NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) – Two crew chiefs who died after their helicopter crashed a decade ago in Somalia demonstrated courage and the willingness to sacrifice, their pilot said.

“That’s what it means to be an American,” retired Chief Warrant Officer Michael Durant said Friday. “That’s what it means to be a soldier. That is the meaning of courage.”

Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Field of Maine and Staff Sgt. William D. Cleveland Jr. of Arizona were severely wounded on Oct. 3, 1993, when their “Super 64” Black Hawk helicopter was shot down over Mogadishu, Somalia. They and co-pilot Ray Frank died in a firefight between the four-man crew and a crowd of Somalis that surrounded the broken aircraft.

Durant, a New Hampshire native who was held prisoner for 11 days, was the only member of the crew to survive.

On Friday, the U.S. Army Aviation Logistics school named its new $3.1 million training facility at Fort Eustis after Field and Cleveland. The facility will be used to teach Black Hawk maintenance to Army and Air Force personnel. Both men trained at Fort Eustis, where the Army conducts all helicopter-maintenance training.

Field, 25, a native of Lisbon, joined the Army in 1987. Cleveland, 34, was born in Phoenix and joined the Army in 1978. Both served in combat operations in Panama and Southwest Asia.

Cleveland, Field and Durant were part of the 160th Special Operations Group in October 1993, when they joined a task force of 160 men that went to Mogadishu to capture two leaders of Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed’s clan.

Aideed controlled the area of Mogadishu where 24 Pakistani troops in a U.N. force were killed in an ambush a few months earlier.

The mission, Operation Gothic Serpent, was successful, but a rocket-propelled grenade hit the tail of Durant’s helicopter, which crashed.

Two men from another Black Hawk were killed when they tried to protect the downed helicopter. Master Sgt. Gary Gordon of Lincoln, Maine, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his bravery.

The downing of the helicopter and Durant’s capture were detailed in Mark Bowden’s book, “Black Hawk Down,” and the movie of the same name.

AP-ES-11-15-03 1200EST



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