HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The journey of Mike Durant and the mission that his Special Operations unit was part of in Somalia is well documented in the movie “Black Hawk Down.”
“The most notable one is obviously Somalia, the whole Black Hawk Down story,” explained retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mike Durant. “There’s a lot more to it than just that one event, and it changed my life and I’m fortunate to have experienced all that.”
Durant piloted a Black Hawk helicopter that was shot down during the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993. He lost his crew. His Special Operations aviation unit was deployed to Somalia in August 1993 to assist U.S forces that had been engaged in the country for months prior.
“That’s the hardest part, the goal is that everyone comes back and that’s the hardest part. Unfortunately, that’s not always how it plays out,” he said.
Durant was wounded and kept as a prisoner of war for 11 days.
“It’s a horrible story because of all the losses that were suffered, but there’s also a very positive aspect about it. You know how dedicated all the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines that were involved were to each other and that to me is the real essence of the story – the sacrifice and the professionalism of all of those amazing warriors,” said Durant.
Durant shared some of the worst moments of his life with the rest of the world, and the story of he and his unit was reported on and eventually made into a movie.
“To not talk about it, to me, implies that there is something there that we want to hide or that we’re embarrassed about and I’m not. I’m proud to have served with every single one of them and I know that mission didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. So many others did and that’s what I like to focus on.”
Durant recovered from his injuries, which meant his contributions to the unit changed, but he was still able to serve another eight years with his unit before retiring.
“I just loved what I did. I loved the unit. If I could’ve done exactly what I did before Somalia after Somalia I would have, but I couldn’t because of my injuries. I could still contribute and be a part of the organization, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Retirement from the military led Durant down another road – one that still allows him to be around helicopters. Now a well known and established member of the Huntsville community, Durant is President and CEO of Pinnacle Solutions, a training systems and service company.
“We’re more on the services side, so we fly aircraft for the military, we maintain aircraft, we fly unmanned systems, and we even fly the CV-22 tilt rotor for Air Force Special Operations Command.”
“I just had the right combinations of experience in the military and I got into acquisition a little bit while I was still on active duty.”
Durant said he views his time in the service and his civilian career as two different lives, but the memory of the teammates and friends he lost on that mission in Africa never fade.
“The impact is not just certainly on me, it’s mostly on their family and those they left behind.”
And Veterans Day is just another time to recognize those who sacrificed everything.
“When you think about the entire body of work and the sacrifice that’s been made by veterans of this great nation, it’s almost impossible to comprehend – its gigantic numbers and gigantic sacrifice.”
Durant received the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Distinguished Service Medal for his service and sacrifice.