your best friend, you need to get out of first gear with Ayan.”
“Ayan is different. She’ not like any other woman I have ever met. I can’t run a line on her. I tried that and she shot me down. I don’t know where I stand with her.”
Although I was still worried about the compound being closed, my mind was on Ayan. Thirty minutes later, the light in the window came on. Eric bolted into the building like Carl Lewis out of the blocks. I followed, watching my back as I went up the stairs.
Their dorm room did not have a door, but it had a white sheet hanging in the doorway for privacy. Once we passed through the sheet, I immediately saw Eric sigh in disappointment.
The room was divided in half by several sheets draped over a clothes line. There were two cots on both sides.
Ayan discussed the arrangements.
“Clay and Eric, you guys will sleep on this side and Tootie and I will be on the other side,” Ayan said.
Eric looked at Tootie and she shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes. I guess Tootie and Ayan had a chat about the sleeping arrangements and it was obvious that Ayan prevailed.
“I set the alarm for five-twenty-five. You have to be out of here by then. Before the rest of the girls get up for duty,” Ayan said.
Tootie and Ayan entered our side of the room as Eric and I sat on our cots removing our boots. Ayan kissed me on the forehead and said goodnight. It was the first time I ever saw her with her hair completely let down. She had the scent of a million freshly cut roses. At the same time I saw Tootie whispering something to Eric, something that made him grin. I’ve seen that grin before. I knew exactly what was being said. A few minutes later, Eric got up and left the room. Tootie left shortly afterwards.
As I lay on my cot, I could hear the rustling sound of Ayan undressing and then I turned toward the sheets that divided the room. The dim light in the room projected the silhouette of her unclothed womanly body onto the sheet. The image of her perfectly shaped body burned itself into the depths of my subconscious. I wanted to rip the sheets down and ravish her body over and over again. In my mind’s eye that’s exactly what I did. I soon nodded off to sleep.
Counterintelligence Was Here
22 February 1993
I slept like a baby. I dreamt about Ayan and the things we did in my dream would be expressed only in my journal. I woke up about ten minutes before the alarm and the only thing on my mind at the time was “Did I snore?”
I was confident the gates would be opened by now and I could make my 0700 morning meeting. At 5:25, Ayan poked her head through the sheets that divided the room.
“حابص ريخلا” Ayan said with a smile on her face.
I tried to repeat what she said phonetically, but I am sure it came out wrong.
“حابص ريخلا means good morning,” she said.
Once again her hair was let down and I snapped yet another mental picture.
I looked around for Eric but he was not in his rack. “Tootie is MIA too,” Ayan said.
I started to get frustrated.
“He knows I have to be back at base by seven. I will murder him if he makes me late,” I said as I laced up my boots.
As I started walking out with my helmet in my hand, she embraced me from behind. Then she whispered something in Somali. I didn’t know what it meant but it sounded sweet. I clasped my arms around hers and then I turned around slowly. I wanted to kiss her but I didn’t. Truthfully, I considered her embrace as a baby step and I didn’t want to move too fast. I just smiled and slowly released myself from her grasp. She said goodbye and waved to me as I stealthilyexited her room and made a mad dash out of the building.
The sun greeted me on the way out. There was little movement on the camp, and the only thing you could hear were the generators humming.
As I approached the Hummer, I saw Eric walking towards me from another direction.
“So where did you two disappear to last night?” I asked Eric as I put my helmet on.
“Tootie took me to her duty section. They don’t pull twenty-four shifts, so we had the office all to ourselves. So how did you and Ayan get on, you guys had the room all to yourself,” Eric asked as he started up the engine.
“Still in first gear, but the revs are climbing,” I said unashamedly.
“So. If I can get the vehicle again tonight, you wanna come along?” Eric asked me.
“Hmmm…let me think about it for a second. Are you insane?” I replied as I rolled my eyes in his direction.
“Just get me off the base, that’s all I can think about right now.”
“Relax, no one is gonna get in trouble. We got this, okay?” Eric responded confidently.
I just sighed and looked out the passenger window. As we approached the gate, my worst nightmare was beginning to materialize. I saw three other vehicles being turned away from the gate. Apparently, the lockdown was still in effect.
“Dude, what the…?” Eric said as other vehicles passed us in the other direction after being turned away.
We approached the gate to get a report on when the gates would open up.
“Gunnery Sergeant, the latest word is the gates will open up at 0800,” said the Corporal on the gate.
“Eight! You gotta be freaking kidding me, right?” I challenged the Corporal.
“Unless you have a chit from the base Commander.”
People often say that people panic for fear of the unknown. That was not the case here. I was panicking because I knew exactly what was in front of me, a court martial and the loss of my thirteen-year career.
“Clay, I feel bad. You should not have come along,” Eric responded with genuine concern.
As much as I wanted to blame someone, I could not. This was all my fault and I had to man up.
“Eric. You didn’t twist my arm, I knew the risk, this is totally self-inflicted.”
I began to experience a range of emotions, anger, fear and shame. But, of the three, I was mostly ashamed. This type of foolishness was generally typical of wayward Marines much junior than I. I felt like I didn’t rate the rank on my collar. I would be an embarrassment to other Gunnery Sergeants who wore their chevrons with distinction. Major Lewis would take great pride in witnessing my reduction in rank and forfeiture of pay and allowances. I could see his smiling face laughing at my downfall. I needed to handle this like a man and with some degree of dignity. I would just come clean and confess. As a Staff NCO, I disliked it when my troops would make excuses, it only made matters worse. There was no way out, my fate was sealed the moment I left my compound last night.
Although, there was one thing that I often relied on in times of trouble: prayer. Most times when I prayed, I had a little of hope of resolution. But not this time, I had zero. I began saying The Lord’s Prayer silently in my mind with my eyes closed. But this time it was intense, and in my mind’s eye, I could see myself begging the Lord for another chance. I could hear myself praying in my head and sometimes the voice in my head switched to that of my father. I had heard him recite the Lord’s Prayer thousands of times from behind the pulpit. After my conversation with God, I felt less anxious but completely hopeless.
At 0800, the gates opened and Eric and I proceeded back to our compound.
On the way to our compound, I began rehearsing exactly what I would say. I had it memorized. I even thought of walking into the Major’s office and handing him my chevrons, but that seemed too dramatic and stupid.
As we passed through the gates, I took a deep breath and spoke to Eric.
“And this too shall pass.”
I heard that saying from an old crusty Sergeant Major years ago, and it just seemed to fit the moment. I really wanted to get past this episode. It was too much high stress and uncertainty.
Eric dropped me off in front of the flagpole and wished me luck. I didn’t need luck, I needed a serious miracle.
I saw Crocket on the way to the Operation Center and she told me that Major Lewis was looking for me and that I should report to him ASAP.
“Lord, you said you would come at the midnight hour. Well its11:59 right now,” I said to myself as I marched to an almost assured catastrophic setback.
I saw the Major sitting behind his desk. I was nervous, but a controlled nervous.
“Major Lewis. I heard you were looking for me,” I said as I stood just outside his office.
Immediately he got up from his chair and reached for a cigarette. He always did that when he was angry.
“So. Goofing off at the University?”
How did he know that? I immediately thought. Confession time.
“Sir, I can explain …”
“Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking to you,” the Major said as he lit his cigarette.
The Major sat back down in his chair and started blowing smoke rings and continued speaking.
“It’s a good thing I ran into Dr. Gaye, otherwise I wouldn’t have known where you were. If he ever sends you on another personal errand again, you let me know. You don’t work for him and I don’t appreciate you being his errand boy. You serve one master.”
Whoa. Change of plan. Major Lewis had his own version explaining my absence. I was more than happy for him to be misled.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, I really don’t like you and I could care less if you don’t do a damn thing all day, but you will make my coffee in the morning. You got that?”
“Yes, sir,” I said completely relieved.
“And another thing. Them Counterintelligence cowboys were snooping around looking for you. Go see what they want…now. The less I see of them, the better.”
I left the office relieved and renewed, not the least bit fazed by the Major’s rant. Did I let him get away with punking me with the coffee making bit? Yeah I did. But I was too focused on my second chance to worry about that. I still had my stripes and I learned a valuable lesson. As I left the Operations Center, I began to wonder how Dr. Gaye knew to cover for me, and how he knew I was at the University. As I walked towards my quarters, I looked up at the Son and said “Thank you.”
Sex, Drugs, and Classified Material
22 February 1993
It’s amazing how you can go from hearing your death knell, to the status quo of everyday life within a span of a few minutes. I often wished that I had a vice to chill me out at times. But, I wasn’t a drinker, drugs were illegal and smoking interfered with sports.
I began to wonder why Counterintelligence wanted to see me. Maybe they wanted a report of atmospherics on the male Somali linguists. From my many visits with the male interpreters, I never once suspected anyone of being a threat of any kind. Most of them had their own issues, but one issue that was a problem for everyone was the lack of respect that some troops displayed towards the locals while on patrol. The type of abuse ranged from manhandling women and children who got too close to the vehicle to urinating in water bottles and giving it to the locals. Another issue that seemed to trouble the linguists was the issue of Challenge and Passwords. Command policy stated the interpreters did not have “a need to know.” If a gate guard caught an interpreter sneaking back on the compound, he would shout out a Challenge word. The individual would then be required to authenticate with a designated Password. At times roving patrols interpreted a lack of response as a bona fide threat, resulting in a shooting fatality. All the interpreters felt policy should grant them knowledge of Challenge and Passwords, despite the decree that prohibited them from sneaking off base to visit family members. JTF policy prohibited family contact because the militias could use intimidation tactics against the family to influence the interpreters to pass bad intelligence.
I knew there must be a format to submit a Counterintelligence Report, but I didn’t know it. I used the template that all Marines were taught in boot camp. SMEAC.
Situation Mission Execution
Admin and Logistics
Command and Signal
It was not a perfect fit for the information I wanted to convey but it was better than nothing. I composed the report on a computer in the Operations Center during lunch and printed it out. For the header and footer I marked “For Official Use Only.” I folded in half, put it in my cargo pocket and headed to their location, the vacated supply tent.
As I headed to the CI tent, a Hummer beeped me from behind and made me jump almost a foot in the air.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. Just the man I was looking for,” Master Gunnery Sergeant Pritchard said with a cigar hanging out the corner of his mouth.
“I was just on my way over to see you,” I replied as I opened the door and climbed into the Hummer.
“I figured as much Gunny. But we don’t have a permanent address. You could say we move around a lot.”
After a brief drive to the other side of the compound near the old U.Ss Embassy, I followed Pritchard into another logistic tent that appeared unmanned from the outside.
Once again, I was impressed by this mobile command center that always reminded me of the 60’s show Mission Impossible.
“Pull up a chair, we have a couple of questions for you,” Pritchard said as he put out his cigar on the heel of his boot.
As soon as I sat down, another Gunnery Sergeant sat across from me. I sensed a feeling of hostility and I didn’t know why. Pritchard addressed him as Gator and his presence put me on the defensive.
“We were looking at your service records and it concerns us that your clearance and access far exceeds the requirements of your military occupational specialty (MOS). You are a field wireman. Is that correct?” asked Pritchard.
“Yes. I am a 2512,” I responded as I leaned forward in my chair.
Gator grabbed a manual sitting on the table and held it in the air for a few seconds then he dropped it back onto the table making a thud.
“According to the MOS manual, you should have a Secret clearance. But you have a Top-Secret with RODCA and NOTTAL access,” Gator responded, breaking his silence.
I felt like I was in the middle of a “Good Cop Bad Cop” interrogation. But I was relieved because the concern they raised could be explained easily.
“My clearance. It’s like an albatross around my neck.”
“Can you explain?” asked Pritchard.
“Do you want the short answer, or the Disco Remix version?” I responded casually.
“Humor us. Give us the low down dirty. The whole story,” Gator said as he leaned back in his chair with his hands behind his head.
“My first tour in the Corps was with an Infantry unit on Okinawa, Japan back in 1979. I had never seen so many professional criminals in all of my life. In fact, I would say the entire company operated like a mafia or an organized crime outfit. I was attached to Charlie Company, but our nickname was Kilo Company (narcotics). Almost all the officers and senior enlisted ran some sort of an illegal operation. Everyone was getting paid big time. The Staff Sergeant who was in charge of my shop ran a prostitution ring on the island. He pimped a large stable of military wives to rich Japanese businessmen in downtown Naha.
“You are boring me, Thompson. This is about your clearance, remember?” said Gator as he twiddled his pen between his fingers.
“Let me finish. Well, the S-3 Operations Officer ran a drug smuggling ring. He had a sophisticated operation that probably made him a rich man. He would send his troops to the Philippines to purchase large quantities of cocaine and marijuana. The drugs were then shipped back to Okinawa via a Defense Classified Courier Service called ARFCOS from Clark Air Force base in the Philippines. ARFCOS was a distribution center for highly classified material and its packages were not subjected to custom inspections. All the packages were received by the unit Classified Material Control Center (CMCC). When I reported into the unit, I immediately heard of two Marines who fled the island and never returned. One of the Marines was named Whittaker. Whitaker and his co-worker worked in the CMCC and took off with some drugs and cash. The S-3 decided to replace the two deserters with Marines who were drug-free to minimize the risk of a repeated incident. The company had an unofficia l urinalysis test to see who was clean. Over 85% of the troops in our unit popped on something. I got tapped for a CMCC slot because I was one of the few who didn’t pop on the urinalysis and plus they had an overage of wiremen. Lance Corporal Dempsey got the other slot. When I was reassigned to the CMCC, they gave me an interim Top Secret that became final nine months later. My unit also read me into various special access programs after my clearance had become adjudicated. In my thirteen years in the Corps, I have never worked in my MOS as a wireman because whenever a unit picks me up, all they see is my clearance and special access. I always ended up in their CMCC babysitting classified.”
“That is why I carry a Top Secret clearance and special access tickets. In fact, my current job here in Mogadishu is Classified Material Control Chief. Like I said…an albatross around my neck.”
“So you knew about the drug operation and the prostitution network?” asked Pritchard with a look of concern.
“Yes and no. The vault room had a secondary function as a designated evidence room for confiscated drugs and paraphernalia. So having drugs in the safes was standard procedure. Also, the hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash was ostensibly money seized from drug raids. It made sense to me, and the fact that officers were involved put my mind to rest. I later found out that everyone knew the deal, but there was top cover from the highest levels. If one of the officers thought you were a threat, you were transferred to a remote unit up north.
“But out of all that crime and corruption, there was one thing that bothered me the most.”
“Tell me. What would that be?” Gator commented sarcastically.
“My Staff Sergeant was a wife beater, and he bragged about it often. It still bothers me when I think about it.”
I realized that the diatribe I just ended was probably more than they wanted to hear, but I had bottled that experience inside and never told anyone. As I was speaking, I could visualize everything, like I was reliving it. I needed a release and I had a captive audience.
“So how do you explain being read into NOTTAL and RODCA? I know some veteran CI guys who don’t even have that access,” Gator asked.
“When I was a Sergeant at 29 Palms, one of my accounts was the 13th Counterintelligence Team. They always visited the CMCC to pick up their daily traffic. Some of it was RODCA and NOTTAL, so I had to be read in because we stored it in our vault. I know what RODCA stands for but what does NOTTAL mean?” I asked.
Gator looked at Pritchard and laughed aloud. “NOTTAL…NOT ALL bitches get to read it,”
Gator said laughing at his own punch line.
I sat there looking at this moron with my mouth open. If he represented the CI community, I knew why Major Lewis disliked CI.
After a few more questions, Pritchard concluded the interview and things calmed down. I went to shake Gator’s hand but he placed his hand in his pocket. On the way out, I heard Gator whisper to Pritchard.
“I told you he wouldn’t have it, I told you.”
I immediately turned around and confronted Gator.
“Have what?” I said annoyed.
“Master Guns bet me that you would have a report on the interpreters, but I guess you forgot, huh?”
His condescending attitude needed to be checked. I had to respond.
“You don’t know anything about me. And if you think you are intimidating, you’re not. You’re pathetic. Just keep pushing me, okay? I said as I walked closer to him.
“So you’re a big man now?” Gator replied as he got even closer to me.
“Size has nothing to do with it. You probably hear that a lot,” I said as I backed away.
I looked at Pritchard who just watched me and Gator go back and forth. I then reached in my cargo pocket and placed the Counterintelligence Report on the table. I apologized to Pritchard for losing my cool and then I ducked out of the tent.
I let Major Lewis punk me that morning. Gator was not going to punk me for a second time in one day. I didn’t know what impression I made on CI, but I didn’t care.
The Positives of Negativity
22 February 1993
As I left the CI tent, I headed to MARFOR where I was billeted. I knew I had a debt of gratitude I needed to settle. My thirteen-year career was still intact because of Dr. Gaye. Without his quick thinking and intervention, I would be facing a court martial. He had a private tent in the Officer’s Row.
“Knock, Knock,” I said as I stood outside his tent. “Who is there?” Dr. Gaye replied from inside the tent.
“Sir, it’s Gunnery Sergeant Thompson and I have a Public Service Announcement from the Commanding General,” I said at the position of attention in my boot camp voice.
Dr. Gaye unzipped his tent and stuck only his head out and smiled.
“And what might that be, Gunnery Sergeant Thompson?”
“Sir, beginning at 0800 tomorrow, forced fun is in effect for the duration of the deployment by order of General Wilhelm.”
“So…fun on the job is now mandatory. What an excellent concept. Any other instructions?”
“Yes sir. Happiness is optional but not required.” Dr. Gaye cracked a smile and invited me in.
Inside his tent was a mini office with a satellite transceiver hooked up to a medium-sized generator. I think his tent was the only tent with power. There was a folding chair to the right of his desk and he told me to take a seat.
“You mean Terry, remember,” he replied.
“Oh yes. Thank you for covering for me. I can’t thank you enough.”
“Somehow I get the impression a girl fits somewhere in the equation,” Dr. Gaye surmised.
“Not just any girl. It’s deeper than that,” I commented.
“Somali women are of a different breed. They are very noble…women of character,” Dr. Gaye said.
I never told him it was a Somali woman. It was as if he had foreknowledge of my actions. I didn’t think of challenging him, because I trusted Dr. Gaye implicitly.
The next question I asked him unsettled him at first but just for a split second.
“So what did you do when you were working for the embassy here? Were you a diplomat or something?”
“I had a great deal of roles and responsibilities. I mainly worked out of the Public Affairs Office. Basically, I shuffled a lot of paperwork.
“Enough about me. Let’s talk about you. How is the Marine Corps these days? Years ago, the Corps had a reputation for being the least progressive as far as race relations were concerned.”
I heard stories of the Marine Corps’ attitude towards minorities back in the fifties, but that was long before my time. I gave Dr. Gaye my perspective.
“I came in the Corps in 1979, and our drill instructors told us that some of us were light green and some of us were a darker green. But we were all green.”
“Where did you hear that?” I asked Dr. Gaye’s demeanor became somewhat deflated then almost fervent within seconds.
“It’s not what I heard. It’s what I witnessed.” “Oh. Were you in the Corps?”
“No. I went to a University in France, but my older brother Fredrick joined the Marines in 1959. After an interview with an Officer Selection Board, the board recommended he enlist instead. The board told him that they had a mandate to uphold the morale of Marines serving, especially during difficult times.”
“Wow. So what did he do?”
“He came home very discouraged and withdrawn. My father told Fred that if he could make it as an officer in the Marines, he could make it anywhere. My brother became even more determined. He successfully arranged a second meeting with his Officer Selection Officer. This meeting was prompted by a call from a local City Alderman who belonged to the same Masonic Lodge as my father.”
“I guess that’s the way it was back then. What was the board’s decision?”
“My brother wanted to become a pilot so he was subjected to a battery of tests to include physical examinations. He had one of the highest scores the board had seen on their watch. They made him retake the exams a second time. Fred performed even better the next time around, with higher scores across the board.”
“So they had to take him,” I asserted.
“They denied him on the basis of being color blind,” Dr. Gaye sighed.
“Man. Did he know that before applying?”
“Fredrick had perfect vision. He was not color blind but that was the final adjudication. He became a logistics officer instead.”
“So what was it like to be a Black officer back then?”
“Fredrick loved the Marine Corps despite some resistance from a few White officers. I remember when he called Dad from jail after he had reported to his first duty assignment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.”
I was very intrigued by this real life story. A chapter of the Corps I was only vaguely familiar with.
“Second Lieutenant Gaye was cashing his first paycheck at the base Credit Union and the teller phoned security when he presented his military ID card. The teller had never seen a Black officer and assumed he was impersonating one. The Military Police swarmed the inside of the credit union and accosted him in front of everyone. It was an ugly scene, and my brother didn’t go quietly. Unfortunately, Second Lieutenant Gaye had not checked into his new unit so he had no one to vouch for him. He spent a night in custody but he was released the next day. The Provost Marshal made a few phone calls to Headquarters Marine Corps to verify Fredrick’s rank. That was a setback for him and I didn’t think he would recover from it. But he did. He retired in 1979 as a Major. A very proud Major.”
“Are you close with your brother?”
“Very close. His struggles became my motivation and inspiration. Because of him, I have so much respect for the Marine Corps. I buried Fredrick three years ago; he developed a heart condition and died after a lengthy illness. I miss him very much.”
Dr. Gaye was pleased that I had a positive experience in the Marines and that I had good things to report in the race department.
After a brief lull in our conversation, I decided that I would make my way to the Operations Center and try to make a Morale Phone Call back home to speak with my son Clay Jr.
I felt enlightened by Dr. Gaye’s story. I was surprised that he was so supportive of the Marine Corps despite what his brother endured. As I stood and reached for my helmet, Dr. Gaye shook my hand and warned me about Major Lewis. I took heed of his warning and before I left his tent, I thanked him again.
Inside the Operations Center, there was a room not much bigger than a broom closet. In that tiny space was a telephone that had a military satellite hookup to call back to the States.
I was about to open the door but I heard someone crying inside on the phone. I recognized the voice. It was Crocket. I wanted to know what was so disturbing. After the sobbing subsided, I could hear what she was saying on the phone. She was speaking to Jessica. Crocket was making an emotional plea trying to reassure her and comfort her. Crocket was professing her love for Jessica in a very passionate way that was hard to describe. It made me sad. I had never seen such an outpouring of love and it perplexed me that it was between two women. I never really thought about true love within the same sex before, until I heard Crocket speaking with Jessica. A part of me was envious. It must be really special for someone to love you that much. I could hear Crocket signing off with “I love you too, Jessica.”
I immediately backed away from the door as I heard the phone being placed into its cradle. Crocket opened the door and she saw me standing there. She was wearing a camouflaged T-shirt and it was damp with tears and slobber. I didn’t say a word. She looked at me trying to keep it together before breaking down again.
She looked so vulnerable and miserable. Her eyes were bloodshot red and she kept wiping her tears away.
“I’m a mess. Just look at me…I could really use a hug about now,” Crocket stuttered as she extended both arms.
I didn’t even think about it. I just embraced her. She continued to break down even more and I became a little nervous because I didn’t want to attract attention.
Her crying was muffled as she buried her face in my camouflaged jacket. As she regained her composure I started to break the embrace, but she was not ready to let go. She eventually released herself from me and wiped her eyes one last time. I desperately wanted to know what was wrong but I figured if she wanted me to know she would tell me.
“Gunny. I am very sorry for behaving this way but I really miss home right now,” she said as she wiped her tears from my uniform.
“Crocket. It’s okay. If you ever want to talk, you know where to find me.
“I know. Thanks Gunny,” she said as she cleared her throat.
Crocket then put on her cammie jacket and smiled. A real genuine smile.
I had this little sister obsession with her that I didn’t quite understand. I just hoped once again that we could be good friends…beyond the deployment.
I removed the phone from its cradle and took a deep sigh before I called my son, I didn’t care about the eight-hour time difference, I just wanted to hear his voice…but I knew it would take an emotional toll. I could hear the ringing in my ear and slowly I felt separation anxiety start its creep. I could no longer fend off the emptiness inside. The phone rang and rang but I could not bring myself to hang up, maybe if I let it ring long enough, he would pick up. As the phone rang I flashed back to my first deployment overseas when Clay Jr. was only three years old. I was in Okinawa, Japan and it would be sixteen months before I would see him again. The separation was unbearable and whenever I would call him from overseas, the sadness in his voice wreaked havoc on my emotions and psyche. Every conversation we had always started the same way.
“Daddy, come pick me up,”
“I can’t right now Clay, daddy is away for awhile.”
“So…how many more sleeps?” His way of counting the days.
Just as every conversation started the same way; they always ended the same way. With my face buried in my hands, little mountains of wadded Kleenex at my feet.
Grounds for Dismissal: Folgers
22 February 1993
I attempted five times to reach my son but the phone remained engaged. I could hear a line beginning to form outside so I hung up the phone and waved the next Marine on in.
I stood next to the line of troops waiting for their Morale Call and I turned my head to Major Lewis’ office. His light was on and I immediately had a flashback of our previous conversation.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, I really don’t like you and I could care less if you don’t do a damn thing all day, but you will make my coffee in the morning. You got that?”
Grrrr. I know why I gave him a pass at the time. I was just glad to still have a job. But now that I had calmed down, his words grated on me like nails on a chalkboard. I felt he disrespected me as a Staff NCO as well as a man. I couldn’t let that go unchallenged, there needed to be boundaries and this was clearly over the line. I had to confront him and tell him…
“Make your own damn coffee.”
Okay, maybe not in those words but I needed to be perfectly clear I was not going to be his servant. I gathered my confidence and marched into his office.
His light was on but he was not in. “Damn.”
I began to get a little gun shy about the imminent confrontation I was about to have, so I chose the easy option. I saw that his coffee pot was empty, so I made him a fresh pot.
Ten minutes later, Major Lewis returned with a stack of papers in his hand and he was surprised to see me waiting on him.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. I’m glad you are here. I have a job for you,” Major Lewis said as he sat in his chair and noticed a freshly brewed pot to his left.
“Yes sir. What do you need?”
“I just returned from Headquarters and I was notified that Lance Corporal Sullivan’s wife is serving him divorce papers. I want you to see that he gets them. Here,” Major Lewis said handed me the legal document. He then poured himself a cup of java.
I took the papers and stuck them under my arm and waited.
“Well don’t just stand there, get a move on,” the Major said as he swallowed my special brew.
Within a second, Major Lewis paused briefly and smelled the inside of the cup before almost projectile vomiting.
“What in the hell! This coffee tastes like cat piss! Who made this shit?” The Major said as he stood up and emptied his cup into the trash can.
“Sir, that’s a fresh pot. I just put it on,” I said as I tried my best to keep from laughing.
His facial expression was so telling. The repulsion on his face was comical and pleasing to me.
“Who’s the ass clown1 that taught you to make coffee? You stay away from my coffee pot. You hear me!” Lewis said as he dumped the entire pot out the window.
Most of the non-coffee drinkers I knew resented being ordered to make coffee. I know I did. Sometimes passive aggressive behavior is the most subtle and benign way of accomplishing a goal. I knew three ways to make coffee taste like cat pee.
1. Use real cat pee
2. Clog the water filter and overheat the coffee
3. Use instant coffee
I had an MRE2 packet in my cargo pocket. Inside was instant coffee…military grade. Job done.
2 Meal Ready to Eat
Behind the Green Door
25-26 February 1993
Three days had passed and I had not seen Eric except during duty hours. I don’t know how he managed it, but he saw Tootie every night. I had never seen Eric work so hard for a girl, ever. In high school, he always had two or three girls on the go. He went to three proms during his senior year, our prom and two other proms at nearby schools. One of those proms was at an all-girl school where he was voted prom king.
I remember one conversation we had on the way home from wrestling practice during our senior year.
“Hey Eric. I heard you are going out with Donna, the captain of the Cougarettes (cheerleading). She’s super fine! How did you pull that off?”
“It was easy. I caught her next to her locker after practice and said, ‘You want me, don’t you?’”
“What? You’ve been using that same line since junior high. You always say the same thing, you need a new script.”
“No, I don’t. It works doesn’t it?” Eric replied as he pulled into my driveway to drop me off.
I got out of the car, shut the door, and answered him in the freezing cold.
“Yeah, but it only works about 90% of the time.”
It didn’t dawn on me until after I stepped inside and removed my boots…90% is a helluva success rate that any guy would kill for. He must have had amazing confidence to use a line so incredibly weak that yielded so much pulling power. Despite his incredible effect on women, Tootie was a challenge for him. I don’t know what it was about her, but one thing was for sure, she disarmed Eric in a way I didn’t think was possible.
On the way to JTF headquarters to deliver the morning report, I saw Master Gunnery Sergeant Pritchard, the Counterintelligence Chief.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. Good morning. What business do you have here?” Pritchard asked as he stopped me in the hallway.
“Hall monitor duty. Just making sure no one cuts class. So far I have issued three yellow sheets this period,” I said jokingly.
Pritchard cracked a smile and looked to his left and right before speaking in an almost whisper-like voice.
“I looked over your report and…not bad. Not bad at all. It’s in the Team Commander’s inbox. I will get you a proper form to submit your next report. Keep up the good work. I have only one small criticism,” Pritchard said as he placed his hand on my shoulder with a grin.
“Sure. What would that be?”
“Counterintelligence is one word, not two.”
“I thought so. I wasn’t sure. That’s an easy fix.”
I was pleased that my report was well received despite using the wrong report format.
“Gunny, I spoke with the Team Commander, Major Haycock, about you and we would like to formally introduce you to the Team. If you’re not committed right now, follow me downstairs.
I followed Pritchard down two flights of stairs into the basement of the Headquarters building. The elevators were not functional and had yellow tape in the figure of a large X across the doors.
We proceeded down a long corridor that had two armed sentries posted by a door at the end of the hallway. Pritchard displayed his badge and the sentries permitted him to punch in the cyber code, unlocking the large green steel door. As I walked in, I immediately observed a red flashing beacon to my left. The room layout was similar to previous configurations I had seen in their tactical compositions (tents). Everyone paused momentarily when the red beacon began flashing and turned around to see who was at the door. After Pritchard gave a nod, everyone returned to their assigned duties.
The layout of the room was mainly divided into cubicles with the center of the room serving as a conference area with a blackboard on the right side. There were no windows and there were fans in every corner.
“Where is Gator?” I asked.
“Gator is in the darkroom developing film, he will be out shortly.”
On the left side of the blackboard was a list of names of team members in a matrix with letters beside them. Some names had quite a few letters next to them while some had just a couple.
“Master Guns. What do the letters represent?” I asked out of curiosity.
“The letters represent certain skill sets. Everyone here has a specialty. I saw Pritchard’s name and it had almost the entire alphabet next to it. I looked to the right side of the blackboard and I saw a name that disturbed me. It was “Dr. Terrance Gaye” and it had three question marks in red next to his name. I didn’t know how to interpret it, so I just blanked it out of my head.
As I was looking around the office space, a young First Lieutenant approached me. He had a yuppie-like appearance and a smoothness about him.
“I’m Lieutenant Stein, you must be Gunny T.”
I was taken aback a bit because only my close friends addressed me as Gunny T. I acknowledged the Lieutenant and shook his hand.
I looked at the blackboard and saw his name with three letters by it, an “A,” an “L” and an “N”.
“You are looking at the letters and you want to know what my specialty is, is that right?” The lieutenant asked as he made piercing eye contact with me.
I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or not, but it almost seemed that he was mimicking my body movements in real time. At one time, we blinked in synch. That was weird.
“Yes sir. That is exactly what I was thinking.” Pritchard left me for a moment and headed to a nearby cubicle.
“I can’t discuss with you what the “A” and “L” are for, but I am more than happy to explain what the “N” represents.”
“Okay.” I replied as I sat in the brown folding chair next to him.
“I am a Neuro linguistic specialist, also known as NLP.”
“I don’t have the foggiest idea what that means,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders.
“NLP has many applications, but in this line of work I use it to establish deep and trusted relationships in an accelerated timescale. For example, if we were in a fluid environment, and needed to gain someone’s confidence rather quickly to support an operation, my training enables me to establish strong bonds of attachment at a subconscious level quite swiftly.
“I think I know someone who has attended that training,” I responded as I looked up and to the left.
“Oh really. Who might that be?” “Her name is Tootie.”
“Sorry Lieutenant. I was thinking with my outside voice,” I replied as I snapped out of a light trance.
The Lieutenant smiled after he realized it was an inside joke.
“Some of us are trained in spotting and assessing sources.”
“Where do you fit in?” I asked.
“I will be the one to formally introduce them into a clandestine relationship.”
Although I had only spent a few moments with him, I reflected on our rapport, which was quite comfortable. When he addressed me as Gunny T, I felt my defenses lower and received a very positive vibe.
“I also am an expert in assessing body language to interpret a subject’s emotions and thought processes.”
“Would you be able to tell if someone was lying to you?” I asked.
“After I established a baseline, most definitely. There are certain data points that a polygraph is unable to register. That is where I come in. I often will work with a polygrapher.”
“Wow. That sounds like a skill that could be very useful in your personal life. Where do I sign up?” I asked semi seriously.
Lieutenant Stein really impressed me and I could have listened to him all day. He wasn’t the kind of guy I would invite to a house party, but he struck me as someone who I could easily talk to, about anything.
Immediately following my conversation with Lieutenant Stein, I was intrigued. Counterintelligence made me reflect on my unfulfilling career as a Classified Material Control custodian. As a CMCC custodian, a good day was when the mail truck broke down enroute. I wanted to be a part of something special. I viewed Counterintelligence as my ticket out of apathy.
As I imagined the fulfillment of a new career, I was drawn back to reality as I glanced at the blackboard once more. The question beckoned me again…why was counterintelligence interested in Dr. Gaye?
Devils in Black Boots
26 February 1993
Lieutenant Stein constantly looked over his shoulder and checked his watch as if he were expecting someone. As I was about to ask the Lieutenant the time, Master Gunnery Sergeant Pritchard commanded the office to attention.
“Gents…standby,” Pritchard commanded as he stepped toward the front of the conference area. Everyone froze.
“ATEN…..HUT!” Pritchard commanded as only he could.
Everyone snapped to the position of attention in place. The command Attention was issued when a Colonel or higher entered the office and I was keen to know who the VIP was. The red beacon began to flash and two Majors entered first and posted themselves on either side of the hatch. A three-star general emerged and quickly marched to the front of the conference area.
“At ease Marines, at ease,” the General commanded.
I was expecting maybe a Colonel, but it was the Commander for Joint Task Force Somalia General Jones. General Jones (U.S. Marine) was the commander of all U.S. and Coalition forces in Somalia and was the most powerful man in the country at the time. I was impressed that such a high ranking General Officer came to acknowledge such a small outfit of about 15 troops. General Jones was a man with tremendous presence despite his average height and slender build.
The Counterintelligence Team Commander appeared from the back office to greet the General. Everyone then migrated to the brown folding chairs to hear what the General had to say.
“Major Haycock, I want to personally thank you and your fine team for all the hard work and diligence demonstrated during Operation Restore Hope. I have always admired the Counterintelligence business model for growing their officers. Every officer here is prior enlisted …you reward your most competitive and qualified enlisted with officer appointments. The payoff is a seasoned and experienced officer corps. Years ago, when I was promoted to General, I went home to surprise my nine-year-old son with the good news. Over dinner, I proudly passed him my star. The conversation went something like this:
“Son, your dad is a General now. What do you think about that?”
The boy nonchalantly looked at the shiny star and then carried on pouring gravy over his mash potatoes without saying a word.
“Well. What do you think Johnny?” “Dad. That’s very nice, but…”
“Dad, that’s great that you are a General, but Joey’s dad…is a Gunnery Sergeant.”
Everyone in the room had a genuine laugh, and not the scripted “laugh on queue” response required for General Officer jokes.
“ I’m a very busy man these days but I wanted to acknowledge you for your contributions to the Force Protection mission. Operation Black Boots has been a tremendous success and it truly exceeded my expectations. I don’t know how you pulled it off, but it worked. Our patrols have seen almost a 50% reduction in harassment in the rural areas and almost a 75% decrease in hostile activity at the LDCs (Local Distribution Centers for relief supplies). The militias have displayed indecision and hesitation in challenging patrols escorted by The Black Boots. In fact, the militias have given them a moniker, which translates to Devils in Black Boots.”
General Jones then pointed to Major Haycock.
“I knew Mike was the right man for the job and I requested him by name. As members of the Sixth Counterintelligence Team, I know Somalia is not within your AOR (Area of Responsibility) and I appreciate the learning curve may have been steep. However, tomorrow immediately after the President’s visit I will be flying back to Washington to brief the Joint Chief of Staff on a myriad of issues relating to Operation Restore Hope. One thing I promise, the JCS will know who the Sixth counterintelligence Team is and what they bring to the fight. As I just mentioned, I have a tight schedule, but I would like to present the Team a Commander’s Coin as a token of my sincere appreciation. Mike, you have a fine team and I salute every one of you. SEMPER FIDELIS Marines,” the General bellowed.
General Jones then shook Major Haycock’s hand and marched toward the rear hatch where his aides were posted.
“Aten…HUT!” Pritchard commanded as everyone stood.
“Carry on, Marines!” The General said as he marched out of the office spaces.
Marines of 15th MEU on Night Patrol “Black Boots”
Witch Doctors and Healers
26 February 1993
The General’s visit made an impression on me; it made me realize the significance of tactical counterintelligence support. Major Haycock remained at the front and had a few comments of his own.
“Well done. As a team, we have hit the mark and I would like to echo the General’s comments. We are the right team for this mission. We have done an excellent job of identifying threats that place our troops at risk, but there is more work to be done. Three hours ago, Whiskey Tango was compromised,” the Major said as he looked down in a brief pause before looking up again.
The Major had my full attention but he used terms and acronyms that I didn’t understand.
“What’s Whiskey Tango?” I asked Lieutenant Stein.
Lieutenant Stein leaned over discreetly and whispered, “Whiskey Tango is a safe house just outside the city limits.”
Major Haycock continued to voice his security concerns to sensitize team members.
“The snatch operation we supported at dawn was the epitome of precision. Controlled chaos at its finest. The downside was, we snatched Osman’s double. This leads me to believe that Osman had inside information. These incidents validate the General’s concern for the potential of a collaborator within our ranks. Gentlemen, I have two words for you. Find him, or her.”
Major Haycock then whispered something to Pritchard handing him a brown folder just before retreating to his backroom office.
I had many questions but the one question I had to ask was…
What was Operation Black Boots?
After everyone vacated the conference area and returned to duty, I asked Lieutenant Stein to explain to me the concept of Operation Black Boots.
“Operation Black Boots was conceived during the operational planning phase of Restore Hope back in Tampa. Major Haycock was instrumental in selling it to the Pentagon, but it was Dr. Louis Johnson who originated the idea. You know who Dr. Johnson is, don’t you?”
“No. Never heard of him,” I replied.
“Wow. Dr. Johnson is an intel genius. He convinced Major Haycock to take it onboard and run with it.”
Lieutenant Stein continued to explain.
“Operation Black Boots was designed to instill fear in the hearts and minds of the militias and warlords. Because of the success of the Operation, militias were much more reluctant to challenge patrols escorted by Marines wearing black boots.”
I was somewhat confused because we were all issued tan desert boots prior to the deployment. Only recently did I see Marines wearing black boots.
“Okay, I still do not understand.”
“It’s simple. The militias believe if they kill a Marine wearing Black Boots, then disease and famine will fall upon their descendants. The challenge was getting them to buy into the idea.”
In my attempt to use critical analysis, which was limited to knowledge gained from reruns of Barnaby Jones and TJ Hooker, I proposed a theory for how counterintelligence got the buy-in.
“So, did they drop pamphlets from the sky from a military plane?”
“No. About two months before we landed in Mogadishu, we sent an advance sub-team to develop a source network. A source network that could get the word out effectively.”
“Oh. I got it. Like politicians and journalists.” Lieutenant Stein shook his head as I was speaking. “Try witch doctors and healers. We paid them handsomely to prophesize of a darkness that would inhabit the city. The messengers of this evil spirit would be identified by their black footwear. When the Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) arrived last month wearing black boots, the militias immediately recognized them as the messengers of death and famine. The buy-in was sold, lock, stock and barrel.”
Things started to make sense and it almost seemed too simplistic, but apparently, the impact was huge.
“So the MAU was in on it from the very beginning.”
“No. Operations Black Boots is a Special Access Program. Not many people outside this room are aware of Operation Black Boots. Due to budget shortfalls, the MAU was not issued desert boots so they had to wear their everyday black boots. The MAU Commander personally made a trip to Tampa to lodge a formal complaint over the funding issue. Dr. Johnson became aware of the issue and the rest is history.”
Lieutenant Stein then excused himself and Pritchard was walking toward me with a brown folder under his left arm. I stood and grabbed my bush cover.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, the Team Commander asked me to give this to you,” Pritchard said as he handed me a brown folder.
Inside the folder were two sets of paperwork. The papers on top were templates for future counterintelligence information reports. The stapled package at the bottom was a counterintelligence application package.
I was surprised and very pleased to be considered for a career in Counterintelligence. I had been thinking about a career move for years. It was also nice to finally have my clearance work in my favor. I just needed to find out what was required to meet the criteria.
“Master Guns. This is an excellent opportunity for me. What do I have to do?”
“Well. First, we would like you to write a condensed version of your autobiography in the third person. Secondly, fill out the application. And lastly, you will have to sit for a counterintelligence interview. A screening board.”
“So what do I need to study to prepare myself for the board?”
“It’s not like any board you ever sat for. We just want to know what kind of person you are. At times the interview may seem invasive but we all go through it.”
The thought of sitting in front of a board without any preparation did not sit well with me. I always took pride in board preparation and it was exhaustive preparation that gave me confidence.
“Master Guns. There must be something I can do to prepare.”
“Yes, there is. Know the Marine Corps Order for Counterintelligence, 3850, and know the Sixth Counterintelligence Team motto.”
“So, when is the interview?” I asked slightly under confident.
“Tomorrow. Tomorrow at 1100 hours.”
“Okay. I will be there. Just one last question, what’s the Team motto?”
“Detect, Deny and Deceive.”
Pritchard then escorted me out the office spaces and I kept silently repeating to myself those two items of information I needed to know.
Marine Corps Order 3850 and Detect, Deny and Deceive.
No Need to Know
26 February 1993
On the way the Operations Center, I saw Eric accompanying Lance Corporal Sullivan to his tent. Eric and Sullivan deployed together from the same unit in Cali. Strangely, I detected something was wrong by the look of concern on Eric’s face. Sullivan looked as white as a sheet, as if he had seen a ghost. I had to find out what was going on.
“Eric. What’s the matter with Sullivan?” I asked as I approached them in front of the tent.
“Bad news. Red Cross relayed a message about Sullivan’s wife being in a car crash last night. She’s on life support and things don’t look good. I asked Major Lewis to sign off on Emergency Leave papers and he wanted to know specific details before he would sign the papers. What is his deal? I went straight to the Chaplain and got it approved. Major Lewis can kiss my White ass,” Eric said angrily.
“Damn. Is there anything I can do to help?” I asked.
“Don’t think so. There is a plane leaving for the States in about two hours; gotta get him on that bird.”
I looked at Sullivan and he was shell-shocked. I offered my condolences.
“Alright then. Hey Sullivan, I’m praying for you, man.”
Sullivan didn’t even acknowledge me, he was almost catatonic, completely unresponsive.
“Hey Eric. Check you later tonight. Maybe some cards or something?” I said as they both continued by me.
“Not tonight. I’m hitching a ride to the University to see the little lady. Catch me on the rebound,” Eric said as he and Sullivan hurried into the tent.
Right then and there, I experienced a tinge of selfishness. As quickly as my morale improved at the thought of having my best friend in Mogadishu with me, it began to drop off because we were not hanging out. I wasn’t jealous of Tootie, but I was disappointed that our friendship took a back seat to a girl. Eric had was always been balanced in that respect, until he met Tootie. I sighed and tried to shrug it off but, it bothered me.
As I continued on to the Operations Center, I became aware of rustling papers in my cargo pocket. I couldn’t remember what I stuffed inside my pocket so I decided to retrieve them and place it in the brown folder with my blank reports and application package.
They were the divorce papers I was supposed to hand to Sullivan. I had completely forgotten about them with everything going on. There was no way on this earth I would pile that on him. No way. If she were to die, I wanted to preserve his memory of her. He didn’t need to know.
I had only been in the Operations Center five minutes before I heard Major Lewis called my name from his office. His voice irritated me and I rolled my eyes every single time he opened his mouth.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. Gunnery Sergeant Thompson are you out there?”
“Yes, sir,” I said standing in the doorway.
“You better tell Gunny Sherman to watch it. I will have his ass if he smarts off like that again. I heard he jumped the chain of command and got the leave papers signed.”
“I don’t know. Couldn’t tell you, sir.”
“Did you give Sullivan the legal document like I told you to?”
“Sir. Sullivan’s wife is in a hospital, on life support. I think he has more pressing issues to deal with at the moment,” I complained.
I didn’t think what I just said was disrespectful. But Major Lewis’ head almost exploded and he couldn’t wait to come from behind his desk and jump down my throat boot camp style.
“What did you just say? Let me remind you, you are addressing a Major in the United States Marines! If I want an opinion from you, I will read it in your entrails. Where is Lance Corporal Sullivan now?” Lewis demanded.
“He is on his way to the airfield. He flies out in about an hour.”
“Find him. And make sure he gets the papers. That is an order. Do you copy?” Major Lewis said staring me straight in my eye.
His breath stank. Like an ashtray. I needed to get away from this idiot quickly. He was on my last nerve and I think he was happy to be there.
“I copy,” I said, letting him win the stare down contest. I walked out of his office cracking my knuckles.
My internal frustration was building and I needed to watch myself he was in my head.
I was given a direct order to deliver divorce papers to a Marine whose wife was dying. I had to make a decision.
In the words of the infamous Major Lewis himself:
“The Marine Corps pays me a lot of money to make tough decisions. This is an easy one.”
Would I deliver the papers? Not a chance. I waited until the plane left and hitched a ride to the airfield, knowing that I would fail in my mission.
When I returned, the Major asked me if I had accomplished the mission. I told him the truth.
“I hit traffic on the way.”
I did not lie. I just neglected to mention it was light traffic.
I made a trip to the latrine and conveniently dropped the document into the 55-gallon waste drum below. I was confident no one would retrieve it. Sullivan’s wife never regained consciousness and died of massive head injuries. She died while he was in flight to the States.
When Death Knows Your Name
26 February 1993
It was seven pm and the night shift was reporting in for duty. I wasn’t very hungry so I skipped chow and decided to catch up on my journal entries. Since my arrival in Mogadishu, most of my entries were monopolized by my desire for Ayan, my contempt for Major Lewis and my respect and fondness for Dr. Gaye and Crocket.
As I signed off the day’s destruction report, a female Sergeant who I did not recognize tapped me on the shoulder.
“Excuse me, Gunny. I am looking for a Lance Corporal Jones. Do you know where she is?”
I paused for a second because the name did not ring a bell, but then I realized she was looking for Crocket.
“You mean Crocket. Yes, she works here. I think she’s on nights so she should be here soon. Is there something I can help you with, Sergeant?”
“I found her wallet in the Women’s latrine. She must have dropped it. Can you give this to her?” asked the Sergeant.
“No problem,” I responded as I accepted the camouflaged wallet.”
After ten minutes or so waiting for Crocket to report for duty, I asked troops in the office if she was expected anytime soon. I was informed that she was picking up mail from the airfield. No one knew exactly when she was due to return.
As I fiddled with her wallet in my hand, I became conflicted. I wanted to respect her privacy, but I wanted to pry more. I wanted to know who Jessica was or at least find out what she looked like. Maybe there was a picture of her in the wallet. Curiosity won me over. I opened the wallet, and there were several pictures inside. One particular woman was in almost every single picture. She was an older woman with short reddish-gray hair. There were also a couple of pictures of Crocket with children. The one picture that caught my attention the most was a photo of Crocket and the woman holding hands in front of a museum. They really looked happy. It really didn’t matter what Jessica looked like, I was just curious and nosy as hell. I buttoned the wallet up and handed it to the oncoming Watch Officer to make sure it was passed to Crocket.
I just finished writing in my journal and decided to return to work to bang out another counterintelligence report. I realized that I inadvertently omitted information in my initial report that may have been useful. I wanted to address the interpreter’s frustration about not being issued weapons, especially during patrols. I found an open workstation and began composing my report using the correct outline Pritchard had given me. While I was proofing my report, Master Sergeant Howard strolled in. He was dirty and smelly from supporting a tactical mission in Baidoa, northwest of Mogadishu. I had known Howard for about seven years and we were stationed together twice in the past.
Howard mentioned that he worked extensively with the Italians in Baidoa and they invited him over for a late dinner. The Italians were co-located with us on the compound and they deployed with a chef to cook their meals. They had wine with their meals as well. No one turned down an invite from the Italians. Howard asked me if I wanted to tag along. Since I skipped chow, I was more than happy to partake.
On the way to the Italian side of the compound, I could smell the lasagna and parmesan cheese. Once we arrived in the chow tent, I almost resented having to make small talk because I just wanted to gorge myself as soon as I walked in. The feeding frenzy began and I think I embarrassed myself by the amount of helpings I had.
“No more for you. You greedy,” said the chef. Howard looked at me with a strange look on his face.
“I think you have an eating disorder, Gunny T.” Howard said as we shook hands with the Italians before we left.
I was so full, I could feel the pasta sloshing from left to right inside my belly.
“Yeah. Sorry about that. I don’t know what came over me. That was some good grub, I won’t have to eat for a couple of days now,” I responded as I unbuckled my belt and held my stomach like a pregnant woman.
As Howard and I walked toward our quarters, he expressed his appreciation for respecting his privacy and not blabbing his business.
I knew exactly what he was alluding to. Howard had an incredible story that no one would believe unless it was witnessed. As far as I knew I was the only one that had the whole story.
Howard was a survivor in four aircraft mishaps. Three mishaps were on land and one at sea. In two of those collisions, he was the only one that survived. I remember when his chopper fell from the nighttime sky just off the coast of Okinawa, Japan during a training exercise. The chopper’s engine failed after it took off from the ship and plunged into the darkness of the sea. Seventeen of the eighteen Marines on board the chopper still lie at the bottom of the ocean strapped inside. Howard was flushed out the back aft of the chopper, and he alone. He revealed the other mishaps to me from his hospital bed in Okinawa. As a result, Howard had a unique philosophy about death.
“Gunny T. When death knows your name, you cannot escape it. Death does not care if you are old or young, Black or White or if you are ready or not. You cannot pray your way out of death and you cannot cheat it. You may think that I am blessed, but there are times when I feel I am cursed.”
“But you escaped death four times. For some reason God protected you. How can that be a curse?” I asked.
“God could have made a better choice, I am sure of it. I ask myself all the time …why me? There are times when the guilt is too much to bear. Do you have any idea what it is like to be on an aircraft falling from the sky? First, you hear the Captain over the intercom give the command “Brace, brace!” Then the oxygen masks fall from their compartments. When the plane begins its free fall, you just hope and pray that somehow the plane will stabilize. At some point the overhead luggage comes crashing into the aisles; that’s when pandemonium breaks out. It’s pure hell, screaming, praying and crying…everyone. When the weak spots in the hull buckle under extreme pressure, you lose all hope and you say your goodbyes. I have seen mothers desperately clinging to their children with all of their strength, only to see them sucked out of the aircraft through a hole no bigger than a foot in diameter. To experience that once is too much. I have endured that agony four times. That’s too much for any one person,” Howard said somberly.
I had completely forgotten about the pain in my stomach from overeating and began to sense Howard’s pain. We stopped for a moment and sat on the stoop outside work. I was emotionally spent just listening to his personal account.
As he explained it to me, I was visualizing the graphic portrayal in my head in 3D. It was terrible, some of the things he said could not fit in my head and my mind blanked them out.
I was on the same plane as Howard from Camp Pendleton to Mogadishu, but I would make damn sure I would not be on the same return flight.
Anatomy of an Interview Part I
27 February 1993
Five thirty am. I hardly slept. My counter- intelligence interview would be in less than six hours and I felt like crap. The lasagna didn't settle with me and I spent a good portion of the night in the latrine. I shouldn't have eaten so much. I also noticed every twenty minutes or so I felt a wave of nervousness in my stomach and that was unusual for me. I chalked it up to anxiety having to sit for the board. The conversation I had with Howard didn't help things either. It left me feeling depressed. I needed a pick me up.
After the 0700 morning meeting, I noticed the nervousness in my stomach was slightly more intense and the waves became more frequent. I needed something to take my mind off the interview. Eric was having a conversation with the Logistic Officer so I waited for him inside the Ops Center. Eric and I were similar in that we were both “easy come, easy go” and generally optimistic. I figured a light conversation with Eric would take my mind off things.
“Eric. So how are things with Tootie?”
Immediately Eric perked right up. He could go on all day about Tootie. It was always Tootie this and Tootie that.
“Things are great, they couldn’t be better. Last night I wrote a poem for Tootie, can I read it to you?” asked Eric as he reached in his trouser pocket to retrieve a folded piece of paper.
I wasn’t really in the mood.
“Do you have to?” I replied.
Eric’s enthusiasm faded for a second, before I conceded.
“Just kidding. Go on.”
He read the poem with such emotion, like he was reading it to her in person. If I wasn’t his best friend I would have run for the hills mid-way through the poem. But I endured and even gave a convincing response.
“Wow. That was amazing. You even found something that rhymes with Somalia,” (I’ll follow ya).
“Yeah, I didn’t know I was a poet. Must have been a hidden talent.”
“So, when will you see her again?” I asked.
“Tomorrow for sure,” Eric said as he folded up his masterpiece and stuck it in his cargo pocket.
“I do not believe it. A Tootie-free day. I thought you were seeing her every day,” I replied.
“I don’t want to risk it. Today is a bad day and I don’t want to tempt fate,” Eric said as he pointed to the calendar on the wall.
I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about so I approached the calendar.
“Eric. I’m looking right at the calendar, what?”
“Dude, you must be blind. It’s Friday,” Eric said as he pointed to the date.
“So. So what?”
Then Eric grabbed a black marker and circled the date.
Then it clicked. It was Friday the 13th.
“Damn,” I said under my breath.
Then my nervousness came back with a vengeance.
The pit in my stomach and the doubt in my mind worsened.
“You know, Eric, you could have kept that to yourself,” I complained as I looked at my watch. The countdown in my head had begun, but it seemed more like a time bomb waiting to go off. I had thoughts of backing out of the interview but I was committed and there was no turning back.
At 1100 hours I knocked on the green door. By that time, I no longer felt the waves of anxiety, because it had become constant. My breathing was off and my palms were sweaty and clammy. The door slowly opened and it was Gator.
“Double damn,” I thought to myself as I walked towards the conference table where I would be boarded. Major Haycock, Master Gunnery Sergeant Pritchard, Lieutenant Stein and Gator would decide my fate.
As I walked to the table Gator had a few words of encouragement.
“The big guy is here (Major Haycock). Don’t choke.”
If I had a shred of confidence before he spoke, it evaporated. How was I going get through this?
Gator stepped behind the table and sat down in his seat.
“Sir. Gunnery Sergeant Thompson reporting as ordered sir,” I said from the position of attention nervously.
Major Haycock stood and had a few remarks before the board convened.
“At ease. At ease. Gunnery Sergeant Thompson you are being considered for a position of trust and responsibility as a Counterintelligence Specialist.
Consider this a board to assess your personality and suitability. Do you have any questions?” Major Haycock asked with a clipboard in hand.
“No. No sir.”
“Then you may be seated and let the board commence.”
I immediately looked over at Lieutenant Stein. I knew he was reading my body language and assessing my mental state. That made things worse for me.
Pritchard started off the questioning.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, why should we favorably approve you as a candidate for counterintelligence?”
“You should pick me because….ah…uhmm. Can I get back to you on that?” I said as my voice wavered.
The meltdown had begun and it was embarrassing as hell.
Pritchard was annoyed. He went to bat for me and I was falling on my face miserably.
“Okay. What is the Marine Corps order for counterintelligence?” Pritchard asked.
“The Marine Corps order for counterintelligence is 3850. I mean, 3580. It’s one of those… I think.”
Somebody just shoot me in the face. Put me out of my misery.
By then frustration was felt among all the board members and they stopped taking notes. I was hoping they would just stop the board. It was obvious that I was way off my game. But Pritchard pressed me for another question.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. What is the Sixth Counterintelligence team motto?”
“Uhmm, uhmm. Detect, deny and…conceive.”
By that time I had completely checked out mentally and I was having an out-of -body experience.
Pritchard whispered something to Major Haycock and then he addressed me.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. I really don’t know what your major malfunction is, but I am recommending we have a recess, especially after that last response. Do you think you can get your shit together by let’s say 1330?”
I took a very deep breath of relief. No more questioning for the time being.
“Yes,” I responded avoiding eye contact.
“Okay then. We will see you at 1330 sharp.”
I had about two hours to pull myself together. Or I could leave and never return. The latter seemed much more appealing than the former.
27 February 1993
I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. My confidence was shot and I was disgusted with myself for performing so poorly. I had always prided myself for rising to the occasion and delivering. Today, I failed. How could I face those guys again? Gator probably laughed his head off after I left. As I stood outside the JTF building, a crowd of senior officers was heading out the building. I saw Dr. Gaye amidst the crowd chatting with the U-3 (Unified Operations Officer). As soon as I saw him I looked away and walked ahead hoping he didn’t see me. Too late.
“Gunny T. Gunny T.” Dr. Gaye called out as he concluded his conversation.
“Dr. Gaye, I think I see more of you at the JTF than at MARFOR.”
“I’m dual hatted, so I have obligations here and there. The Commander here is advising our Colonel, that he should appoint a Deputy. Major Lewis and I are on the short list.”
That’s all I needed.
“Really? Major Lewis will have more influence than he already has,” I commented.
“I really don’t have time to take care of my own duties. The Deputy position would put an unnecessary strain on my work load. If they offer it to me, I will probably pass. As a State Department Liaison Officer, that would really muddy the waters. It should go to a senior officer by all respects. But because the Commander JTF considers me a Subject Matter Expert, they could bend the rules. I am sure that is what is happening.
“However, I do have some good news,” Dr. Gaye said as we walked towards our MARFOR workspaces.
“I’m all ears. I could use some good news,” I replied.
“Well, beginning tomorrow we will have a laundry service.”
“That is good news. I am constantly washing my T-shirts and underwear. Who will be doing that?”
“Three Somali Clans petitioned for the contract. I was asked to assist in the vetting process. If the wrong Clan had won the contract it may have upset the political equilibrium in the city,” said Dr. Gaye.
“Okay. I will pretend like I understood what you just said.”
“I recommended a neutral Clan that was not affiliated with Aidid or Mahdi; although if I had to choose among the two, I would choose Mahdi.”
“Why is that?”
I was confused because our security briefings portrayed them both as warlords.
“Mahdi’s representatives view the U.S. as guarantors of their country’s sovereignty. Aidid see us as a threat.
Aidid was a top Army General who also directed the Somali intelligence services. Ali Mahdi was a politician. Neither will disarm because of reprisals from the other. We need to tread lightly and strike a balance of neutrality.”
Dr. Gaye invited me to his tent to eat lunch. He traded MREs with the Australians the day prior during a liaison visit. I accepted his invitation. I wasn’t really hungry but I would take one with me and eat it later. It was common knowledge that the Aussies had the best tasting MREs of all the coalition troops in Somalia.
The worst MRE in all of Somalia was Chicken Ala King, courtesy of the U.S government. I have seen malnourished Somalians reject Chicken Ala King while on patrol.
Chicken Ala King was more like “vomit in a vacuum- sealed pouch,” but not as tasty.
“So what happened to forced fun? You seem preoccupied?” said Dr. Gaye.
“Is it that noticeable? I’m trying hard to fake it,” I said as I sat down opposite Dr. Gaye in his private tent.
“Well. I had a chance to advance my career in a brand new field, and I blew it big time.”
“What field were you considering?
“Too late now, but I was looking to cross train into counterintelligence.”
Dr. Gaye almost choked sipping from his canteen before responding.
“Oh, I see,” he said as he cleared his throat.
“I choked during the board, in fact I redefined the word ‘choked.”
“We all endure rough patches; no one is without a weakness. It is important that we recognize them so we can address them. Tell me one of your weaknesses and I will share one of mine with you.”
In my mind, Dr. Gaye was the embodiment of perfection. I could not imagine him having a single flaw.
“Oh that’s easy…unhealthy relationships. The more toxic, the more I am drawn to them. I am a magnet for women who are just wrong for me.”
“Have you asked yourself why that is the case?”
“I think I set myself up for failure at a young age. It probably started my freshman year in high school. I was with someone I shouldn’t have been with; it was taboo.”
“Taboo. You mean she was White?” Dr. Gaye asked.
“No. She was forty and I was fifteen. Her name was Marlene. She was in the booster club at school when I was on the freshman wrestling team.”
“Was she married?’
“Separated. She was divorced by the time I was a sophomore. You are the first person I’ve told. But I think she’s dead now.”
“While I was in basic training, Marlene sent me a letter telling me that she was diagnosed with breast cancer and it was malignant. In her letter, she said that she didn’t look the same anymore after her chemotherapy and she didn’t want me to see her that way. She enclosed a picture in the letter for me to remember her. She moved away and I never heard from her again. I still have her picture.”
For a moment, I was able to reflect on a memorable time in my life and not think about my recent implosion.
“Your turn. Tell me a flaw,” I demanded.
“Fair enough, you confided in me, now it’s my turn.
My flaw is I do not forgive and I never forget. If a person betrays my trust just once, they will never reclaim it. No matter what. It’s finished. I am working on it but not very successfully.
“Clay. Enough about me. Talk to me about the board.”
“Not much to say. They want me to come back after lunch but that’s a negative. I’m done with it. Stage fright got the best of me and that’s not like me at all.”
My last comment provoked an interesting discussion that gave me some insight.
“Let’s call it like it is. Stage fright or fear of public speaking are misnomers. I would define it as fear of rejection or fear of failure. No one is fearful of speaking.”
“I’m a confident person…I just lost it,” I commented.
Dr. Gaye sat back in his chair and I could tell he was in deep thought. My dad had that same look when he weighed his thoughts.
“Confidence is one thing and harnessing it is another. Are you feeling adventurous? Because I have a dare for you.”
“Uh oh. Not really, but what is it?” I asked hesitantly.
“Years ago, my uncle had this saying that inspired me and has stayed with me ever since.”
“What is it?” I asked.
Dr. Gaye leaned forward, almost invading my personal space looking me straight in the eye.
“Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Twenty seconds of foolish bravery …and with that, great things can happen. Try it, I dare you,” Dr. Gaye said enthusiastically.
“What happens after the twenty seconds?”
“Give me twenty seconds first; worry about the rest later. That’s all I am asking.”
“Just twenty seconds? I can do anything for twenty seconds. Okay.”
Wow. It never ceases to amaze me how a few words from a concerned individual can mean so much. I looked at my watch and I had twenty minutes before my interview. I was remotivated. We both stood and stretched and I gave him a bro hug. Dr. Gaye once again helped me and somehow a handshake didn’t seem to adequately reflect my appreciation. Game on.
Anatomy of an Interview Part II
27 February 1993
Twenty seconds? Let’s do this.
“Sir, Gunnery Sergeant Thompson reporting as ordered, sir!”
I noticed Major Haycock was not present, but his absence took some of the pressure off. Gator, Stein and Pritchard presided over the board. Pritchard sat in the middle, Gator was to his left and Stein to his right.
Pritchard kicked it off as soon as I was seated.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, why should we accept your application for counterintelligence training?”
“Master Gunnery Sergeant Pritchard. You should accept me because I am tenacious, resourceful, and I am a team player. I get the job done.”
My confidence was increasing and it relaxed the board members. Pritchard commented.
“Okay. Gentlemen, looks like we have a board. I have a few more questions, then the other board members will follow.”
“In the counterintelligence field, we attract quite a few A-type personalities, some of which can be off- putting and abrasive. Have you ever worked for an asshole?
“If I can be honest and candid…I’m working for one now at MARFOR.”
“How is your relationship with him or her?”
“Strained at times, but not to the detriment of the mission.”
“Alright. If you were Commanding General for a day, what would you do to improve the security of our troops?”
“If I were General for a day, I would reverse policy and arm our interpreters. If we trust them enough to provide us with intelligence support, then I feel we should trust them enough to carry weapons, especially in situations where they may be subjected to enemy fire. The current policy is a morale killer for them.”
I have a few more questions, then the other board members will follow.”
“In the counterintelligence field, we attract quite a few A-type personalities, some of which can be off- off-putting and abrasive. Have you ever worked for an asshole?
“If I can be honest and candid…I’m working for one now at MARFOR.”
“How is your relationship with him or her?”
“Strained at times, but not to the detriment of the mission.”
“Alright. If you were Commanding General for a day, what would you do to improve the security of our troops?”
“If I were General for a day, I would reverse policy and arm our interpreters. If we trust them enough to provide us with intelligence support, then I feel we should trust them enough to carry weapons, especially in situations where they may be subjected to enemy fire. The current policy is a morale killer for them.”
All the board members began taking notes.
“Fine. Do you consider yourself a good liar?”
Trick question alert.
“Basically, I am an honest person. But, if I have to lie through my teeth, in defense of my country, then that is what I’ll do.”
Lieutenant Stein proceeded Pritchard, with just one question.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, if your package is denied what are your plans?”
“Lieutenant. If I do not succeed today, then I will return in six month’s time, better prepared and more qualified, per Marine Corps Order 3850.”
Gator was waiting for me, like a cheetah ready to pounce on its prey.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, have you ever used an ethnic slur?” Gator asked with contempt.
“Yes, I have.”
“You voiced concern for arming the terps (interpreters) yet I do not see that data point anywhere in your report. I guess you forgot to mention that critical piece of information.”
Gator was working my nerves, but I wasn’t going to let him in my head. I responded.
“Then you have not read my latest report, CIR-002. I just happen to have it. Here it is. Read the last paragraph, it’s all in there…Gator.”
Pritchard took the report, put on his spectacles and gave a quick read before starting another round of questions.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, are you familiar with word association?”
“Yes I am. You tell me a word and I tell you the first word that comes to mind?”
“Exactly. I will start now.
“Home.” I responded.
The next question threw me for a loop, but only for a moment.
“Gator,” Pritchard said as he leaned back in his chair and removed his glasses to gauge my reaction.
I paused for a moment and looked Gator in the eye as I answered.
My response provoked anger in Gator. His face became red and the vein in his neck was on the verge of bursting.
“One last word, Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, and that will conclude this interview.”
“Yes, sir,” I responded.
Once again, I paused and looked at each one as I scanned them from left to right.
As I concluded answering my final question, I heard three loud claps from the rear of the office. It was Major Haycock.
“Well done. We did not expect you to return. I liked your responses and I will review your most recent report,” said the Major.
I was relieved. It was true. Twenty seconds of courage changed the course of my life.
Death of a Private First Class
27 February 1993
My elation was cut short by a disturbing phone call. The Sixth Counterintelligence Team received word that a Marine on a foot patrol had just been killed. The news of the death was like a punch in the stomach. We were in Mogadishu to assist, not to lose lives. I think all of us became angry and demoralized. Although we did not know the deceased, Major Haycock’s command decision would bring the death up close and personal and a little too close for my comfort.
“Gentlemen, let’s gear up. We will conduct our own inquiry. At the moment, I don’t know if we have a dog in this fight, but we need to find out. A Marine is dead and we owe it to his family to allocate every resource available to find out what happened. We leave in five mikes (minutes),” Haycock said as he put on his body armor.
Pritchard approached me and I thought he was going to escort me out of the office so I headed towards the door.
“Gunny Thompson, where are you going? This is an opportunity for you to see how we operate,” Pritchard said as he unlocked the rifle rack against the wall.
I had seen dead bodies when I patrolled during the first month of my deployment. But those were badly decomposed corpses that barely resembled living beings. The thought of seeing a dead Marine who was just killed was saddening and depressing.
“Look alive,” Pritchard said as he briskly handed me a shot gun.
The shooting took place near the Mogadishu Airfield and on the way there I was trying to figure out how this could be a counterintelligence matter. In my mind it seemed to fall squarely into Military Police jurisdiction. I asked Pritchard about it.
“Gunny Thompson, if this was a set up or a premeditated ambush we need to determine how the militias gained access to the patrol route. Maybe someone provided the gunmen with inside information. We don’t know, but we will ask the question.”
When we arrived, the location was taped off like most crime scenes but there was no body. It had been recovered prior to our arrival. There were investigators bumping into investigators and locals were standing around spectating from a distance.
Major Haycock instructed us to reenact the incident. We did so, several times. But it wasn’t until I role played the deceased that it really hit me. I took his last steps right against a large brick wall where his life ended. I stood right in front of the bullet holes in the wall and it was a terrible feeling to know that a young Marine died in the spot I was standing. Haycock and Pritchard examined the bullet holes to determine the trajectory of the rounds. By ascertaining the trajectory, it was easier to determine where the shots were fired from. There were a few Somalis on the scene that spoke fluent English and were willing to talk to counterintelligence. I was impressed with the zeal and diligence demonstrated by all who conducted the investigation. Pritchard made a comment that summed it up best.
“It’s not often that you see counterintelligence and law enforcement working together and not fighting over turf. Today we put our rivalries behind us to work as a team. That is how we honor our dead.”
As I departed the location in our Humvee, I mourned for the loss of a brother, a brother in arms. His name was Private First Class Domingo Arroyo Jr., a United States Marine. Arroyo was the first Puerto Rican and American serviceman to be killed in Operation Restore Hope, the first of forty-four to sacrifice their lives during the humanitarian campaign. The Marines of the 1st Marine Division honored Arroyo by naming their camp and a nearby beach in his honor; Camp Arroyo and Arroyo Beach.
Private First Class Domingo Arroyo Jr
(March 7, 1971 – January 13, 1993)
Twenty Seconds of Restraint
27 February 1993
As we proceeded thru the gates of our compound, I asked Master Guns if he could drop me off in front of MARFOR where I worked. I surrendered the shotgun I was issued for the mission and had a few parting words.
“Master Guns, thank you for letting me ride along and support today’s mission. What’s the next step to advance my application?” I asked as I shut the Humvee door.
“All we need now is your autobiography and that’s it.”
“No problem, I will finish that tonight and have it for you in the morning,” I said as I started to walk away.
“Hey, Gunny T. There is one last thing we will need to submit your package.”
“Sure. What is it?”
“I have it here,” Pritchard said as he handed me a document folder with a two-page form inside.
I thanked Pritchard for the folder and proceeded to my workspaces. As I read the form, I stopped in my tracks and kicked the dirt beneath my boot in anger.
The last form needed for my acceptance into counterintelligence was a recommendation from my Officer in Charge…Major Lewis.
I tried to look at the positive side of things. Sometimes officers are more than happy to rid themselves of problem children. I knew that Major Lewis hated my guts, so maybe this would be his chance to say sayonara to me. I saw his light on in his office and I braced myself as I walked towards it. While I waited outside his office, I overheard Major Lewis in a private conversation with a Captain from the JTF.
“Major, starting tomorrow MARFOR and the JTF will be subcontracting out laundry services to a local Somali clan.”
“Is that so? This compound is crawling with
Somalis. How are we supposed to ID these workers?
Has anyone thought of that?” said the Major as he shook his head in disgust.
“I am sure the issue has been raised sir,” replied the Captain.
Major Lewis reached for his pocketknife and lighter. He began running the knife’s blade through the lighter’s flame.
“If JTF doesn’t have a viable plan… I say we brand them like cattle.”
I wished I had a tape recorder that very minute. Talk like that was not tolerated, especially from officers.
After Major Lewis and the Captain concluded their conversation, the junior officer dismissed himself and walked past me on the way out.
I knocked several times but Major Lewis did not respond. I persisted and then he stood and yelled.
“I’ve got a bone to pick with you. You deliberately failed your last mission and it will reflect, you better believe that.”
“Excuse me?” I said still standing in the doorway. “Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. I gave you a direct order to ensure that Lance Corporal Sullivan received his legal papers. You pussyfooted around knowing that you would not succeed in your mission. I find that disrespectful and disloyal.”
I had forgotten about that and hoped Major Lewis had also. Sometimes passive aggressive behavior backfires. Today, it did.
I walked in his office uninvited and placed the brown folder in his inbox.
“What’s this?” Major Lewis asked as he snatched the folder from his in box.
“It’s a form I need you to sign to allow me to cross-train into counterintelligence, sir.”
Major Lewis reached for his pack of cigarettes but he was out and that put him in a more aggressive mood. At least he would not be blowing smoke rings in my face. After Major Lewis read the two-page form he placed it back in his inbox and leaned way back in his chair, putting both his feet on his desk.
“So, what do we have here? As much as I would love to stick it to counterintelligence by sending them an underachiever, I really have to be objective here. You see, I know your type, I have seen them my entire career. The story is always the same, just the names change,” Major Lewis said as he placed his hands behind his head.
“What is my story?” I said, growing more rebellious with every second passing.
“Let’s see. Your father told you that you needed discipline and the Marine Corps would make a man out of you. Am I right?”
I remained silent, but he was exactly right and it made me even angrier. I was on the verge of losing it and then I thought of “Twenty seconds of… restraint.”
I needed to keep my cool because my Marine Corps bearing was ready to fly out the window.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, you can take a kid out of the inner city, but you can never take the inner city out of the kid. Not even the Marine Corps can fix that.”
Just twenty seconds. Hold it together, I thought to myself.
“Major Lewis, some of the things you have said may be true. But none of that is really important. What is important is how I define myself, not you or anyone else. What defines me is my family, my friends, my troops and my dedication to the Marine Corps. Back home, I can tell you how many kids my troops have. I know their names and even the school sports they play. Since my arrival in Mogadishu I have gained an appreciation for the trust that I built over the years. I arrived here with my Corporal (whom Captain Shaffner sent home) and we supported many patrols together. In several instances, we were placed in harm’s way and it was that trust that kept us alive. Corporal Ramirez knew I had his back and I knew he had mine. Major Lewis, do you have my back? Would you trust me with your life?” I asked as I stepped closer to his desk, not breaking eye contact.
Major Lewis was silent and then he stood from behind his chair and started to clap.
“What a performance that was. I almost shed a tear. It was just so…touching. So what do you want me to do, Gunnery Sergeant Thompson? Help me, help you,” Major Lewis said with his hand clasped together on his chest.
“Major Lewis, if you just sign the paperwork, that’s all I am asking, sir.”
“The Marine Corps pays me a lot of money to make tough decisions. This is an easy one,” Major Lewis said as he signed the paper and handed it to me.
“In fifteen minutes MARFOR will have an official group photo taken. Be there or be square. You are dismissed.”
“Thank you sir,” I said as I took the folder and walked out of his office. I sighed with relief. That exchange was truly uncomfortable and agonizing. As I stood outside his door, I opened the folder and looked at the last page where he signed.
Not Recommended. Signed Major T.W. Lewis.
High Risk Counseling
27 February 1993
I left Major Lewis’ office just like every other time in the past: majorly pissed off. He knew what buttons to press to get inside my head and he did so at his own risk.
Reprimanding someone with a loaded firearm had its challenges. It didn’t take very long before some officers and senior noncommissioned officers figured out how to negotiate this dilemma. The trick most leaders I knew used was to concoct a story about why the wayward Marine needed to surrender his weapon. The line I heard most used was this:
“Lance Corporal So and So, when was the last time you cleaned your weapon?”
“Last week, sir.”
“Give it to me, I want to inspect it.”
Once the officer gained positive control of the weapon, he was free to indulge in the fine art of ass chewing.
I thought Major Lewis assumed too much. He did not know my breaking point, but I was not far from it. I did not deploy to the Gulf War but I heard of Marines surrendering their weapons to their buddies. Marines did this to prevent them from harming themselves, others or all of the above. When I heard of this practice, I could not imagine being pushed to the brink to make me contemplate such an action. But it was becoming more understandable working for Major Lewis.
When I left Major Lewis’ office, I observed Dr. Gaye within earshot. I am sure he overheard my conversation. I avoided making eye contact and proceeded out of the Operations Center. For the next ten minutes, I watched personnel form outside of the MARFOR Headquarter for picture taking. I found my assigned spot toward the back row; smiling was not an option. I felt tormented and miserable.
Everyone was in place and just before the combat photographer was about to take a picture, the Colonel made a comment referring to Dr. Gaye’s absence. Dr. Gaye was supposed to be in the front row with the MARFOR leadership. I thought it was strange because I had just seen Dr. Gaye in the Operations Center. For some reason, he opted not to take part in the group photo.
After the group photo, I saw Eric and he walked toward me with a big smile on his face. I was sure Tootie had something to do with it. I was just hoping I would not have to endure another poem recital.
“Yo, Clay. I’ve got to make a run to the Port to pick up a situation report. Wanna come along?”
“Naw. I’ve gotta wait for 10th Mountain to show up to pick up a classified document. After that I am secured for the day. If you can hold on until I release the classified, I’ll go. I could use a change of scenery.”
As I was speaking to Eric I heard Major Lewis shout my name. 10th Mountain had arrived, \waiting to collect their classified document.
Eric was pleased that I was riding along, but he rushed me.
I ran to the office and opened the safe to retrieve the classified. I confirmed the title of the document to make sure it was the correct one.
“Okay. Somalia Threat Assessment, copy two of two. Is that correct Corporal?”
“Yes, Gunny,” replied the Corporal, looking over my shoulder.
“This is a pretty dated document. It’s dated September 1988. Are you sure this is the one? I asked.
“Okay. Sign your life away Corporal.”
The whole time I was processing the classified, I was thinking, I need to get the hell out of here. As soon as it was signed, that’s exactly what I did.
MARFOR Official Photo
Mogadishu, Somalia 1993
Three Shades of Treason
27 February 1993
Within ten minutes, Eric and I were headed out the gate in a borrowed Humvee. But, instead of turning right we turned left. I had to correct my best friend.
“Hey dumb butt. The Port is that away,” I said pointing in the opposite direction.
“Yeah, I know but I gotta make a stop by the University first,” said Eric as he floored it once we were well clear of the compound gates.
I knew full well Tootie would be waiting and I was fully prepared to be the fifth wheel, the odd man out. As soon as we were waved through the University gates, I saw Tootie and Ayan waiting by the basketball courts. As soon as I saw Ayan, I sat up straight and asked Eric if he had any gum. I was very happy to see Ayan, and her smile immediately made me forget about my non-recommendation for counterintelligence training. Tootie sat up in front next to Eric and I jumped out of the truck to assist Ayan into the back of the Humvee, which had benches for seats along the sides. I stood behind her and lifted her up with my hands on her waist. With my hands around her waist I could feel just how contoured her body was. I didn’t want to let go. Even though it was only a few seconds it was an indelible moment for me. With Ayan seated in the back I jumped in the back with her with the grace of Spiderman. On the way to the Port, Ayan and I held hands and did not say a word, but we didn’t have to. It was just nice being with her in a stress free environment.
We arrived at the Port and Eric grabbed his briefcase before exiting the vehicle. With the engine turned off and the sun still shining bright I looked around and looked at Ayan.
“You know, I missed you,” I said to Ayan. Ayan playfully head-butted me and replied. “I missed you too, Mr. Thompson.”
After that, nothing mattered. I was content. Her disarming African accent reeled me in like a fish on a hook. Her almond shaped eyes were alluring. She was the complete package. My perseverance paid off.
Initially, she was quite rude to me because I approached her like a girl at a disco on a Friday night.
After Eric returned we headed to the beach for a mini picnic. Tootie brought a blanket, snacks and a flask of wine that she acquired from some Italian friends.
The coolness of the waves offset the scorching heat. Eric and Tootie were so playful and corny it was funny just watching them.
While they were snuggled up, Tootie pushed him down on the blanket and pounced on him playfully.
“Are you glad to see me, or is that a gun in your pocket, Mr. Sherman?” Tootie asked.
“Sorry babes, this time it really is a gun,” Eric said, chuckling as he sat back up and removed his 9mm from his holster.
After about ten minutes of small talk, Tootie interjected and started an interesting debate.
“Let’s talk about relationships,” Tootie suggested. “Uh, oh. I know where this is going,” I replied. Tootie sat up straight and looked at Eric and I kinda serious.
I grabbed Ayan’s hand and hoped for the best, but I could tell she was curious about what Tootie had to say.
“Clay. Why do men have problems committing to women?” Tootie asked.
Ayan looked at me and waited for me to answer. The pressure was on; I had to answer for all the sins of mankind. But it was a fair question and I had what I believed to be a reasonable answer.
“Tootie, I can’t speak for all men, but I believe men don’t have problems committing to women they want to commit to. Only the ones they don’t.”
“Okay, then why do Black men cheat?”
That question immediately put me on the defensive and I resented being put in that position.
“Whoa. Tootie. How do you expect me to answer that? C’mon, play nice.”
Tootie was not going to let it go. She persisted.
“I am done with dating Black men. I have two brothers that will sleep with anything with a pulse, and sometimes I think that is negotiable. I think my youngest brother will end up just like them. I think it’s in their DNA. My father and grandfather were womanizers too.”
“Tootie. Women cheat too. Right Eric?”
“Not this one,” Eric said as he hugged Tootie tighter.
Tootie looked at Ayan and asked her opinion. “Remember, I am Somali. I was born here in Mogadishu. Here, it is not uncommon for a man to have multiple wives, but he must be financially capable of providing for them equally.”
Eric became more engaged and commented.
“So do the men sleep with their wives in one big bed? How does that work?”
Ayan rolled her eyes at Eric.
“You would think that, Eric. Many of the wives live in different villages,” Ayan said.
Everyone participated in the dialog so I continued the discussion.
“There are degrees or shades of infidelity,” I said, waiting for a firestorm of criticism.
“Bull…Shit. Cheating is cheating. Only a man would say that,” Tootie challenged me as expected.
“Okay. Let me explain myself. There is treason in the third degree, treason in the second degree and treason in the first degree.”
“Keeping going,” Tootie said with her arms crossed.
“For example. third degree cheating would be…uh, like a one-night stand. Second degree cheating would be … sex with an ex.”
“Now that is high treason,” Tootie blurted out. “No, first degree treason is high treason,” I said confidently.
Eric shook his head because he knew exactly what I was referring to.
“I only know one person guilty of treason in the first degree. When Eric and I were stationed together back in 1984, we knew a Sergeant named Maurice. Maurice was married to Tina and all of us were Los Angeles Laker fans. We watched the games at their house regularly on the weekends. Tina was an amazing cook and overall great host. Maurice often addressed Tina as his personal maid, even when she was in the room.”
Tootie was slowly getting annoyed and she began to move slightly away from Eric.
“Maurice got orders to Korea when his wife Tina was six months pregnant. After Maurice reported to Korea, Tina’s sister came down to help around the house. Just before Tina delivered, Maurice was granted permission to take leave to be there when the baby was born.”
Tootie shrugged her shoulders and commented. “So, that happens all the time. Families do these things, you know?” Tootie said.
“After Tina delivered, she remained in the hospital for about three days because she had a C-section. During those three days, Maurice and Tina’s sister Vicky had sex in every room in the house. He bragged about it to me and told me he videotaped it. Tina came home with the baby three days later and was never the wiser.”
“Was Maurice Black?” Tootie asked. “Yeah.”
“Told you. I knew it. Did you ever tell Tina?” Tootie asked.
“Nope,” I answered.
“Why not? She had every right to know.”
“I agree, but not from me. I don’t believe in personally breaking up marriages.”
Ayan sided with Tootie. “I would have told her.”
Tootie elbowed Eric and asked what he would do.
“Yeah. I think you should have told her Clay, she does have a right to know.”
Immediately I felt betrayed by Eric’s response and I expressed my displeasure.
“Tootite, may I see your purse for a second?”
“Sure. Why?” Tootie asked as she handed me her purse.
“Because I am sure Eric’s testicles are in there somewhere, because he obviously doesn’t have them.”
“What?” Eric replied.
“Just hand over your man card, you eunuch,” I commented half-jokingly.
After that conversation ended, the atmosphere returned to where it was before, with Ayan in my arms the sun in my eye and the wind in our face. I don’t know if Tootie or Ayan bought my theory, but it really did not matter. I was living in the moment, and at that very moment, I was living large.
A Place for Saboteurs and Traitors
1 March 1993
Over the next few days, I drafted my autobiography. Although I had a non-recommendation from Major Lewis, maybe a recommendation from someone else might suffice. There was a counterintelligence security briefing right after lunch in the MARFOR courtyard and I would ask Pritchard about it afterwards.
The security briefing was mandatory for all personnel. Major Lewis’ disdain for counter- intelligence would make for an interesting follow on “Q&A” period (question and answer).
The security briefing started promptly at 1300 hours with a few opening remarks from the Colonel. Gator shook hands with the Colonel and introduced himself to the audience.
“Good afternoon. I am Gunnery Sergeant George Folks and I am a representative of the Sixth Counterintelligence Team. At the end of my brief, I hope that you will have a better understanding about a very real threat. The insider threat. What does a traitor look like? Just look to your left, then look to your right. That is what a traitor looks like.”
I still harbored feelings of trepidation as far as Gator was concerned but I was able to see a different side of him. When he first addressed the crowd, there was tiny bit of wishful thinking that he would stumble all over himself, like I did before the CI interview initially. But Gator was on his game and he made the brief interesting and even used a bit a wit. He did an excellent job and I developed a professional respect for him, despite our history. At the end of his briefing, he easily answered all of our questions, except the questions raised by Major Lewis. Initially, Gator was able to fend off the first round of questions from Major Lewis. But Major Lewis broke what I call the “three-question rule” by continuing to press Gator into answering questions that were obviously too sensitive to discuss in an open forum.
Major Lewis wanted to have the last word.
“There is no place in our military for criminals such as saboteurs or spies. That is why we have law enforcement,” Major Lewis stated in an attempt to upstage Gator.
Major Lewis’ statement would not go unchallenged. Master Gunnery Sergeant Pritchard emerged from the back row and had a couple of remarks himself.
“I disagree with you, Major. You see, there is a place for traitors in our military,” Pritchard said as he walked to the forefront and stood alongside Gator.
“And where might that be?” Major Lewis asked. “On the end of my bayonet, the pointy end.”
Major Lewis became aware of the crowds favorable response to Pritchard’s comments and tried to back him into a corner.
“As a career law enforcement officer, we are trained to identify those who wish to do us harm. What methods does counterintelligence use to identify saboteurs and spies?” Major Lewis asked with contempt.
“Major Lewis, you have your methods, and we have ours. But there is only way to positively identify these bastards.”
“And what might that be. I’m all ears.”
“A post-mortem examination. And that concludes your counterintelligence security briefing. Semper Fidelis Marines!”
“Amen to that,” replied a lone voice in the crowd.
In the battle between Major Lewis and counterintelligence, it was:
Counterintelligence 1, Major Lewis 0 and it was a home game for the losing team.
Gator and Pritchard departed the courtyard with several nods of approval with some applauding.
I met Pritchard and Gator as they were departing in their Humvee. I wanted to know if I could solicit another recommendation for my package.
“Gunny T., I really wish I could give you a better answer, but unfortunately we cannot bend the rules. The only exception would be if the letter were from someone else in your chain of command. Who is next in your chain of command?” Pritchard asked as he lit his cigar.
“That would be the Colonel,” I replied less confidently.
“You have nothing to lose by asking the Colonel, he is a fair man and a damn good officer. Just ask him.”
I thanked Pritchard for the advice, and even complimented Gator on his presentation. Gator gave me a nod in acknowledgement.
As the Humvee tires spun in the dirt making a dramatic exit, I decided I would ask the Colonel. I had nothing to lose so I headed to his office.
As I entered the Operations Center, I could hear shouting going on. It was Major Lewis in the Colonel’s office. He was shouting at Dr. Gaye. Dr. Gaye seemed unaffected and seemed happy to let Major Lewis make a fool of himself. I could not hear very clearly, but one statement was loud and clear. It was the Colonel’s voice.
“The decision is made, live with it.”
The impact area was too hot. I decided against asking the Colonel and decided to submit my autobiography with my non-recommendation.
For My Eyes Only
5 March 1993
It had been at least four days since the picnic at the beach and I had not seen Ayan. During that period, I studied the Somali language exhaustively and even wrote her a short letter in Arabic telling her how I felt, with the help of Yusef, one of our interpreters. When I first asked for help in composing the letter, Hassan, another interpreter offered his assistance. After it was complete, I showed it to Yusef to make sure it read right. The letter was a practical joke that professed my love for camels.
I began to get worried and called her office numerous times a day but she would never answer the phone. I initially thought she may have left Mogadishu but Eric confirmed Ayan was still in country as Tootie’s roommate. Another strange twist developed around the same time. Eric and Tootie had become pre-engaged, whatever that meant. While my relationship with Ayan was dying a painful death, Eric and Tootie’s relationship ratcheted up. According to Eric, Tootie wanted to separate from the Air Force and live with him after her enlistment.
Nothing made sense and I was confused. I finally ran into Ayan during a classified drop off at the University. I was so glad to see her but something was terribly wrong.
“Ayan. Ayan,” I called out.
She heard me but did not turn around and continued walking. I walked towards her at a very fast pace and placed my hand on her shoulder and called her name once more.
“Ayan. What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Remove your hand, please. I never want to see you again…ever. Goodbye,” she said as she looked at me with mistrust then walked away.
My heart was broken. She was one of my pillars of sanity in the Mog. She kept me going from day to day. I couldn’t imagine what would make her turn so cold towards me. We had such a great time at the beach and I thought we were turning the corner. Something happened to her, I just didn’t know what it was. It bothered me that I may never find out. A few minutes later, I would find out and it all made sense.
As I headed to my vehicle to return to base, I saw Tootie leaving her office. If anyone knew the answer, Tootie would. I needed her to tell me what I did wrong.
“Tootie!” I called out waving to her.
She ignored me just like Ayan did. I ran in her direction and got in front of her.
“Tootie. I don’t know what’s going on. Why is Ayan not speaking to me? What did I do?” I asked desperately.
Tootie saw that I was desperate for answers and I was begging her. She looked around to see if anyone was watching, which I thought was odd.
“Clay, follow me to the recreation center and we will talk there.”
When we arrived, there were just a few Airmen milling around in the library. Tootie sat down in a chair and asked me to sit beside her.
“Clay. It’s not what you have said or done.”
“Then what is it then? Just tell me, I can handle it.” “It’s what you wrote.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“It’s your diary. She accidently collected it after the picnic and…”
I immediately searched my left cargo pocket where
I normally would keep it. It was gone. “Did she read it?”
“All of it?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but enough to upset her.”
I logged a journal since I was fourteen years old and every now and then, it would fall into the hands of someone I was dating. Only one relationship survived the reading of my journal but it never fully recovered. I knew what part of my journal Ayan found upsetting. It was the initial meeting we had when she shot me down in the chow tent. I approached her with a lame line that failed miserably. She put me in my place and embarrassed me. In my journal, I wrote “Who does she think she is?” I also wrote that I thought she was “stuck up and thought too highly of herself.”
Tootie gave me a sisterly hug and told me she was sorry before she began her own line of questioning.
“Okay. You have to tell me.” “Tell you what, Tootie?” I asked.
“You know, the stuff you wrote about Eric. In your diary.”
“Tootie. It’s not a diary, it’s a journal,” I replied frustrated.
“Okay. Whatever. In your journal you wrote that you had never seen Eric so in love, ever? Is that true?”
“You also wrote that Eric said I was the one. Did he say that?
“Yeah, he did. He also said something about a family, or something to that effect.”
“Well, I’m too young to be tied down with kids but I do plan for us to be together in a couple of years when my contract is up.”
During my conversation with Tootie, I really wasn’t focused on her relationship with Eric. I was too busy mourning the loss of my soul mate, Ayan.
On the return journey to camp, my world began to fall like a house of cards. My non-recommendation into counterintelligence, my lost journal and this stinking deployment. I knew I was losing control, it seemed I had very little to hang on to. I was also missing my eight-year-old son whom I had not spoken with since my arrival. My thoughts became unhealthy and gradually dark. I knew what I had to do. Later that night, I gave my 9mm pistol to Eric. He didn’t ask any questions; there were no words spoken at all. He just kept if for me.
Court Martial on My Mind
12-13 March 1993
Over the next seven days, I worked extra-long hours at work to keep my mind off things. I barely saw Eric after work and I wasn’t interested in socializing with anyone after the duty day. Before bed, I did an insane number of pushups to help me decompress. I was just existing; functioning on automatic pilot. I probably lost about ten pounds in weight mainly because I had little desire for food. The only good news was JTF finally announced that Operation Restore Hope would be placed under the UN and most of us would be redeploying back home soon. Most Marines I spoke with had mixed feelings about falling under the UN. The first question raised was…
“Do we have to wear the powder blue beret?”
The staff officers and troops in our shop were finally given a redeployment date of 21 March, less than two weeks away. I had mixed emotions about leaving Mogadishu. Some of the proudest moments I had ever experienced as a Marine were while patrolling and engaging Aidid’s forces. I always wondered how I would respond to the stress of a full on firefight, and I did okay. The downside of the deployment was my career was constantly hanging in the balance. I was walking on eggshells every waking moment.
Major Lewis was busy preparing for the UN transition and had little time to make my life more miserable than it already was. During the morning briefing, the Colonel instructed his officers to begin drafting awards for the deployment and not to wait until the last minute. Immediately following the meeting, Major Lewis approached me and told me he wanted to speak with me about a Navy Commendation Medal. I was totally confused. I knew Major Lewis despised me and for him to put me in for a medal meant one thing: somebody cloned him and took possession of his body. I met him in his office to discuss the medal.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, have a seat. As you know the Colonel has tasked me to begin writing awards so I want to get started as soon as possible.”
“Yes, sir.” I responded.
“I wanted to give you the honor of typing it yourself. I know you will make it perfect.”
“Absolutely. No problem, sir,” I said elated.
I didn’t care who typed it. The significant takeaway for me was that maybe this meant a truce between the two of us. Despite the misery he made me endure, I was more than happy to forgive and maybe forget.
“Are you ready to begin typing?”
“Ready when you are, Major,” I replied, poised to begin typing.
“For meritorious service as the Logistic Chief for MARFOR, Gunnery Sergeant Eric Sherman displayed…blah, blah, blah.”
I was naïve and stupid to think a leopard would ever change its spots. I couldn’t let him know how deep the cut was so I continued to type as if nothing had fazed me. I handed him the write up and smiled. I walked away angry. In my mind’s eye, I was causing him great bodily harm and I enjoyed it. I decided to do an inventory of classified, just as busy work to keep from snapping over that last dig.
I was half way through the inventory and I realized I was missing copy one of two of the Somalia Threat Assessment. I knew it was there because I sited it when 10th Mountain signed for copy two of two. I emptied the safe in a panic. It was not there. I sat on the floor with classified all around me. The Somalia Threat Assessment, a SECRET document, was unaccounted for. In the Marine Corps, everyone knows that there are three things you never lose: weapons, appropriated funds, and classified material. The missing document made me think of Captain Shaffner, my former Officer in Charge who forged a destruction report to save his butt. I know why he did it, because it is a career killer. As much as I would have loved to dodge this bullet, I was not a liar. I closed my eyes and prayed a prayer of deliverance. Whenever I really need to get out of a serious jam, I would pray and then fast for twentyfour hours. My fast began immediately following my prayer. I sighed deeply and reported to Major Lewis.
“Major Lewis. The Somalia Threat Assessment is unaccounted for.”
“You mean you lost it?” “Yes, sir.”
“Do you know what I call that?” Major Lewis asked.
I didn’t answer and looked down at my feet.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, I call it karma. You sat idly while my friend Captain Shaffner made a mistake that forced him to retire. Now it is your turn. Let’s go have a chat with the Colonel, shall we?”
The chat with the Colonel did not go well for me. He was furious and he had a reason to be. Major Lewis recommended that he fast track my hearing to the following day to determine my fate. I was advised that I could have a character reference to vouch for my standing. My career survived so many close calls, but this one looked hopeless. I had seen the Lord work miracles for me in the past, but I saw no way out of this mess.
After I was dismissed, I went to visit Dr. Gaye in his tent. I was going to ask him to be a character reference for me at my hearing the next day. He was not there so I left him a note. I left his tent and went to my quarters to indulge in my favorite pastime, sleep.
The next morning I woke up stuck in this same stupid nightmare, with me clinging on to my career. I wished it were a dream. After the morning meeting, I walked in the Colonel’s office for my hearing and Major Lewis was standing beside him waiting for me.
The Colonel opened the hearing with his remarks. “Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, we are here to determine the appropriate disciplinary course of action for your negligence resulting in the loss of classified material. I take this matter seriously. Let me remind you that this is a combat environment and negligence such as the loss of classified could cost lives. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir. I understand.”
“I see you have no one to vouch for your standing so I will begin with the proceedings.”
After the Colonel concluded his opening statements, Major Lewis walked around and positioned himself directly behind me. He reached into my holster to retrieve my 9mm pistol, but it wasn’t there.
“Where is your firearm?” “I don’t have it,” I replied.
“So. Have you lost that as well, Gunnery Sergeant Thompson?”
“No. Right now it’s in the armory.”
“Why don’t you have it on your person?” Major Lewis demanded.
“Well, sir. I have been under a little stress and I thought it would be a good idea to turn it in. The Chaplain knows about it and he supported the decision.”
After I finished my explanation, I straightened my uniform that was ruffled by Major Lewis’ grubby hands.
“Twenty seconds of…”
Before I could think of what I need twenty seconds of, Dr. Gaye stepped in to the office and stood by me.
“Pardon my lateness Colonel, but I was in a meeting with the MAU Commander, he gives his regards.”
The calvary had arrived. If I was going down it would be with a fight to the last breath. Dr. Gaye wasted no time and began his appeal on my behalf.
“Since my arrival in Mogadishu, I have had regular contact with Gunnery Sergeant Thompson. He is honest, dedicated to the mission and loyal to the Corps.”
Major Lewis challenged Dr. Gaye with contempt. “It’s too late for that!”
“Stand down Major. It’s my turn to speak. You will be afforded an opportunity when I am finished.”
I didn’t know what Dr. Gaye had up his sleeve, but I believed in him. I felt things were shifting in my favor, but how?
“Colonel. The Somali Threat Assessment was published in…”
I responded. “1988.”
“In 1988, I was here in Mogadishu and I contributed to the Assessment in question. In fact, the reports officer is a good friend of mine. I would like to offer my opinion. The Assessment is no longer an issue of national security.”
“On what grounds, Dr. Gaye?” the Colonel responded.
“On the grounds that the information was provided to us by Ishmael Ali, a Somali intelligence officer.”
“What bearing does that have? Explain yourself Dr. Gaye.”
“In 1988 Ishmael Ali reported to the country’s intelligence chief, Mohamed Farah Aidid. My question is simple. What methods and sources are we protecting here? There is no government and Aidid is now our adversary. He knows we have the assessment because he gave it to us in the first place.”
I was impressed. Dr. Gaye was in the zone and I no longer felt like I was doomed. Even Major Lewis did not have a comeback.
“Dr. Gaye. Everything you have said makes perfect sense to me. However, at the moment the document still is classified as SECRET and we must protect it as such until it becomes declassified.”
“Declassified? May I see the logbook?” Dr. Gaye requested.
“For what reason?” Major Lewis demanded.
“I want to check the declassification date. There could be a possibility that the document might be declassified.”
The Colonel handed the logbook to the both of us. I was hoping for the best, but SECRET documents usually had a long shelf life.
“Unfortunately, it is illegible,” Dr. Gaye replied. “Enough of this! Colonel, I am recommending that Gunnery Sergeant Thompson be charged under Title
18 Section 793. Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.”
The Colonel pushed back from his desk and stood slowly.
“Major Lewis, you are right. I am afraid that I have no choice in the matter. This is gross negligence befitting of a Special Court Martial. And that is my decision.”
The Colonel’s words knocked the wind out of me. I was looking at jail time and a big fine. Losing classified material in the rear is one thing, but the loss of classified in a combat-like environment was a serious matter. I was done. Major Lewis sighed smugly and cracked a smile. I noticed two armed military policemen standing outside the Colonel’s office. They were waiting to take me away.
Dr. Gaye had one last request.
“Excuse me Colonel, but I see here in the log book that 10th Mountain has a copy. Maybe they can tell us the declassification date of the Assessment?”
Major Lewis objected but the Colonel overruled him.
Dr. Gaye made the call on speakerphone.
“Corporal Tucker, 10th Mountain, this is an unsecured line. How may I help?”
“Corporal. I am Dr. Gaye from MARFOR. Do you have a copy of the Somalia Threat Assessment, copy two of two?”
“Wait one, sir.”
I was in a whirlwind of emotion, up and down, up and down. I didn’t know how this was going to play out.
“Sir, I have it,” the Corporal responded.
“Corporal, please tell me the declassification date of the document.” Dr. Gaye asked.
“Sir. It reads OADR (Originating Agency Determination Required).”
Damn! That wasn’t what I needed to hear. The Assessment had not been declassified. Major Lewis ordered the Military Policemen to take custody of me. They marched in and cuffed me.
I was too numb to process what was happening. I was a puppet and someone else was pulling the strings. This was a nightmare but I was living it.
“Thank you, Corporal. Have a nice day.” Dr. Gaye said as he watched me being cuffed and led away.
“No problem, Dr. Gaye. I have a question for Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, is he there?” the Corporal asked.
I was escorted back into the office to answer the Corporal’s question.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson here. What can I do for you, Corporal?” I asked.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, what should I do with the extra copy you gave us?”
The Lord is good. The Colonel ordered me uncuffed and dismissed me with a stern warning. I turned around to thank Dr. Gaye, but he was gone. He vanished like a ghost.
18 March 1993
I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel; we were leaving this place in three days. The tents were shipped back before the troops. Most of us were so glad we were leaving we did not mind sleeping under the stars.
I knew this deployment would leave me with mental scar tissue. Nevertheless, I was going back home to a life of normality with my son. It was time to pick myself up and dust myself off.
It was Saturday morning and we were leaving Tuesday at 0800. There was one last mail pick up before we redeployed home. I volunteered to accompany Crocket on the mail run to the Port. We had a nice chat there and back. I really enjoyed her company. We were from two very different worlds but we connected. Talking to her made me feel normal because we both were dealing with our own issues during the deployment.
When I returned to the office, I discovered a note on my desk from Gunnery Sergeant George Folks. The name did not sound familiar at first, and then I remembered. It was a note from Gator. The note read “See Me.”
What could Gator want with me? He was on my shit list and I crushed the letter in my hand and threw it in the trash. However, the more I thought about it, the more curious I became. I needed to know what he wanted. I looked at my watch, it was almost 1600 hours. I decided to pay counterintelligence a visit.
I was apprehensive as I stood outside the green door waiting to be let in. Lieutenant Stein opened the door and escorted me to the conference area. He told me to wait there. Then he left.
Oh great. Now what. I thought as I sat alone waiting for…who knows.
After being left alone for about five minutes, Pritchard emerged from his cubicle. He had some rolled up papers under his arm.
“Gunny T, we just received adjudication regarding your application package. I thought I would tell you in person,” Pritchard said as he grabbed a chair and swiveled it around to face me.
I submitted the package with Major Lewis’ non- recommendation so I knew it would be disapproved. I didn’t know why I had to be told in person it was declined.
“Congratulations. Your package has been approved,” Pritchard said as he slapped me on the knee.
“What? No way. Major Lewis killed my package.” “You must be living right, Gunny T.,” Pritchard said as he handed me my approved package.
The first page was the endorsement for Headquarters Marine Corps INTC. The second page was the Team’s endorsement. The third page was an endorsement from the Deputy Director for MARFOR: Dr. Terrance Gaye.
I immediately had a flashback of a conversation with Dr. Gaye.
“I really don’t have time to take care of my own duties. The Deputy position would put an unnecessary strain on my workload. If they offer it to me, I will probably pass.”
I sprang out of my chair with the papers in my hand.
“Yes!” I yelled, elated and full of emotion.
My yelling caused other Team members to gather around to investigate the commotion.
“Gentlemen, meet our new OJT, Gunnery Sergeant Thompson,” Pritchard said as he stood next to me.
Someone tapped me on my shoulder. I slowly turned around. It was Gator.
“Let me introduce myself. I’m George,” Gator said. I was puzzled.
“I know who you are. You are Gator.”
Everyone started laughing hysterically, but I didn’t know why.
Pritchard doubled over in laughter before wiping the tears from his face. He explained.
“Gunny T, Gator is his role play name whenever we board someone new into the field. The role of Gator is to push the applicant to his limits as a mental test. We have lost our share of applicants because they can’t handle the Gator character. But, in our field, there are many officers and senior NCO’s who have Gator’s persona. Consider it an initiation.”
Gator (George) draped his arm around me and confessed.
“I hate playing Gator. I really suck at it.”
“No you don’t. It was an Oscar-winning performance. You pulled it off, convincingly,” I said.
“Gunny T., during our first meeting I thought you were going to slug me.”
“No, I wasn’t going to hit you. But the thought did cross my mind,” I laughed.
“Well, Gunny T., anything you need, and I mean anything, you let me know. Welcome aboard,” George said as he stood in front of me with a smile.
I couldn’t see him as a George, he didn’t look like a George. I would continue to call him Gator for years to come. Our paths would cross many times over the years.
After speaking with Pritchard, I found out everyone took turns playing the role of Gator and one day it would be my turn. I knew the role of Gator would not come naturally to me. But I had a good mentor to learn from.
As I left the Team, I decided to visit the armory and reclaim my 9mm pistol. I was back to my happy-go- lucky self, and it was nice. I owed so much to Dr. Gaye, and I knew there was no way to thank him for looking out for me even when I wasn’t looking. I don’t know if he took on the Deputy position to help me, but it was nice thinking maybe he did.
While I was in the armory line, I overheard several Marines talking about an incident on the camp. Everyone was talking about it. It must have happened while I was visiting counterintelligence. After I collected my weapon, I proceeded towards the Operations Center. On the way, I passed at least a dozen military policemen surrounding Dr. Gaye’s tent.
Major Lewis was in and out of Dr. Gaye’s tent bringing out his personal possessions. I went nuts. I feared the worst.
I charged through the crowd trying to get to the tent. While plowing through the line, I was bear- hugged from behind. It was Eric.
“Clay. Calm down. He’s gone.”
“What do you mean, gone?” I said as my eyes started welling up.
“They arrested him. He’s dirty. They got the goods on him. You don’t need to be here. Let’s go,” Eric said as he lifted me off the ground and removed me from the area.
I was like a kid at his father’s funeral wanting to see his father just one last time as the casket closed. I could not stop the tears from flowing no matter how hard I tried. Even when I finally could talk normally, the tears continued to flow. Eric stayed with me until I was settled. Apparently, military policemen found radios, large sums of money in different currencies and other pocket litter linking Dr. Gaye to some of Aidid’s men. Someone told me Major Lewis ordered the search. I could not see Dr. Gaye as a traitor no matter what evidence they had against him. The idea did not fit in my head. And it never would. The loss of such an influential person in my life during such a challenging time was heartbreaking. Dr. Gaye was gone.
Divergence of Protocol
19-21 March 1993
The next morning was Sunday. I hardly slept. I kept thinking about Dr. Gaye and how much I trusted him. I experienced a range of emotions: sadness, anger and betrayal. I started to wonder if anything he told me was true. Was I played? I may never find out, but his arrest put serious doubt in my mind. It was hard for me to trust someone 100%. I let my guard down when I got married and my ex-wife’s departure left me with trust issues. I never thought I could feel so betrayed by a male. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to see him just one more time and ask him some direct questions.
Right after morning chow, I overheard Major Lewis contact the Joint Public Affairs Office. He wanted a press conference to talk about his success in capturing a spy. Based on what I could hear, the interview would be right after lunch in the MARFOR courtyard. Major Lewis would have his fifteen minutes of fame. But, as much as I despised him, he deserved it. I began wondering how the mood was at the Sixth Counterintelligence Team. I knew Major Lewis would make this a platform to assert his opinion that counterintelligence should fall under the purview of Military Police.
Major Lewis also contacted the Stars and Stripes embed to capture the story. At 1300 hours, there was a huge crowd in the courtyard. Everyone was waiting for the Joint Public Affairs spokesman to arrive. At 1310, a representative from the Public Affairs Office called and rescheduled the press conference until 1400 hours in front of the JTF headquarters. It seemed that there was a decision to address a wider audience at a bigger venue. This news only made Major Lewis more arrogant about his accomplishment.
“I will finally get the recognition I deserve.”
I overheard him practicing his lines in his office. I wanted to vomit; it was a far cry from humility.
There were hundreds of troops outside the JTF. There was a large platform with a microphone at center stage. Audio technicians were performing microphone checks just before the Public Affairs spokesman arrived. The speaker walked onto the platform, grabbed the microphone and waited for the crowd to settle down.
Major Lewis took the opportunity to walk up on stage uninvited and stood next to the speaker, Colonel Peters (Senior PAO rep). Colonel Peters whispered something into Major Lewis’ ear. The brief conversation resulted in Major Lewis departing the stage with an attitude.
Something was amiss. The comments that followed surprised everyone, especially Major Lewis.
“Good afternoon, Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen. Many of you are aware of an incident that took place on our compound yesterday afternoon. It was most unfortunate. I have spoken with the Commanding General regarding the incident and it is his desire to issue a gag order effective immediately. Due to the sensitivity of the matter, you are prohibited from discussing the incident with the press and in public places. Failure to do so is a violation of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. If you are not clear on these instructions please see your officer in charge and it will be explained to you. If there are no further questions, please report back to your place of work.”
I think the reason why there were no questions was because we were just told not to talk about it, so how could there be any follow on questions?
Major Lewis walked in front of me on the way back to MARFOR. He seemed to think there was a counterintelligence conspiracy at hand.
“Divergence of protocol? What the hell does that mean. For crying out loud,” he bellowed. I gave him a wide berth.
It was Tuesday morning. Everyone was overly excited about turning over the office spaces to the newly arrived troops. The UN officially took charge of the mission. The UN mission would now be led by a Turkish General. It was nice to see troops climbing into trucks and leaving the compound en route to the airfield. While sitting on my sea bag waiting to leave, I saw Eric in a Humvee pulling into the gate. I guess he had to see Tootie one last time.
When Eric exited the vehicle, he looked for me. We were on the same manifest. Once he saw me, he headed straight towards me.
“Eric. I thought you weren’t going to make it. You are lucky because we leave in about fifteen minutes,” I said.
As I looked more closely at Eric’s face, it was apparent that he had been crying or something. His face was red and his nose was even redder. I didn’t ask him, I knew how he felt about Tootie. Tootie was leaving the following week.
As we marched up the air stairs, I had to make sure of one thing. I was looking for Master Sergeant Howard. I did not see him, which gave me a sense of relief. I even asked around to ensure he was on another flight, and he was.
Eric and I sat together on the plane and we hardly spoke the first couple of hours on the flight. He was missing Tootie so I just let him be until I finally broke the ice.
“Hey Eric, guess what? I got a letter from my ex. You know, Melody. She is meeting me at Camp Pendleton. I think she wants to get back with me.”
“Isn’t she the one that cheated on you with that married guy?”
“Yeah, but at least it wasn’t high treason,” I joked.
Eric reached into his pocket as if he were looking for something.
“Speaking of letters. I have something for you. It’s from Ayan.”
“Here, she told me to give this to you. She gave it to me last night.”
Eric handed me my diary and a letter. The letter was inside a light yellow envelope with my name on the outside. Even her handwriting was appealing.
I slowly opened up the letter making sure I didn’t rip it. I didn’t know what to expect but my heart was beating fast in anticipation. The letter read…
Dear Clay, March 20, 1993
I just finished reading the rest of your journal. It was like reading a letter. I read it several times and it was only after I finished it, did I realize just how much you cared about me. I never knew you felt that way about me because you never seemed to want to advance things between us. Out of all the things you wrote in your journal, what I will remember most is…. “I would wait for her forever.” I especially enjoyed reading how your feelings blossomed from chapter to chapter in the absence of intimacy. I have your phone number and I promise you will hear from me again.
Flashbacks of her and I hijacked my mind for the duration of the 20 hour flight. The sleepover, the beach and even our rocky start in the chow tent. Her scent perfumed the letter and I could feel her presence and hear her voice. Her kid-like voice. My heart belonged to Ayan.
Camp Pendleton, California
22 March 1993
I fell asleep with Ayan’s letter in my hand. I was conflicted because I knew Melody was waiting for me back at Camp Pendleton. I felt like I was two- timing Ayan.
Once we passed through the gates of Camp Pendleton, I really got excited about returning to life as I knew it. I was planning to surprise my son, so I purposely did not tell him when I was coming home. As we offloaded the bus, we were greeted by a huge welcoming party that included journalists from the Blade-Citizen, Oceanside’s local paper. We felt like rock stars. All the wives and children uniting made it a very emotional and memorable occasion. Eric and I exchanged numbers and did the fist bump before he got on the bus headed for Marine Corps Base Mirarmar. Despite not seeing much of Eric in Mogadishu, it was nice having him there. I wished him and Tootie the best. I waved goodbye to him as his bus departed.
After almost a half an hour, some of us were still waiting for our rides.
I saw Crocket on the other side of the parking lot sitting on her sea bag. Within a few minutes, a black Cherokee Jeep pulled up and honked. It was her ride.
“Maybe I will get a glimpse of Jessica,” I thought to myself.
For the last three months or so, I had an obsessive curiosity about Jessica. Crocket approached the car and got in. I waved to her as the jeep began to drive off. Moments later, I saw the reversing lights of the jeep as it slowly approached me.
I was hoping to say goodbye to Crocket properly and to finally meet Jessica.
“Gunny T., I would like you to meet someone,” Crocket called out from the passenger side.”
It was the first time I had seen Crocket with such a big smile. I was happy for her.
As I approached the jeep, I noticed the lady on the driver’s side. She was the same lady I had seen in Crocket’s wallet, the older lady with the reddish-gray hair.
I introduced myself.
“Hi, I’m Clay, it’s a pleasure to meet you …”
Before I could complete my sentence, the lady responded.
“Ruth. I’m Crocket’s mom.”
Okay, I was totally confused, but not for very long.
I then heard an angelic-like voice from the back seat; she couldn’t have been more than four-years old.
“My name is Jessica,” she said, strapped in her car seat.
Jessica was the cutest little girl I had ever seen. She had long locks of curly red hair and freckles. Her reddish cheeks were made for squeezing. Her baby blue eyes made her look almost doll-like in her black and white polka dot dress.
“I know who you are,” Jessica said.
“Okay, who am I?” I said with my head sticking in the car window.
“You are Gunny T. That’s what my mom calls you.”
Jessica stole my heart from the moment she spoke.
Crocket and I exchanged numbers and she gave me a long heartfelt hug.
“Thank you,” she said as her mom put the car in gear and waved goodbye. I had only known Crocket about three months but I would miss her more than I would Eric, whom I had known for more than 20 years. Crocket was my girl and I would never forget her or Jessica.
I was the very last person to be picked up. I was not happy that Melody was late and her three-year-old son was having a serious temper tantrum because he left his green Smurfs blanket at home. She greeted me with a kiss and a big hug but it didn’t feel the same as before. Ayan had ticked boxes that I never knew existed and to settle for any else had become difficult.
On the way home, I turned to my favorite radio station 92.5 The Heat to see what new music was out. I could not believe Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was on the charts, getting major airplay. Before I left, I had that song on constant loop in my head because it played so much.
On the way to Melody’s house I was famished. After months of eating meals in a pouch, I was hoping for a home cooked meal, but we went to McDonalds instead. I had a Big Mac, large fries and a coke. Welcome home.
I had to wait a week to see my son as he was away at football camp. Despite being back in the States, I still was not settled. I needed to see my son’s face. The entire time I spent with Melody, I replayed mental mind movies of time spent with my son. For some reason, I was fixated on one specific memory. It was a memory that wasn’t particularly emotionally laden, but it managed to drown out other memories I regarded as more special. Here we go.
I became a single dad with the stroke of a pen, overnight. I was 26 years old and the only thing I knew about parenting came from my mom and dad. If it was good enough for me, it was good enough for my son. My parents were old school and rebellion was not an option for my sisters and I at home. My folks believed rebellion started with attitude and my dad was quick to nip that in the bud. He did this by playing a game with me. I would later call it the “Hitting Game.” It was a semi-playful game that allowed my dad to get inside my head and at the same time it helped me release my pent up frustration. Dad started the game by playfully punching me in the shoulder and then voicing his displeasure over something I recently did to annoy him. I was allowed to reciprocate and voice my issue as well. I liked the hitting game and I always felt better afterwards.
I played the hitting game with Clay Jr. one summer when he was about five years old. We were standing in the middle of the living room in a standoff. I playfully punched him in his shoulder. He recoiled abit.
“That’s for not cleaning your room and leaving your toys out,” I said staring him down.
It was his turn to unleash his frustration and tell me why he had been so distant and aloof the last few days.
He balled up his little fist and punched me in the shoulder with a frown on his face wearing his baseball cap on backwards.
“And that’s for letting the milk spoil in the frig. I had to eat Frosted Flakes with water two days in a row!”
It was easy to see why he would be upset. I apologized and immediately we headed to the 7-11 store a few blocks away and bought some fresh milk. When we returned home, he promptly went upstairs and cleaned his room and put all his toys away. When he finished, he came downstairs with a smile and gave me a big hug. He told me he loved me and asked if he could go out and play. I looked outside the kitchen window watching him play and I just cherished that moment…of having such a wonderful son.
I decided to surprise my son by showing up unexpectedly at one of his football games Saturday morning. I sat in the bleachers knowing that the wait was finally over. The weight on my heart was giving way to excitement. Although his entire team marched on to the field with their uniforms and helmets, I easily spotted my son from a distance by his walk and mannerisms. Even though we had not spoken yet, I was becoming complete within myself. After the game he spotted me and took off his helmet running in an all out sprint towards me. He was excited to see his dad and it took all I had to keep it together. I managed to keep my emotions in check, but it was really hard. While in the car on the way home my son spoke a few words that were just classic for a nine-year-old.
“Dad, I would have scored more touchdowns…but they kept tackling me.”
MARFOR Awards Presentation
Camp Pendleton, California
27 March 1993
All the troops who returned from Mogadishu got a four-day pass, and we needed it. The following week, there was an awards presentation for Marines whose service during Operation Restore Hope was commendable. Rumors spread quickly that anyone who engaged militias was a safe bet for an award. During my first month in Somalia, I had three skirmishes with militias to include the major offensive on 7 January against Aidid’s stronghold.
I was still working for Major Lewis but only for a few more days, as I was due to report back to my base at 29 Palms, California.
The morning of the awards presentation, Major Lewis called me into his office. When I walked in, he was reading an operator’s manual for a new camcorder he purchased from the PX (base store). He asked me to become familiar with it because he wanted me to film the presentation for him. Then he reached in his pocket and grabbed a coin from his wallet.
“Heads or tails?” he said.
“Excuse me?” I replied.
“If it is heads, I will get the Legion of Merit. Tails, the Bronze Star,” he said as he placed the coin on top of his thumb.
“Ah, heads, I guess,” I said as I attempted to placate him.
“Let’s see,” he said as he flipped the coin. “Legion of Merit, so it is.”
I was designated videographer, but I wanted to be in the film when my name was called.
“Major Lewis, what should I do with the video camera when they call my name?” I asked as I placed the lens cap on the camcorder.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson, they are not going to call your name. That is why I designated you videographer.”
Of course not. I was naïve to expect anything from Major Lewis. I took it personally and was offended, but I remained silent. To argue for an award would be a losing argument. Major Lewis relished the idea of being in the spotlight. Recognition of those who helped get him there was an afterthought.
The awards formation was held on the General’s lawn in front of the bleachers. Hundreds showed up with their families. It was a hot day and the occasional breeze was welcomed. The bleachers were separated by those who were spectating and those to be recognized. Everyone that I patrolled with was sitting on the other side of the stands in a designated area waiting for their name to be called. The Sergeant Major called everyone to attention as the General approached the platform in front of us.
The General spoke highly of our accomplishments during Operation Restore Hope. He thanked our sister services and the families back home for their support. The General presented the enlisted awards (Private- Sergeant Major) first. It bothered me to see the same Marines I worked alongside get recognized while I was sitting on the sidelines. Even some of the mail couriers received medals.
After all the enlisted awards were presented, the officers were standing by to be recognized. Major Lewis was standing proudly amongst the rest of the officers to be decorated. I didn’t know what he was going to get, but I knew it had to be relatively high for exposing a collaborator.
Every senior officer prior to Major Lewis received either a Meritorious Service Medal or a Legion of Merit, an award commensurate for their rank and responsibility. Then the General stepped in front of Major Lewis and read his award.
“For superior performance of his duties as MARFOR Operations Officer from 14 Feb to 21 March 1993, Major Lewis demonstrated exceptional professionalism and ability in processing over 500 mission requirements and was the driving force behind JTF’s success.”
The write up was impressive, but the award was a Navy Achievement Medal, an award typically given to an enlisted or junior officer. It was a slap in the face. As much as I did not care for Major Lewis, I thought he deserved much higher. I felt bad for him and I could not understand why he was marginalized.
After the medals were presented, the General began to praise the counterintelligence effort. The General referred to the counterintelligence business model as “In by nine, out by five.” The General then read a Department of Defense award for Superior Achievement. The counterintelligence team received a prestigious and highly coveted award for the best tactical counterintelligence unit in the Department of Defense. The General asked Major Haycock to step forward to receive yet another distinction. The General extended kudos to all the team members and called them one by one to receive their commendation. Since I had the camera, I began filming. I could see Major Lewis trying to get my attention to stop filming, but I pretended not to see him.
“Gunnery Sergeant Thompson,” The General called out.
I wasn’t expecting anything and to hear my name called was more than a surprise, it was a shock. I gave the camcorder to the Marine on my left and he filmed the rest of the presentation. Although I was not a member of the counterintelligence team, I was grateful that they recognized me as one of their own. It more than made up for not getting recognized alongside my peers whom I served with. After the ceremony, I thanked Pritchard, Gator and Major Haycock.
After we were dismissed, I returned the video camera to Major Lewis. Major Lewis took the video tape out and crushed it beneath his feet. He took the rest of the week off and that was the last time I saw him.
“You Have One New Message”
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Ca
Six years later…
I reenlisted in the Marine Corps one year after Mogadishu and four months later, I had completed my counterintelligence training at the Navy Marine Intelligence Training Center in Dam Neck, Virginia.
My first assignment in counterintelligence was the 13th Counterintelligence Team at 29 Palms. I was a member of the 13th CIT from 1994 until 1996. In 1996, I accepted orders to Camp Pendleton, California.
That year, the CI community had a major facelift and all the teams were disbanded in favor of a HUMINT Company made up of detachments. When I arrived at Camp Pendleton, I was assigned to the 1st Surveillance and Reconnaissance Intelligence Group.
The old familiar faces had moved on; Major Haycock accepted orders to Headquarters Marine Corps, HUMINT Support Detachment; Master Gunnery Sergeant Pritchard retired; and Gator was in Okinawa, Japan. Eric finally got orders to Albany, Georgia so that he could be closer to his daughter Stephanie (with Tootie). Eric and Tootie’s relationship lasted less than a year after Mogadishu.
Crocket separated from the Marines in 1994 and relocated to North Carolina. Crocket’s family and I became close over the years. Even though Crocket was now a civilian, she and her daughter Jessica never stopped calling me Gunny T.
My relationship with Melody was strained because we only saw each other twice a month because of the driving distance between us. Despite the slight upheaval and all the joy that accompanies change, I adjusted fairly well. My duty assignment was Surveillance Instructor for Special Operations Training Group and I enjoyed the challenge working with Force Reconnaissance.
At the end of July 1999, a series of events would lead me down a road of serious introspection. In mid-July, I was selected to attend the Navy Mid-level Intelligence Officer’s Course at Dam Neck, Virginia the following month. Resident counterintelligence specialists told me how fortunate I was because Dr. Louis Johnson Jr. would be a guest speaker for that seminar. At that time, I was more concerned about preparing myself for retirement than going on another TAD (temporary assigned duty). Just before lunch, I was told that I had a visitor in the main conference room. When I walked into the room, I saw a middle-aged civilian dressed in a dark grey suit and a stack of paperwork on the conference table. He introduced himself.
“Hello, I am Mark Mueller from the Defense Investigative Service. I would like to ask you a few questions regarding Mr. Timothy Lewis. Do you know who he is?” asked the agent as he displayed his credentials.
“Yes. You mean Major Lewis,” I responded.
“Major Lewis retired from the Marines. He is now a civilian and I am here to finalize his five year bring up (investigation). You are listed as a character reference.”
“Are you serious? I am absolutely sure that Major Lewis did not list me as a character reference; we didn’t have the best working relationship.”
“On his application, he listed Somalia as a tour of duty. He listed someone else as a character reference, and that reference gave us your name.”
How ironic. I am positive Major Lewis would have treated me better if he had known that one day I would be in a position to affect his security clearance.
“I have several questions for you that will help us determine if Mr. Lewis is suitable to remain in a position of trust and responsibility with the U.S. government.”
Just the mention of Major Lewis’ name was enough to cause me some anxiety. That was a bad time for me and it took me a while to put it behind me. I started to have flashbacks from Mogadishu, especially when he recommended that I be court martialed. My angst turned into resentment and anger. I remembered when he denied my application into counterintelligence. I also thought about when he directed me to give divorce papers to a Marine whose wife was dying. I relived those memories in 3-D and in Technicolor. It was payback time and I relished the opportunity.
At the conclusion of the agent’s interview, he had one last question.
“Do you recommend Timothy Lewis for a position of trust and responsibility with the U.S. government?”
I paused for a moment before I answered.
Although Major Lewis was a terrible Officer-in Charge, I trusted him with information relating to our country’s national security. There was no doubt about that.
The agent collected his papers, shook my hand and thanked me for my time. During the drive home, I reflected on the interview regarding Major Lewis’ security clearance. I was battling some residual regret for giving him a pass. I knew I did the right thing, despite my mixed emotions.
As I walked into my home, I noticed my answering machine flashing, so I retrieved my messages.
“You have one new message. Message one.”
“Hi Clay, it’s me Ayan. I hope you still remember me. I will be in your area soon visiting my brother. I would love to see you again and for you to meet my family. Call me. Bye.”
I played the message almost a dozen times. Ayan’s voice knocked the wind out of me, but in a good way.
It had been over six years since we last spoke and I wondered if she still looked the same as I remembered.
My son instantly recognized how over-excited I was and asked who left the message.
I wanted to say “Your next step-mom,” but that would have been too presumptuous. I had already planned to drive to 29 Palms to see Melody that night. I knew I needed to break things off with her before I saw Ayan. I felt emotionally stuck with Melody. I was unhappy enough to contemplate breaking up with her, but not miserable enough to follow through with it. I was actually okay with knowing that she couldn’t make me happy, but it was a major problem when she depressed me. But I now had sufficient motivation to make a clean break and be with someone I had deep feelings for.
As strong as my motivation was to break it off with Melody, I did not have the courage to go through with it in the end. As soon as I arrived at her front door, she gave me a big hug and kiss and told me she hired a sitter for the weekend. She surprised me with tickets to see Luther Vandross and Oleta Adams in concert the following day.
I needed more encouragement from Ayan to get me over the hump. I called Ayan that Monday after work knowing that all I needed was to hear her voice to give me strength. I dialed her number and felt anxious as the phone rang in my ear. She answered.
“Hi Ayan, it’s me Clay. I am so glad that you finally got in touch with me. How have you been?”
“Clay. I told you I would call you one day. I can’t wait to see you.”
“When are you flying in?”
“We’re flying in on 5 August. Do you have a girlfriend?”
“No,” I lied.
“Ahh, what a shame.”
“Why is that a shame?”
“Because I wanted all of us to hang out together.”
“All of us? What do you mean?”
“Me, my husband and you. If you had a lady friend, I was going to ask you to bring her along. I guess it will be just the three of us then.”
Not a chance. No way Jose, I thought to myself. I could not bear sitting across from Ayan and her husband, knowing deep inside I wanted her. Also, I knew my feelings for her were too strong to conceal.
Since Friday, my life had been on a constant emotional rollercoaster. I wanted to get off. I just wanted stability. I told Ayan that I regrettably would be away on a conference in Virginia. After I got over my initial shock of misreading Ayan’s intentions, we had a heart-to-heart talk that may have been inappropriate for a married woman. But the cards were already on the table. She read my most intimate thoughts about her in my journal.
At the end of our long emotional conversation, she confessed that although she cleaved to another man, a part of her heart belonged to me. She blew me a kiss on the phone. She said she missed me and that she would never forget me. As fate would have it, we didn’t speak again after that. I would always remember Ayan and the fond memories we shared in Mogadishu.
“Class 6-99 Dismissed”
Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Center, Dam Neck, Virginia
6 August 1999
Dr. Johnson began walking to the front of the class and grasped the certificates on the podium with his free hand.
“Today I pass the torch to you. Just tell me one thing. Class 6-99…Do you have it?” Dr. Johnson bellowed from the podium.
“Sir! YES SIR!” the class responded in unison. “After thirty-five years in the game, I stand relieved of my watch.”
When he concluded his presentation, he was given one of the longest standing ovations I had ever witnessed and it was deafening. As I stood to applaud, a wave of emotion came over me. I quickly reached for my prescription sunglasses to conceal my unexplained response. I was emotional because I knew this man; he was a friend, more than a friend. I knew him from a long time ago, in a distant place, under a covered identity on behalf of the U.S. government.
Operation Restore Hope Gallery
Ayan: (pronounced; EYE-AN)
Newbies: Slang for New Troops
Cot: Military folding bed
Staff NCO: Staff Sergeant and above
Popping Smoke: Slang for leaving area
Leatherneck: Slang for Marine
Chevrons: Rank worn on collar
SMEAC: A format for reporting
Chain of Command: Military Protocol
OJT: On the Job Trainee
Pocket Litter: Incriminating evidence
This book is dedicated to all the US Service members who lost their lives in support of Humanitarian relief operations in Somalia from 1992-1993.
(Operation Restore Hope/Continued Hope) PFC Domingo Arroyo
PFC Mathew Anderson
Staff Sgt. Brian P. Barnes
LCPL Anthony Botello
CW2 Donovan Briley
SSGT Daniel Busch
CPL James Cavaco
SSGT William Cleveland, Jr
PVT David Conner
Tech. Sgt. Robert L. Daniel
SFC Robert Deeks
Master Sgt. Roy S. Duncan
Staff Sgt. William C. Eyler
SGT Thomas Field
SFC Earl Fillmore, Jr
W4 Raymond Frank
MSGT Gary Gordon
SPC Mark Gutting
PVT Daniel Harris
SGT. Justin A. Harris
PVT Daniel L. Harris
I would like to express my appreciation for the support of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit during Operation Restore Hope. Your reputation in Somalia provided me with inspiration while writing this book.
I would also like to thank Lieutenant General (ret) Frank E. Peterson, the first African American General in the U.S. Marines. His perseverance and esprit de corps throughout his life motivated me while he was my Commanding General at 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa, Japan, and now as an author.
The author served twenty-one years in the US Marine Corps, from 1979 until 2000. From 9 December 1992 to 21 March 1993, he supported Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. What initially started out as a humanitarian relief effort rapidly escalated to a low intensity conflict. The novel Insider Threat is a fictional account based on real experiences.
The manuscript for Insider Threat began on 21 July 2012. It was completed on 2 November 2012.
Prior to the publication of Insider Threat, the author reached out to a veteran of Operation Restore Hope, an architect of the intelligence effort. His words are the foreword to this book.
Cover Illustration: Anglian Digital Solutions
(Raina Joyce) Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom
Photography: Provided by the author, used with written permission (Roland Ocampo), and works of public domain where intellectual property rights were forfeited or expired or not applicable. Book cover images provided by Shutterstock.
Editing: Fast-print, Peterborough, United Kingdom
Printing: Lightening Source, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Publisher: New Paradigm Publishers, United Kingdom
Author’s other titles: Flagrant Misconduct, My Name is Elijah and Mogadishu Diaries: Bloodlines. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major book retail outlets.
Somali Warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid ruled the streets of Mogadishu with an uncanny elusiveness that frustrated US/UN coalition strategists. Our mission was to quell intra-Clan violence and secure major supply routes for aid. It was assessed that Aidid might be the beneficiary of an intelligence leak. Joint Task Force Headquarters responded with a clandestine Counterintelligence operation designed to identify and neutralize this “Insider Threat.” This classified operation was known as Operation Looking Glass. The Counterintelligence community pinned the success of this sensitive operation on the shoulders of one man. Political infighting would complicate the mission’s agenda, but not after a relentless pursuit to expose a collaborator.