William F. Garrison

William F. "Bill" Garrison (born 27 June 1944) is an American retired major general who was the commander of United States Army forces during Operation Gothic Serpent, the military operation launched in 1993 to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

William F. Garrison
Born (1944-06-27) 27 June 1944 (age 76)
Mineral Wells, Texas, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1966–1996
RankUS Army O8 shoulderboard rotated.svg Major general
UnitSeal of the Joint Special Operations Command.png Joint Special Operations Command
Commands held505th Infantry Regiment (1981–1983)
Delta Force (1985–1989)
Joint Special Operations Command (1992–1994)
John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center (1995–1996)
Battles/warsVietnam War

Somali Civil War

AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit

Early life and educationEdit

Garrison was born in Mineral Wells, Texas, on 27 June 1944. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from University of Texas–Pan American. Garrison enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966.


During the Vietnam War, Garrison participated in the notorious Phoenix Program. According to Mark Bowden, "[Garrison] had served two tours in Vietnam, part of it helping to run the infamously brutal Phoenix Program, which ferreted out and killed Viet Cong village leaders."[1]

From 1981 to 1983, Garrison commanded the 1st Battalion, 505th Infantry, 82d Airborne Division, at Ft Bragg NC. In 1982 he led an 808-man task force, TF 1/505, on the first six-month Sinai mission as part of the Multinational Force and Observers, serving as a buffer between Israel and Egypt, and was present when Israel handed over the Sinai to Egypt. Garrison spent most of his career in special operations units, including the U.S. Army's Intelligence Support Activity as the commander of its operations squadron and the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (also known as Delta Force) from 1985 to 1989. His last command was the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center.

He is known for being the commander in charge of Task Force Ranger during Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia.

Garrison took full responsibility for the tactical setbacks experienced in Operation Gothic Serpent, which effectively ended his military career.

Mark Bowden, the author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, described Garrison as a military ascetic. According to Bowden's description Garrison tirelessly worked to serve his country and would do anything for his soldiers. Some of Garrison's subordinates have also spoken publicly about their former commander.

Staff Sergeant Dan Schilling, an Air Force Combat Controller who took part in Operation Gothic Serpent, shared his feelings about Garrison in the book The Battle of Mogadishu: Firsthand Accounts From The Men of Task Force Ranger. On page 187 of the text Schilling stated "I should pause here for a moment to say a few words about General Garrison. Many know his record and command history. I'm not the person to expound on his exploits; in fact I don't know the man very well. But I will say he is the finest general officer I have ever worked for and probably ever will. He understood his men and how we thought, what we wanted and needed, and understood the situation anywhere he was, immediately and completely. He is the finest leader an operator could ask for. It wasn't a shame that his career was derailed after our deployment; it was a criminal act committed by political cowards."

By September 1996, Garrison had retired at the rank of major general and settled into a ranch near the community of Hico, Texas.

Military awardsEdit

  Defense Distinguished Service Medal
  Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal with Valor device and three oak leaf clusters
  Purple Heart
  Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
  Air Medal
Army Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster
  Army Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal with one bronze service star
Vietnam Service Medal with four service stars
  Humanitarian Service Medal
  Army Service Ribbon
  Army Overseas Service Ribbon
  Multinational Force and Observers Medal
  Vietnam Gallantry Cross with unidentified device(s)
  Vietnam Staff Service Medal, 1st class
  Vietnam Campaign Medal

Badges and tabs

In popular cultureEdit


  1. ^ Bowden, Mark (1999). Black Hawk Down. New York: Grove Press. p. 23.

Further readingEdit