William F. Garrison

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William F. Garrison
Born (1944-06-27) June 27, 1944 (age 74)
Mineral Wells, Texas, U.S.
Allegiance 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 (1982–1983)
Delta Force (1985–1989)
Joint Special Operations Command (1992–1994)
John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center (1995–1996)
Battles/warsVietnam War

Somali Civil War

AwardsLegion of Merit ribbon.jpg Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star (4)
Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart
Defense Distinguished Svc Medal ribbon.jpg Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Air Medal ribbon.jpg Air Medal
Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg Meritorious Service Medal (3)

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

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Mineral Wells, Texas on June 27, 1944, Garrison enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966 after graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from University of Texas–Pan American. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation from Officer Candidate School the following year. He served two tours in the Vietnam War, earning a Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. While in Vietnam, he participated in the Phoenix Program. Phoenix was an initiative of the CIA and the South Vietnamese Army to capture, convert, or assassinate leaders within the Viet Cong guerrilla command structure. In 1974, he received his Master of Business Administration degree from Sam Houston State University.


After the war, 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. This effectively ended his 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.

In popular culture[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Smith, Michael (2006). Killer Elite: The Inside Story of America's Most Secret Special Operations Team. Cassell. London. ISBN 0-304-36727-3 online presentation
  • Bowden, Mark (March 1999). Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. Atlantic Monthly Press. Berkeley, California (U.S.). ISBN 0-87113-738-0
  • Boykin, William (Lt.Gen.) (2008). Never Surrender. Faith Words. New York City, New York. ISBN 978-0-446-58215-5.
  • Eversmann, M. (2006). The Battle of Mogadishu: Firsthand Accounts From The Men of Task Force Ranger.