Michael D. Steele
|Michael Dane Steele|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1983–2010|
|Commands held||Rifle Company Commander, 4th Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division;
Rifle Company Commander, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment;
Commander, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division;
Commander, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
|Battles/wars||Operation Just Cause
Operation Gothic Serpent
Operation Joint Guardian
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
|Awards|| Legion of Merit
Bronze Star with valor device
Meritorious Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Kosovo Campaign Medal
Iraqi Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Army Overseas Service Ribbon
Michael D. Steele is a retired Colonel of the United States Army. He was a company commander in the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment during the Somalia mission Operation Gothic Serpent, which resulted in the now famous book and movie Black Hawk Down, where he was portrayed by actor Jason Isaacs. He briefly appears in the documentary I Am an American Soldier.
He was investigated in conjunction with the murders of three unarmed Iraqis during Operation Iron Triangle. The four soldiers charged in the case testified that Steele had instructed them to "kill all military-age males. Steele denied giving such an order, and was formally reprimanded but not charged.
Colonel Steele is from the small northeast Georgia town of Statham. He attended and was an offensive lineman for the University of Georgia Bulldogs football team, during the Vince Dooley era. In 1980, the Bulldogs were crowned national champions. Upon graduation, Steele was commissioned as an infantry officer through Army ROTC in 1983. His first assignment was to the Berlin Brigade in West Berlin. Later he received a Master’s Degree from Central Michigan University. His military education includes the following: Airborne School, Ranger School, Joint Power Control School, Army Command and General Staff College.
Operation Gothic Serpent
In August 1993, Steele deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia, with his Ranger company as part of Task Force Ranger, which was tasked with capturing two lieutenants of the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Task Force Ranger also included a deployment package from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Night Stalkers) from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
On the afternoon of 3 October 1993, Task Force Ranger received intelligence that two leaders of Aidid’s militia were at a residence in central Mogadishu. In response, the task force sent 19 aircraft, 12 vehicles, and 160 men to arrest them. During the mission, one of the Rangers, PFC Todd Blackburn, missed the rope whilst fast-roping from an UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, and fell 70 feet to the street below, badly injuring himself. At 1542 hours, in Mogadishu, Captain Steele fast-roped into the Bakara Market with 120 Rangers, led by Lt. Colonel Danny McKnight, and approximately 40 Delta Force operators. The raid was to take 30 minutes and was meant to capture Omar Salad and Abdi Hassan Awale, two top advisors to Warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid. These and other prisoners along with Blackburn were loaded into the vehicle convoy to be transported back to base. However, with the downing of two Black Hawk helicopters, Super 61 (CW4 Cliff Wolcott) and Super 64 (CW3 Mike Durant), the mission changed dramatically and for the worse.
The Rangers and Delta operators, under the command of CPT Steele, provided security around the crash site of Super 61 and fought off thousands of armed insurgents through the night. After 15½ hours of intense fighting, a convoy of armored vehicles finally arrived to take away the casualties. The Rangers then provided security around the convoy and fought their way out to the relative safety of the Pakistani Stadium, just north of the Bakara Market. The outcome of the raid was 16 Rangers, Delta, and 160th SOAR personnel KIA and 89 WIA. 2 American soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division and one Pakistani soldier were killed in the extraction convoy. One more Delta operator was killed several days later when a mortar round struck the compound of Task Force Ranger. Durant was held captive for eleven days. Anywhere from 700-1500 Somali militia were killed. Omar Salad was captured, as was Abdi Hassan Awale, but it was not the right Omar Salad. Captain Steele was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor Device for his actions as a commander during the fight.
Steele is the former commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team/187th Infantry Regiment (Rakkasans) of the 101st Airborne Division, which returned from a tour of duty in the Salah ad Din province in Iraq in the autumn of 2006.
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Operation Iraqi Freedom
Colonel Steele commanded the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Rakkasans) from June 2004 through November 2006. During his command, he oversaw the transformation of the unit from a traditional three battalion infantry brigade into a six battalion infantry brigade combat team composed of two infantry battalions, a reconnaissance squadron, a field artillery battalion, support battalion, and special troops battalion.
Colonel Steele and his brigade deployed to Iraq the fall of 2005 and conducted operations primarily in Salah ad Din province. In March 2006, the brigade planned and executed Operation Swarmer, which was a joint U.S-Iraqi air assault operation targeting insurgents in the desert area to the northeast province of Samarra. According to the US military, it was the largest air assault in Iraq since the start of Iraq War in 2003. In addition to Operation Swarmer, the brigade conducted numerous other brigade and battalion sized operations including Operation Katrina, Operation Rita, Operations Red Light I, II and III, Operation Swift Sword, Operation Starlight, and Operation Iron Triangle.
In November 2006, Colonel Steele successfully completed his command with the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division and was assigned as the Deputy G3, Training, United States Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) at Fort McPherson, Georgia, where he coordinates the training for CONUS based Army forces.
Iron Triangle Murders
These four soldiers testified that Steele had told them to "kill all military-age males." Steele refused to testify at the Article 32 hearing for the accused soldiers, which is considered unusual for a commanding officer. He was investigated in connection with the incident and stated that he did not use “specific language” to order his soldiers to kill all military-age males, and that “we don’t shoot people with their hands up.” He was not charged, but was later formally reprimanded by Lieutenant General (now General) Peter W. Chiarelli, former commander of the Multi-National Corps - Iraq. The reprimand effectively ended Steele's future chances of promotion in the Army. The content of the reprimand has not been made public, but two anonymous defense department officials identified by The New York Times have said that the reprimand was "for not reporting the deaths and other details of the raid."
Steele also instigated the use of "Kill Boards" to track how many Iraqis each Company had killed, while one of Steele's Battalion Commanders', Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Johnson, Jr. has written that "Colonel Steele constantly articulated his judgment and displeasure that my battalion was not being aggressive enough toward the insurgents."
- AP: Soldiers in Iraq Say They Were Ordered to Kill All Adult Males, Editor & Publisher, July 21, 2006
- Army Says Improper Orders by Colonel Led to 4 Deaths, New York Times, January 21, 2007
- Appeal to Evaluation Report of US Department of the Army, Feb 11 2008
- G.I.'s Say Officers Ordered Killing of Young Iraqi Men, The New York Times, 3 August 2006
- Cloud, Daniel and Gregg Jaffe: The Fourth Star and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the US Army,Crown Publishers, 2009.
- Bowden, Mark. "Black Hawk Down: An American War Story." Philadelphia Inquirer. December 14, 1997. accessed April 12, 2009.
- Brecher, Gary. "How To Steele A Promotion." The EXILE. January 26, 2007. Last accessed April 12, 2009.
- Daragahi, Borzou, and Julian E. Barnes. "Officers Allegedly Pushed `Kill Counts’." Los Angeles Times. August 3, 2006. Last accessed April 12, 2009.
- Karl, Jonathan. "Army murder case: Why it’s significant." ABC News. August 1, 2006. Last accessed April 12, 2009.
- Worth, Robert F. "Sergeant Tells of Plot to Kill Iraqi Detainees. New York Times. July 28, 2006. Last accessed April 12, 2009.