Randall David Shughart (13 August 1958 to 03 October 1993) was a United States Army Delta Force soldier who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour for his actions during the Battle of Mogadishu, during Operation Gothic Serpent in October 1993.
Shughart was born 13 August 1958, in Lincoln, Nebraska, into a United States Air Force family of German descent. After his father, Herbert Shughart, left the Air Force, the Shugharts moved to Newville, Pennsylvania, to live and work on a dairy farm.
Shughart joined the United States Army while attending Big Spring High School in Newville, entering upon graduation in 1976. After completing basic training, he successfully completed AIT (advanced infantry training), Airborne School, and in 1978 was assigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Lewis, Washington. Several months later he completed a pre-ranger course, was granted a slot to attend Ranger School, graduated, and earned the Ranger Tab. Shughart left active duty and went into the Army Reserve in June 1980. In December 1983, Shughart returned to active duty and the following year attended Special Forces training. Shughart was assigned to Delta Force and was transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina in June 1986. As a Delta Force operator, he advanced to Assistant Team Sergeant.
Shughart was deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993 as part of Task Force Ranger. On October 3, 1993, during Operation Gothic Serpent, an assault mission to apprehend advisers to Mohamed Farrah Aidid, a Black Hawk helicopter with the call sign Super Six-One was shot down in the city. A Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) team came to secure it. Then, a second Black Hawk helicopter, call sign Super Six-Four, was shot down.
Shughart, Gary Gordon, and Sergeant First Class Brad Halling had been providing sniper cover from the air from Black Hawk Super Six-Two. Gordon wanted to be inserted to secure the crash site as hostile Somalis were converging on the area.
Mission commanders denied Gordon’s request twice, saying that the situation was too dangerous for the snipers to protect the crew from the ground. Command’s position was that the snipers could be of more assistance by providing air cover. Gordon, however, repeated his request until he got permission. Halling stayed behind to man a machine gun as one of the helicopter’s gunners had been wounded.
Shughart and Gordon were inserted approximately 100 metres (330 ft) from the crash site, armed with their sniper rifles and sidearms, and made their way to the downed Blackhawk. Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant was already defending the aircraft with an MP-5 but was unable to move from his chair due to a crushed vertebra in his back and a fracture of his left femur. When they reached Super Six-Four, they extracted Durant and the crew members from the crash and defended the aircraft. It is believed that Gordon was first to be shot by the mob, which had surrounded the crash site. Shughart retrieved Gordon’s CAR-15 rifle and gave it to Durant to use. Shortly after, Shughart was killed, the site was overrun and Durant was taken hostage. According to Durant’s book In the Company of Heroes, the Somalis counted 25 of their militia dead after the firefight.
There was some confusion in the aftermath of the action as to who had been killed first. The official citation states that it was Shughart but Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, relates an account by Sergeant Paul Howe who heard Shughart call for help on the radio and that the weapon handed to Durant was not the distinctive M14 rifle used by Shughart. Furthermore, Howe said that Gordon would not have given his weapon to someone while he could still fight. Durant later acknowledged that he initially misidentified which man was killed first, but did not wish to change the official record. Shughart’s body was eventually recovered and is buried in Westminster Cemetery, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Honours and Awards
- Combat Infantryman Badge with Star (denoting 2nd award).
- Medal of Honour.
- Purple Heart.
- Meritorious Service Medal.
- Army Commendation Medal.
- Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.
- Army Good Conduct Medal, 5 awards.
- National Defence Service Medal.
- Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.
- Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Award Numeral 3.
- Army Service Ribbon.
- United Nations Medal.
- Master Parachutist Badge.
- Military Freefall Parachutist BAdge.
- Expert Marksmanship Badge with Rifle Component Bar.
- Special Forces Tab.
- Ranger Tab.
- Joint Meritorious Unit Award.
- Valorous Unit Award.
Medal of Honour
On 23 May 1994, Shughart and Gordon were posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honour for protecting the crew of Super Six Four. They were the first Medal of Honour recipients since the Vietnam War.
Herbert Shughart, Randall Shughart’s father, attended the Medal of Honour presentation ceremony at the White House, where he refused to shake hands with US President Bill Clinton. He then proceeded to openly criticise the president, saying, “You are not fit to be president of the United States. The blame for my son’s death rests with the White House and with you. You are not fit to command.”
Medal of Honour Citation
Sergeant First Class Shughart, United States Army, distinguished himself by actions above and beyond the call of duty on 3 October 1993, while serving as a Sniper Team Member, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. Sergeant First Class Shughart provided precision sniper fires from the lead helicopter during an assault on a building and at two helicopter crash sites, while subjected to intense automatic weapon fire and numerous rocket propelled grenades. While providing critical suppressive fire at the second crash site, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the site. Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After their third request to be inserted, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader received permission to perform this volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader were inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Sergeant First Class Shughart and his team leader, while under intense fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Sergeant First Class Shughart pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Sergeant First Class Shughart used his long range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers while traveling the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. Sergeant First Class Shughart continued his protective fire until he depleted his ammunition and was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot’s life. Sergeant First Class Shughart’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit upon him-self, his unit and the United States Army.
In 1997, the Navy named roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Shughart (T-AKR-295) in a ceremony at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego. The ceremony was attended by a number of Naval officers and politicians including John W. Douglass, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition; Senator Bob Kerrey; as well as his Commanding officer at the time of his death, and others. The ship was the first “Large Medium Speed Roll On/Roll Off (LMSR) ship” to undergo conversion from a commercial container vessel to a sealift cargo ship.
In Popular Culture
In the 2001 film Black Hawk Down, Shughart was portrayed by actor Johnny Strong.