THE BOATRIGHT REPORT- An Open Back Road Guide to The American Experience
By: Charles W. Boatright
Remembering a Dear Friend on Memorial Day: CWO Donovan L. Briley KIA in Mogadishu, Somalia on 03Oct1993 in Operation Gothic Serpent
On Memorial Day as usual, at sunrise my dog Sebastian and I make our way out to the flag pole next to the house to lower my American Flag to half mast in honor of those that gave their full measure. I have several heroes that I think about personally, but two are dear to my heart. One was my uncle, Colonel Robert C. Boatright, who served in three (3) wars. The other is a high school buddy Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) 3 Donovan Lee ‘Bull’ Briley.
There’s not a day, and especially a Memorial Day, that I don’t think of my friend that I knew since 7th grade at Central Junior High School in North Little Rock, Arkansas. We met for the first time on the football field in early September of 1973. He was the quarterback and I was one of the running backs.
Those days seemed like they occurred just yesterday, forging a friendship that we had up until his death on October 03rd, 1993, now some 20 years after we met for the first time. We became good friends over all those years going through high school and later both of us enlisted in the U.S. ARMY at the Little Rock Recruiting Station on Center Street.
One thing about Memorial Day are the vivid memories of people and events that we can carry with us for a lifetime. Like any memory there are great ones, but there are also tragedies that go along with our life that we all have to face in the loss of a family member and close friends that we lose along life’s journey. I call it the road westward into the setting sun of life.
Chief Warrant Officer Donovan Briley last Mission
On Sunday, October 03rd, 1993, CWO3 Donovan Briley was piloting on the first of the two (2) HU-60 Black Hawk helicopters on a special mission in Somali. Both Black Hawks were hit by a RPG (Rocket-Propelled Grenade) fired from the ground by the Somali Militia during what was Operation Gothic Serpent. This was also carried out during Operation Restore Hope.
CWO3 Donovan L. Briley was killed soon after the Black Hawk was downed by the RPG. The accounts of this Special Operation where Rangers and Delta Forces joined to apprehend General Mohamed Farrah Aidid. This is very well documented in the movie Black Hawk Down based on the book by the same name written by Mark Bowden, a great field journalist. I could only watch it one time at the theater, but could never bring myself to watch the movie again since its release in December of 2001.
Over Donovan Briley service he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, two (2) Bronze Stars, two (2) Purple Hearts, two (2) Air Medals with “V” devices, two (2) Air Medals, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Army Service Ribbon.
My memories of CWO Donovan Briley
Our First Day of Football Practice
In a locker room, a bunch of young guys suited up for the first day of junior high school football practice at Central Junior High School, and waited for the coach to make his entrance. Some of us had never played organized football before, and this was a new experience for some of us. Coach Tyler, an Army Veteran and Staff Sergeant, known for his hard-nosed, no-nonsense approach to coaching, rolled out a fire hose on the floor in front of us with line positions marked on it with position. Tight End, Tackle, Guard, Center and the same on the other end were labeled on the fire hose. This is basic Football 101.
Coach Tyler carefully described each position to us and the responsibilities on each side of the ball to a bunch of wide-eyed guys trying to grasp what skills we had to have for each of those positions being described. After we went through calisthenics and sprints, then we broke out into offense and defense squads, based on our physical skills, strength, and ability by the coaching staff during tryouts that summer.
We, on the offense side of the line, ran through various drills trying out for various positions on the offensive squad. Since I was short, stocky, could catch, and secure the ball, I was singled out for one of the three Fullback positions, while this tall kid was selected as Quarterback, Donovan L. Briley, for his skills of agility. Briley ran like a deer and could throw accurate passes on the run, doing bootlegs left or right.
Coach Tyler huddled up with the offense squad calling “Draw fake 85 Hold.” This was a draw play where Briley, QB, would fake a hand-off to me (FB) and drop back for a slant left pass to the Right Tackle, position No. 5, in a slant. Coach Tyler looked squarely at me and asked, “Boatright- Do you know your assignment”? I replied, “Yes Sir, fake a hand-off and run-off right guard position.” No! Coach Tyler replied, “You are to fake a hand-off, then hold your position to provide protection for Briley in the backfield by blocking; don’t let anyone touch him!” Coach continued by adding, “I was going to tell you to squat, but you I don’t have to.”
Blocking isn’t glamorous or flashy, like a running off the Right Guard position would have been and getting some payback on a linebacker. But it is essential to protect those behind you, especially the QB.
For those women and men that put it all on the line in our military, protecting us, we owe it to them the time to listen to them, even if it is over a cup of coffee, to listen to their story. One of the service personnel asked, Will they know what we did here? By listening to these Veterans you can answer that question and appreciate their service at the same time.
Senior High School Enlistment
Our senior year in high school, Donovan Briley and I had 4th period physics class together in the science building located at the far west end of campus. I would always park my CJ-7 Jeep on the side street, just yards from the rear entrance in Science Building.
We would sneak out for lunch and go to McDonald’s on JFK, in North Little Rock, Arkansas, for a Quarter Pounder and Fries with tea, one reason we were watching our weight that we were burned off during practice and during our strength and conditioning training our senior year.
During one of our lunch breaks in October of our senior year, we discussed our futures, where I was planning on joining the U.S. Army as a Combat Engineer (12-Bravo) with the 326th after graduation. After a few weeks, Donovan decided to join me and enlist as well, but wanted to become a chopper pilot. We both joined during November of our senior year.
Few years after advanced training at Fort Belvoir, VA and taking my post at Fort Campbell, I injured both knees and right hip during a training jump where I received a medical discharge. Soon after my Medical Discharge, I attended college where I earned my Engineering Degree.
I then worked 2-years as a bridge engineer in Florida Keys and then worked 33- years for Entergy as a Grid Engineer in three different states in Transmission Lines, where I’m now retired, but I still dabble in aviation, as I did working flying aerial patrol and starting sportswear and performance business.
Our Last Conversation I had with Briley
I talked to Donovan on a couple of occasions, while I was in Little Rock and while he was on leave from the Army. Last time I talked to him, he was stationed in South Korea with the Rangers as a Chief Warrant Officer flying Black Hawks. Rank of chopper pilots are usually Warrant Officers. He mentioned to me a humanitarian mission that was being discussed for Africa that was coming up in December of 1992, at the end of President Bush 41 Administration.
The Black Hawks Helicopter has a significant amount of down wash off their rotors. If you recall, the young boy serving as a forward observer for the Somalia Militia held his cell phone out to capture the Black Hawks traversing up the coast line. The sound and wash are significant coming from Black Hawks.
One time we were in a 206 Bell Jet Ranger taking on fuel at Greenville, Mississippi, Airport when eight (8) Blackhawks came in to refuel. You can hear them coming from three-quarters-of-a-mile off. Our 206 Bell Jet Ranger was buffeted even parked a hundred yards down the flight line from where the eight Black Hawks landed. The tower notified us of the approaching Black Hawks coming into Runway 1-8 from the north and will be landing on the tarmac north of our position and informed us of possible turbulence. Black Hawks can create a significantly more down wash than a Huey can.
Operation Restore Hope & Gothic Serpent
This Mission that Briley was alluding to was Operation Restore Hope in Mogadishu, Somalia to provide critical aid and food to starving civilians, at first, but changed later, in what we call Mission Creep. The movie Black Hawk Down was based on this mission creep, Operation Gothic Serpent.
One thing about the U.S. Military service personnel, they don’t question orders, we just figure out how to accomplish the mission even with limited resources and political strings attached and restrictions in regard to Rules of Engagement.
There is something that you will learn about our Veterans, when you sit down with them for a cup of coffee, and that is their-never quit attitude, despite the obstacles that they will face. Basically, these Veterans are those common individuals that we pass in the street that endure the crucible of life that forms their metal when they are called upon to become the tip of the sword.
I will always remember my friend and brother CWO3 Donovan Briley and hope I can live up to just a part of his standards and courage of his metal that he exhibited. There are more untold stories by Veterans out there like my friend’s, and we just need to take the time to listen to them. That’s how we can honor their service over a cup of coffee and just listen.
If you see a Bronze or Silver Star on a license plate, either shake their hand or just throw them a salute if they are in a passing vehicle or parked at a traffic light. The Silver Start is one medal right below the Medal of Honor.
If I see a Purple Heart, Bronze or Silver Star on a license plate while I’m parked in a parking lot after shopping, I wait for that person to come out and express my thanks and shake their hand. That is the least that I can do for them and their service.
God Bless our Service Personnel, Veterans, and God Bless America!
OPERATION DOG TAGS for PTSD:
I started my Sportswear and performance business to help people maintain their health and fitness; but more importantly use sports and fitness, refer to as CBT, to help those that are dealing with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). It has been proven in medical trials where sports and fitness are used, especially Yoga, can dramatically help in the treatment of PTSD not in years but in months and even weeks in 93 percent of the cases.
This is why I wrote the ebook Operation DOG TAGS to help those dealing with PTSD. You don’t have to had served in the military to experience PTSD. Please read more by clicking on the link below: