Operations PROVIDE RELIEF and RESTORE HOPE
Special Operations Forces first became involved in Somalia as part of Operation PROVIDE RELIEF In August 1992, soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) deployed to Kenya to provide security for relief flights en route from Kenya to Somalia. They formed an airborne reaction force, which included two desert mobility vehicles loaded inside C- 130 aircraft. The C-130s circled over Somali airstrips during delivery of relief supplies. In addition, SOF medics and ground observers accompanied many relief flights into the airstrips throughout southern Somalia to conduct general area assessments. In many cases, they were the first U.S. soldiers in Somalia, arriving before U.S. forces who supported the expanded relief operations of Operation RESTORE HOPE.
OPERATION RESTORE HOPE
To support the United Nation’s relief effort in Somalia, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Cohn Powell, directed CENTCOM on 2 December 1992 to secure
transportation facilities in Mogadishu, Somalia. The operation was designated RESTORE HOPE. An amphibious squadron, consisting of USS Tripoli, Juneau, and Rushmore, with a Marine Expeditionary Unit, a SEAL platoon, and a Special Boat Unit (SBU) detachment, arrived off the coast of Somalia shortly thereafter. To mount an amphibious landing to secure the Mogadishu airport, the Marines needed up-to-date charts for the beaches which did not exist. The SEALs and SBU detachment conducted a hydrographic reconnaissance, the classic "frogman" mission dating to World War II, to chart the beaches.
The first mission occurred on the night of 6 December, when 12 SEALs from SEAL Team One conducted a hydrographic reconnaissance in the traditional method, swimming in a line toward shore, and taking depth soundings with weighted lines. Upon reaching waist deep water, they each shifted to the right and swam back out, repeating the process. Meanwhile, another five SEALs swam ashore and reconnoitered the beach. The two SEAL cartographers measured the berm and noted the shore gradient and the presence of obstacles on the beach. The SEALs returned to the Juneau where they compiled charts, briefed the Marines, and prepared for their next night’s mission.
On the night of 7 December, the SEALs swam into Mogadishu harbor, where they found suitable landing sites, assessed the area for threats, and ascertained that the
port could support maritime prepositioned ship offloads. This was a tough mission: the SEALs swam against a strong current which left many of them overheated and exhausted, and they had to swim through raw sewage in the harbor, which made them sick.
The following night members of 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, 7th Platoon landed in three separate teams to control the beach and port facilities. The team on the beach were surprised to meet members of the news media who made their job difficult with crowds of cameramen using bright lights to get footage of the wet, camouflaged Marines who were now brilliantly lit up in the dark night. Soon however, regular Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived and attention shifted to them and the Force Recon Marines were able to finish their original mission of ensuring two anti-aircraft guns spotted on satellite were inoperable and then securing the runway for assault. Four SEALs conducted surf observations and initial terminal guidance for the Marines’ landing craft.
On 17 December, the SEALs surveyed the port of Kismayu from the French frigate Dupleix. During this operation, Somali snipers fired at the SEALs, but no SEALs were hit. Later, the SEALs provided personal security for President George Bush during a visit to Somalia and provided snipers to the Marines. Before leaving Somalia in February 1993, the SEALs also conducted joint training missions with Indian naval commandos.
A platoon from SEAL Team 2, with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, replaced the departed SEALs. On their first mission, these SEALs reconnoitered the Jubba River (which included dodging crocodiles) to gather intelligence on gun smuggling; based on this intelligence, Marines staged two raids on towns along the river. These SEALs performed many operations in April and May: a predawn shore reconnaissance of Kismayu; clearing a potential beach landing site south of Mogadishu; reconnaissance missions in the Three Rivers region south of Kismayu and at Koyaama Island; and a reconnaissance of Daanai beach in extremely rough seas.
Meanwhile, on 28 December 1992, the Special Forces assets in Kenya moved to Somalia and joined Operation RESTORE HOPE. On 12 January 1993, a Special Forces headquarters unit [FOB 52 (-)J deployed to Mogadishu as the Joint Special Operations Forces-Somalia (JSOFOR) that would command and control all special operations
for RESTORE HOPE. JSOFOR’s mission was to make initial contact with indigenous factions and leaders; provide information for force protection; and provide area
assessments for future relief and security operations. The Special Forces under JSOFOR supported the nine humanitarian relief sector commanders. Before redeploying in April, JSOFOR elements drove over 26,000 miles, captured 277 weapons, and destroyed over 45,320 pounds of ordnance. So successful were the Special Forces teams, the commander of UN operations in Somalia, LTG Bir (Turkey), considered them a “must have” asset.
The 96th CA Battalion (Airborne) deployed a CA Tactical Support Team and six CA Direct Support Teams which provided a liaison between Army and Marine
commanders, local Somali committees, and representatives of over 40 non-governmental organizations. CA personnel also staffed humanitarian operations centers throughout Somalia, from which they coordinated medical and engineer civic action projects.
Over 7 million leaflets were distributed during RESTORE HOPE.
The Joint PSYOP Task Force (JPOTF) supported unified operations by integrating PSYOP into all plans and operations, and by hiring more than 30 Somalis to help with the PSYOP newspaper Rajo (“Truth”) and radio broadcasting. More than seven million copies of 37 different leaflets and a dozen handbills and posters were printed
and disseminated. PSYOP soldiers, including eight loudspeaker support teams from the 9th PSYOP Battalion, with native linguists and pre-recorded tapes, supported both the Marine 7th Regimental Combat Support Team and Army maneuver units.
As a complement to Rajo, the JPOTF established a radio station in the U.S. Embassy compound, which broadcast a 45-minute Somali language program twice a day. The station featured religious, news, entertainment, and music programs, and its broadcasts eventually reached every city and town in Somalia where UN forces were based.
Operation RESTORE HOPE gave way to UN Operations Somalia in May 1993, after having brought an end to starvation and making the lives of Somalis somewhat safer.
But the overall success of U.S. Special Operations Forces in Somalia will always be overshadowed by the events of 3-4 October 1993, when U.S. troops found
themselves in the fiercest urban firefight since the Vietnam War.