The headquarters building for Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, was dedicated to Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson on Tuesday, five years to the day of the ambushed mission that took the lives of Johnson and three other U.S. soldiers in Niger.
Johnson, Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Staff Sgt. Bryan Black were killed Oct. 4, 2017, near Tongo Tongo, Niger, returning from a mission alongside 30 Nigerien partnered forces. The group was ambushed by small-arms fire, rocket propelled grenades and technical vehicles by approximately 50 Islamic State militants.
“I am so proud of what my son did,” Debra Gannon, Johnson’s mother said in an interview with Army Times following the ceremony.
“I would give anything in the world to have him back and have none of this out there but it happened and I can’t do anything to change that, and the fact that they are honoring him, in this way, I am more than proud — the pride that I have in my son is beyond words,” she said.
The move to name the headquarters building after Johnson — who of the four killed was the only soldier assigned to GSB — has been in the works for more than a year, Capt. Nicholas Erikson, a public affairs officer for 3rd Group told Army Times.
“Members of GSB lobbied to name the building after Jeremiah Johnson — who was assigned to GSB’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Reconnaissance Detachment — was killed in action,” Erikson said.
All four soldiers killed in the ambush have also been memorialized with stones on the Group Memorial Walk and have plaques commemorating their lives and sacrifice inside the 3rd Group headquarters building, he added.
The fifth anniversary and the dedication ceremony were also observed with a memorial ruck run hosted by the soldiers of GSB. They will “always remember Jeremiah and continue to tell his story,” GSB commander Lt. Col. Michael E. Ashton said of the dedication.
The Niger ambush has been the source of great controversy for the Army. Originally, statements from top military brass placed the blame for the botched mission on the soldiers themselves.
Top leaders — including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford and U.S. Africa Command boss Gen. Thomas Waldhauser — repeatedly told the families and the media that the men weren’t properly prepared.
The team leader, Capt. Michael Perozeni, shouldered much of the blame for the ambush until it was revealed that he asked not to continue the mission after the helicopter assault force they were supporting unexpectedly pulled out due to weather issues, according to the redacted investigation.
Perozeni was concerned because his team had been up for 18 hours and still had to travel 25 kilometers through difficult terrain under limited visibility to conduct the raid on their own, the investigation stated. Despite the concerns, the team was directed by their battalion commander in Chad to continue the mission anyway.
“I am glad that they are getting word out there about what happened that day, and that more and more people are finding out the truth and that the blame is taken off of those boys, because that hurt me beyond words,” Gannon said.
“My son was one hell of a soldier.”
For their actions that day, both La David Johnson and Jeremiah Johnson received Silver Stars and were made honorary Green Berets. Wright was also awarded the Silver Star, and Black received a Bronze Star with Valor device.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and a master's candidate at New York University's Business & Economic Reporting program.