James Lechner, serving as an Army Ranger, found himself at the heart of military history as part of the elite group known as Task Force Rangers. This unit was engaged in the infamous Somalia raid, also known as the Battle of Mogadishu, which became widely known as ‘Black Hawk Down.’ Lechner was seriously injured in the conflict and battled for survival against overwhelming odds alongside his unit.
However, one of the hardest things he has had to do in his career, is find out how to answer the question he’s been asked many times, ‘What was that like?’
“I know it’s just going to be a 20 second conversation, I don’t even want to go down that road because it’s not a box where you can just open and close it,” said Lechner. The experience is something he cannot compartmentalize, and found himself repeating it so often – he decided to write a book about it.
With My Shield: The Experience of an Army Ranger in Somalia, gives an exclusive inside look at stories that have gone uncovered from the experience of Lechner, while also providing professional military analysis on the 1993 Somalia Raid. This story does not just hold a specific account, but lessons to be learned according to Lechner.
“The main theme of the book is not what James Lechner did, it is to show what the unit did, and highlight many guys who have not been highlighted… and this is a story that needs to be told and remembered for a lot of professional military reasons.” he explained.
A driving factor for writing the book was not just for civilians to understand the battle, but also something for the military to never forget. “I finally realized that, you know, just less than 20 years later, institutionally, no one knew who I was talking about and not too many people really remember the events and some of the guys weren’t even born that so I thought and this is a story that needs to continue to be told and remembered,” he said.
The book features professional military analysis, as Lechner currently teaches Military History at Liberty University. He explained how a huge theme of the book applies to the lack of discipline he sees in today’s society.
“There’s a thought, a school of thought these days, which I think is incredibly illegitimate, …It applies to the military, it applies to most things. I’ve seen our society say that, well, if you provide people the information and knowledge that they can become skilled and that’s what it takes. No, that’s not that’s absolutely not true,” Lechner explained.
The discipline and training Lechner received leading up to the raid, is exactly what prepared him to be able to push through, and be here to tell the story. “Everything I wanted to do was go on that mission. And so I was honored to be there..It was our training. It was what we were focused on. This is what we do. We’re 100% committed to it no matter what the outcome. And when those circumstances turned into such a huge battle and such odds against us. We just had to fall back on that training and that discipline and then that cohesion, we felt for each other.” Lechner explained.
As a military historian, and highly accomplished veteran, Lechner’s book gives insight into the combat mindset, and the thought processes that are able to allow soldiers to be successful. He explains, “ One of the themes of the book, you gotta rely on your training and discipline because you can’t depend on your thought process, in a situation like that. It’s just too instinctive. It’s happening too fast. There’s too much adrenaline and fear and, and chaos and violence going on to deal with to cognitively process it.”
This book has been a working effort, not just words on a page for Lechner as he works through the thoughts, emotions and events that go down in military history as the deadliest U.S battle since Vietnam.
“It’s hard to put that into perspective for people because it’s so experience based. You can describe it people can cognitively grasp what you’re talking about. You really cannot comprehend it until you experience it,” said Lechner.
Lechners service did not end when he retired from the US Army after 27 years of service and eight operational deployments. He is devoted to military history as he currently serves as a War correspondent for Newsmax, where he has played a role in providing context to on ground conflicts in the Ukraine.
“The reason for the book is to remember heroes and why they are heroic and to understand that these institutions that we’ve had and institutional approaches that we’ve had that Marxism is now destroying, there’s a reason for them, and they’re important.” said Lechner.
With My Shield: The experience of an Army Ranger in Somalia, can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and on Audible.
Authored by Haley Havelock