There is very little information that you can read about the man who commanded Operation Gothic Serpent. They are as rare as the pictures you can find about the man on the World Wide Web. Major General William F. Garrison is the youngest U.S. Army officer ever to hold the ranks of colonel, brigadier general and major general. As the great man says, he didn’t choose the military, the military chose him and he was drafted.
During his visit at the Pan American University in 2009 where he was an alumnus, Garrison told the University of Texas – Pan American and the University of Texas at Brownsville, Texas south most College Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) that as a student – athlete at then Pan American University in 1966, that he was not the best basketball player but he will kill anyone who tried to take his shot. But who is really William F. Garrison and why did the U.S. Army chose him?
As everyone knows, Garrison is a retired Major General of the United States Army who was the commander of Operation Gothic Serpent, a military operation which was launched in 1993 to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the Somali Warlord.
As the man says, he was chosen by the Army. He was drafted into the U.S. Army on July 1966 and was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant. During his tour in Vietnam he participated in the Phoenix Program, an initiative of the Republic of Vietnam in arresting leaders within the guerrilla Viet Cong command structure. Garrison spent most of his career in special operations unit after the war wherein he earned a Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart for wounds he got in combat.
From 1985 until 1989, he also served in the U.S. Army Intelligence Support Activity as commander of its operations squadron and the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta known as the mysterious Delta Force. He is best known within the Special Forces not as a commander but as a defender of Delta Force. This happened when it was revealed that some soldiers were billing the State Department and the Army for their expenditures abroad. Garrison defended their actions and recommended punishment for the worse abusers instead of ironing out his own promotion and dealing with Delta Force harshly.
His last command was the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center. Garrison is most famous for being the commander in charge of Task Force Ranger in Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia. It also said that he was the one in charge of the assistance force that guided the take down of Pablo Escobar.
After Operation Gothic Serpent, Garrison took full responsibility for the tactical defeat experienced during the mission which completely ended his career. Garrison is described as a Spartan who is described as someone who will work tirelessly in serving his country and will do anything for his men. And to one of his men, he is the finest general officer who understood his men. He knows how they think, what they want and what they need and he also understood the situation anywhere he is, instantly and totally.
Garrison stuck with the Ranger’s motto during Operation Gothic Serpent that “Leave no man behind.” One of his men Dan Schilling says that it was not a shame that Garrison’s career was thwarted after their deployment in Somalia instead it is a criminal act committed by political cowards. As an aftermath of Operation Gothic Serpent, U.S. Defense Secretary Les Aspin resigned his post in late 1993 and was specifically blamed in denying the US Army permission in having its own armor units in Somalia. These units could have been able to break through the trapped soldiers during the early stage of the battle. This was because US political leaders felt this will cause a bad peacekeeping image if tanks were in the country.
The US withdrawal was cited by Osama Bin Laden as one of the examples of America’s weakness and vulnerability to attack.
William F. Garrison holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Pan American University degree and earned a Master of Business Administration degree at the Sam Houston State University. He was drafted in the Army as a private on July 1966 and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in 1967 after his graduation from officer candidate school. He rose through the ranks as Colonel, Brigadier General and Major General and the youngest officer to hold these ranks. He rose to the rank of a Major General and is known for his being a blunt realist who avoided the more flamboyant lifestyle that comes with being a general.
Garrison retired from the U.S. Army on August 3, 1996 the same day Mohamed Farrah Aidid died in Mogadishu. Prior to his retirement, he served two more years at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and now lives in a ranch in Texas. One of his famous quotes was “It was about killing people before they killed you.” His ideal of being a Straight Up, Get the Job Done Man still lives on.