The Tactical and Technical contributions of CW4 Clifton P. Wolcott to Army Aviation of the future cannot be overstated. However, the spirit of Army Aviation, present and future is what CW4 Wolcott really embodied. A spirit for mission accomplishment based on sound principles coupled with valor.
Enlisting in the Army in 1976 at the age of 19 he received his wings in 1980 and was assigned to the 229th Attack Helicopter Battalion. Already his personal courage, which he would display in numerous occasions later in his career, was evident when he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for saving the life of his co-pilot in an AH-1 crash.
In 1984 he was selected for Task Force 160 where he served as an MH-60 SOF Assault IP. His exceptional grasp of both the mission requirement and the equipment available led to his innovative use of night vision goggles and the development of an SOP for overwater operations. CW4 Wolcott’s first combat operational experience was during PRIME CHANCE in 1987-89. His overwater techniques and tactics were adopted by all the Army Aviation Units involved. In 1989, he again saw combat as a Flight Lead responsible for combat assaults during JUST CAUSE.
In addition to his duties as Flight Lead and unit IP, he became the unit’s only gunnery standardization IP for the new MH-60 DAP. As such, he trained and evaluated the initial aircrew in the execution of armed helicopter operations. The aircraft was the first deployed during DESERT STORM in 1991 and received its baptism by fire during deep penetrations into the Iraqi desert. These clandestine missions are still classified but the success of the effort was testimony to the planning and training of which CW4 Wolcott was such a critical part. He was, as Flight Lead, awarded the Silver Star for his heroism and later recognized as the Special Operations Aviator of the Year for his Technical and Tactical contributions.
CW4 Wolcott became the Battalion Standardization IP in 1992 while also serving as the primary joint mission planner for several classified contingency plans. In August 1993 he deployed to Somalia with “Joint Task Force Ranger”. His superb grasp of the tactical situation enabled ground commanders to maximize the use of aviation support. On 3 October 1993, while leading a multi-aircraft flight on the assault of an objective in downtown Mogadishu, his aircraft was struck by an RPG. As his aircraft fell to the ground CW4 Wolcott skillfully maintained what control he could and issued critical instructions to those aboard thus helping to ensure their survival. CW4 Wolcott died as a result of that action and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his gallantry.
He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Air Medal with Valor Device.
Actor Jeremy Piven portrayed Wolcott in the the 2002 film Black Hawk Down. The film was based on the book of the same name by Mark Bowden. While the movie was a tremendous achievement the book far surpasses it. Each of the servicemen who died during the Battle of Mogadishu deserve recognition for their sacrifice. I’m sure I’ll share more names in the future so that they may never be forgotten.
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