HomeNewsArticle Display

Battle of Mogadishu hero passes, leaves behind legacy

Tech. Sgt. (ret.) Jeffrey Bray, a combat controller, who was awarded the Silver Star medal for his actions during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., on Dec. 30, 2016. Bray passed away at 49 years old on Oct. 24, leaving behind a far-reaching legacy of valor, professionalism and combat success. (Courtesy Photo)

Retired Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Bray, a combat controller, who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 30, 2016. Bray passed away at 49 years old on Oct. 24, leaving behind a far-reaching legacy of valor, professionalism and combat success. (Courtesy photo)

Tech. Sgt. (ret.) Jeffrey Bray, a combat controller, who was awarded the Silver Star medal for his actions during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., on Dec. 30, 2016. Bray passed away at 49 years old on Oct. 24, leaving behind a far-reaching legacy of valor, professionalism and combat success. (Courtesy Photo)

Retired Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Bray, a combat controller, who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 30, 2016. Bray passed away at 49 years old on Oct. 24, leaving behind a far-reaching legacy of valor, professionalism and combat success. (Courtesy photo)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- A former special tactics combat controller responsible for saving dozens of lives at the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993, was laid to rest recently, leaving behind a far-reaching legacy of valor, professionalism and combat success.

Nearly 100 friends, family and teammates gathered to honor retired Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Bray, a Silver Star recipient, at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, Dec. 30, who passed away Oct. 24 at 49 years old.

“It is always tough to lose a national treasure like Jeff,” said Col. Michael Martin, the 24th Special Operations Wing commander. “He meant so much to so many; it was incredibly moving to lay him to rest surrounded by his family and teammates.”

Bray’s contributions to the Air Force, and to special operations, was nested in an experience that would define how special tactics operated in urban warfare. On Oct. 3, 1993, Bray was attached to a joint service team responding to the crash of a U.S. Army MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, which was shot down in Mogadishu.

Under fire, trapped and surrounded inside a building in the city, Bray coordinated helicopter gunship fire on targets all around his position throughout the night. Without previous experience in this environment, he developed tactics and techniques on the spot that allowed him to mark friendly forces' locations so that helicopter gunships could destroy close enemy concentrations.

Bray wasn’t the only Airman there; the joint search and rescue team also included pararescuemen Master Sgt. Scott Fales and Tech. Sgt. Tim Wilkinson, who earned a Silver Star and Air Force Cross respectively, for their actions during the mission. Wilkinson and Fales –part of the 15-person joint team—were responding to the downed helicopter, while Bray and the U.S. Army special operations team were to capture Mohammed Farah Aideed’s top lieutenants. When the mission deviated due to overwhelming forces, it became a matter of survival. Wilkinson and Fales worked on the wounded as Bray coordinated airstrikes and strafing runs to keep the enemy at bay.

“I think the dynamics of that particular incident provided us a good bit of perspective to reevaluate the way we do business from a personnel recovery and air-to-ground coordination standpoint,” Wilkinson said. “At the time, there wasn’t a lot of urban warfare and it gave us a really good look at how we conduct operations in an urban environment.”

A 1994 Airman magazine interview revealed a clearer understanding of the tactics Bray innovatively developed to ensure friendly fire was avoided and protect his teammates. Bray would send runners out to mark locations with infrared strobe lights that only orbiting U.S. aircraft could see. The runners found targets and relayed the information to Bray; he would plot each location and call in the fire. He then plotted the locations out beyond the targets and corrected the airstrike fire by walking it in to enemy positions. At times, he coordinated fire on enemy locations only 15 meters away.

His expertise in controlling air-to-ground fire prevented friendly fire casualties and were integral to the survival of the Army special operations team, according to the citation.

“Jeff was innovative, able to think on his feet, very calm and collected,” said Wilkinson of Bray in Mogadishu. “He did an outstanding job. I think I speak for the entire community when I say Jeff was a consummate teammate, professional and friend, and he will be sorely missed.”

However, to many, Bray’s legacy is beyond his Silver Star; according to his teammates, he was one of the few special tactics Airmen who had directed airpower during intense urban warfare—a precursor to what many would experience in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

This experience in urban warfare translated into a level of training unlike most could provide. Bray was later a training and cadre member for his special tactics unit. Here, his vigor and experience on the battlefield translated to a dynamic change in the way his team conducted urban warfare preparation, according to one of Bray’s former students.

“In Mogadishu, Jeff saved dozen of lives: men who were able to come home and either return to their families or someday start a family of their own,” said retired Col. Kurt Buller, a former special tactics officer. “As an instructor, he was exceedingly demanding of our technical skills … his training kept us alive in combat, I’m sure of it.

“The majority of the guys Jeff taught went on to fight post 9/11 and were tested the way Jeff was tested,” Buller continued. “Besides being a great person and a great operator -- his legacy was the training he provided to the scores of guys at the squadron, who would ultimately go on to be successful in combat as well.”

While Bray’s legacy and name have been solidified in history, he leaves behind a family, a wife and teammates who served alongside side him throughout his career.

“Jeff transformed special tactics generationally, and we will never forget his actions,” Martin said. “The special tactics community will always maintain overwatch of his wife, Sherry, and his family.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @LukeAFB: Starting the week off with a F-16 slow-mo! ✈ #slowmomonday #aviation #jets #f16 #fighterjet #usaf #sunrise https://t.co/toXXl…
RT @AETCommand: Airmen from the 29th AMU check over the first MQ-9 Reaper to be transported through ferry flight, Jan. 8, 2020, on @Holloma
RT @DeptofDefense: The cold won’t slow down the @usairforce! The Air Force is working with the @usarmyccdc to test cold weather gear and e…
RT @USAFCENT: GROUND SUPPORT | USAF Airmen assigned to the 379th AEMS worked alongside the 746th EAS to load cargo onto & launch a C-130 at…
RT @USAFHealth: #DidYouKnow, Air Force Expeditionary Medicine brings leading-edge medicine directly into battle providing injured personnel…
As he served, let us serve. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. https://t.co/SuE0D4UAnI
RT @AirNatlGuard: "We talk about lining ourselves up with our sister services and joint efforts to make sure we accomplish our mission; the…
RT @AFResearchLab: The year is 1947. The @usairforce officially broke the sound barrier with the Bell X-1 aircraft. This incredible feat w…
RT @theF35JPO: Congratulations to the @AusAirForce for completing their #F35 training mission at @LukeAFB! 🇦🇺 ⚡ Learn more 🔗 https://t.co/2…
RT @CENTCOM: A French Rafale conducts nighttime air refueling with a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary…
RT @DeptofDefense: Jumping from a plane becomes a big step toward friendship. 301 soldiers and airmen from @USArmyReserve, @usairforce, and…
Explosive Disposal Ordnance (EOD) Airmen are often assigned to some of the most dangerous missions and perform tact… https://t.co/xYc9Ip5psn
Start this year by supporting your #Airmen in their pursuit of #resiliency. Learn about common triggers of invisibl… https://t.co/6gJSfJKvcK
RT @OHNationalGuard: The @180thFW hosted members of the Nigerian Air Force recently Officers visited the 180FW in search of #bestpractice
RT @HiAirGuard: Airmen from 154th Security Forces Squadron became first responders during a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear…
RT @US_SOCEUR: U.S. #airmen assigned to the 352d Special Operations Wing perform maintenance on a CV-22B #Osprey aircraft in Szolnok, #Hung
RT @HQ_AFMC: The @AFResearchLab s X-60A program achieved a key developmental #milestone with the completion of integrated vehicle propulsio…
RT @DeptofDefense: If you want to get there as fast as possible, don’t stop for gas. ⛽ That’s why the @usairforce relies on airmen like Tec…
RT @DeptofDefense: Press ▶️ to learn more about @USAFCENT, the command that provides air & space warfighting capabilities to help defeat v…
Airmen with the Puerto Rico Air National Guard provide support at the “tent cities” to support Task Force South and… https://t.co/zg2yT0LqpS