Americans in Wartime Experience

Kenneth Schiro

Operation Restore Hope

Kenneth Schiro served in the United States Army and participated in Operation Restore Hope, the peacekeeping and humanitarian mission in Somalia in late 1992 and 1993.

Not knowing what direction he wanted to take his life, Ken joined the service in September of 1989. He chose the Army because it was the largest of the military branches with the most diverse career path opportunities, and because his grandfather had served in the Army. His first thought was that he wanted to drive a tank and “crush things.” He thought harder about it and decided that he should go into communications because the skills he would develop could follow him into civilian life.

He began his career at Fort Jackson in South Carolina and then off to the signal center at Fort Gordon in Georgia where he completed his communications school. His first assignment once he completed his training, like so many in the Army at that time, was in Germany.

Ken deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia with the 546 Personnel Company out of Fort Hood. He handled the communications for the company for their vehicles and land-based assets. Initially at the U.S. Embassy, they would eventually move the university complex in January 1993.

His first impression of Somalia was surreal says Ken. When they landed at the airport aboard a commercial aircraft, they were informed that there was a sniper in the area and that they should disembark one at a time. Once off the plane, they were taken to a bunker where they were given their flak vests and their initial issue of ammunition. Ken, along with his fellow soldiers were sitting on the ground sweating and loading their magazines and he was thinking to himself, “what is going on here?” He said they were told that they would be there to help the local population by bring them food and perform other humanitarian tasks. Now, they found themselves in the middle of somebody else’s war. Things got intense real quick says Ken.

Tasked with establishing communications for the companies sleep, work areas and vehicles, Ken and his NCO, the only other communications troop there, got to work immediately. After the initial set up, their duty was to make sure everything continued to work smoothly. When Ken wasn’t keeping the lines of communications flowing, literally, he was providing security for convoy’s through the city from the rooftops.

One incident that stands out in Kens mind occurred when they were preparing to go to bed. All of a sudden he says that chaos broke out. People were running into the building and coming through the windows, tripping over things as gunfire rang out. Their base was under attack. People were scrambling to turn out the lights and Ken says he remembers a soldier reach up with his bare hand and squeeze a light bulb until it broke. The attack lasted for about 45 minutes.

The other incident that stands out about his time in Somalia occurred during a trip to the airport late in the day. They were told not to be out past sunset, but duty called and they had to deliver paperwork. On their way back, it was now getting dark and they supposed to turn at a burned out vehicle. Except the vehicle had been moved since they drove past on their way to the airport. So they were now lost in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, at night, and having to rely on a map to find their way home. There would be no stopping to ask for directions.

One of the hardest things for Ken and is fellow soldiers to witness was the wounded children. Kids with missing limbs was very tough for them to see. The things he would witness would change him as a person, and some of the relationship he made with other American soldiers as well as foreign troops have lasted since his return home.

Ken is honored and proud of his service to America and he says that his wartime experience has made him even prouder of his country. He says that serving the United States is a good feeling. For his service, we at the Americans in Wartime Experience say, thank you.

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The Americans in Wartime Experience explores the impact of war and conflict on America since WWI. It honors those who served in the military and on the home front and highlights the values they demonstrated in serving – duty, honor, and courage. It examines how periods of conflict have profoundly shaped American society. It educates visitors about the costs of war, both on a personal and social level. It challenges visitors to remember the service and sacrifices made by their fellow citizens to preserve and defend our freedoms. LEARN MORE

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