Newly released documentation on a Green Beret major’s Silver Star for valor highlights the role and importance of having Special Operations troops in Somalia in the fight against al-Shabaab. 

Stars and Stripes was the first to report the action, which it uncovered after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. This allowed the narrative to be publicly seen for the first time.

Major William Doyle: An Exemplary Officer

Major William Doyle was the commander of a Special Forces A-Team from the 10th Special Forces Group (10th SFG) deployed to Somalia.

In July 2015, Major Doyle’s A-Team, or Operational Detachment Alpha, was accompanying and advising Kenyan and Somali forces during Operation Piga Jangili. The forces were tasked with retaking the town of Baardheere, west of the capital of Mogadishu, which had been under Shabaab control for six years.

The actions of Major Doyle saved the lives of many partner forces and American Special Forces troops during an ambush by al-Shabaab terrorists. 

A Green Beret's Actions Highlight Why the US Needs to Be in Somalia
A recent photo of a Special Operations soldier advising Somali Forces (U.S. Air Force)

Although the official Somali account at the time stated that Baardheere was taken with “no resistance” the truth is much different.

Doyle’s Silver Star citation recounts a pitched battle with heavy fighting against a “prepared, determined and numerically superior enemy.”

This demonstrates how the often-scantily reported activities of American troops in Africa belie the dangers they face while fighting against terrorist forces on the continent. 

“His Actions Contributed to 173 enemies Killed and 60 More Wounded”

Doyle, whose name was redacted from the official narrative, came “under significant enemy fire” and then cooly demonstrated courage and leadership that “undoubtedly saved the lives of eight American special operators and resulted in the liberation of Baardheere,” the narrative read.

During the particularly fierce and bloody six-hour firefight against an estimated 175 to 200 well-armed al-Shabaab fighters, Doyle’s leadership was instrumental in advising and leading several different assaults that were ultimately successful. 

“Upon entering the kill zones, the enemy engaged the convoy with several [roadside bomb]-initiated ambushes that triggered delays in convoy movement and killed and wounded multiple KDF soldiers,” the Army stated.

After the IED explosions and the initial firing pinned down the Kenyan Defense forces, William Doyle and the A-Team medical sergeant sprinted over 50 yards under intense enemy fire from only 80 feet away to the Kenyan commander’s position. Doyle and the medic first coordinated the evacuation of the wounded. Doyle then advised the Kenyan commander on a plan to attack through the ambush for fear they would lose the initiative. He then continued to cooly call in supporting artillery and mortar fires, destroying two al-Shabaab technical vehicles. This then freed up the unit to counterattack.

“When the KDF Commander proved unwilling to direct his forces, [Doyle] ran forward into heavy machine gun and RPG fire, moving between KDF rifle platoons directing their fires and movement, destroying an estimated 12 enemy fighters,” the report stated. 

“He repeatedly displayed tremendous gallantry in action by exposing himself to effective fire so he could… keep the KDF convoy moving through the valley,” the report said.

Major Doyle’s Silver Star citation stated that his actions contributed to 173 enemies killed and 60 more wounded and that they saved “countless” partner forces. The town of Baardheere was taken the next day.

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Major William Doyle's Actions Highlight Why the US Needs to Be in Somalia
Major William Doyle receiving his award at CGSC. (CGSOC Foundation)

Following his deployment to Somalia, Doyle was tasked with command of the 10th SFG’s Support Company and then was selected for the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, where he received the LTC Ronald C. Ward Distinguished Special Operations Forces (SOF) Student Award for the Command and General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC) Class of 2018.

Speaking to the character of Major William Doyle, his CGSC small group “advisor remarked that he was the top officer he had seen in his 32 years of uniformed and civilian service.”

The US Needs to Be in Somalia

The importance of having special operators on the ground in Somalia can’t be overstated. 

The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and specifically the Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) has been helping their Somalis against their fight with al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, since 2013. 

American SOF have also been training the members of the Danab Brigade. Danab is an elite brigade-size Somali unit, funded by the U.S., that is battling al-Shabaab terrorists in the Horn of Africa. The unit is critical in the fight against al-Shabaab.

Recently, the commander of AFRICOM, while highlighting the importance of U.S. boots on the ground in Somalia, hinted that a return of U.S. troops to the country might happen.

The U.S. troops had withdrawn at the beginning of the year, in line with President Trump’s decision to end America’s forever wars.