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‘Black Hawk Down’ pilot discusses time as POW, value of perseverance

  • Berlin native Mike Durant talks at Concord High School on Friday about being a POW after being shot down in the ‘€˜Black Hawk Down’ firefight in 1993 in Somalia. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Berlin native Mike Durant talks at Concord High School on Friday about being a POW after being shot down in the ‘€˜Black Hawk Down’€ firefight in 1993 in Somalia. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Berlin native Mike Durant to Concord High students  on Friday, February 9, 2018 about being a POW after being shot down in the ‘Black Hawk Down’ firefight back in 1993 in Somalia. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Berlin native Mike Durant talks at Concord High School on Friday about being a POW after being shot down in the ‘Black Hawk Down’ firefight in 1993 in Somalia. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Friday, February 09, 2018

Mike Durant had lots of opportunities to give up.

He could have given up when the special operations Black Hawk helicopter he was piloting in 1993 crashed in a Somalian warzone where he was held as a prisoner of war.

He could have given up when he was rescued 11 days later, and military officials told him that due to the severity of his injuries – a crushed vertebrae and a broken leg, nose and eye socket – he could no longer fly planes.

But the Berlin native didn’t give up, not any of those times.

Ten months after returning to the United States, Durant ran the Marine Corps Marathon. He applied for a waiver to return as a pilot, and served in the sky another five years.

“There’s a whole box full of excuses if you want to use them in a tough situation,” Durant said to an audience of students at Concord High School on Friday. “But they’re not going to get you anywhere.”

You’ve got to persevere to overcome adversity, Durant said. Even when the easiest choice is to give up.

“If you play the victim card, you’re not going to get there,” he said.

Durant has received a Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross and a Distinguished Service Medal for his actions in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. His experienced also inspired the 2001 film Black Hawk Down and his book, In the Company of Heroes.

Unexpected turbulence

Durant was part of a special operations unit that was deployed to war-torn Somalia in the summer of 1993 to capture the leader of a Somali clan named Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

Durant’s job was to drop off a group of army rangers in the war zone. He was waiting to pick them up again when he saw that the battle had intensified.

He moved toward the fighting to provide support, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the tail of his helicopter, causing it to spin out of control.

The only option in that scenario was to shut down the helicopter’s engine, and spiral 70 feet to the ground, where hundreds of Somali fighters were waiting.

“I was thinking, there’s nothing I can do, there’s no help coming, this is the end of my life,” he said.

The other passengers on the helicopter and two delta force soldiers that came to defend the crashed Black Hawk were all killed in fighting, Durant said. Bruised and bloodied, Durant was taken prisoner, where he was questioned and beaten for 11 days before being rescued by U.S. forces.

New Hampshire roots

Durant was a guest speaker at Concord High School to a group of civics and criminal justice students in the Concord Regional Technical Center on Friday. His lecture was a part of a program where community members talk to students about working in the field, CRTC teacher Gail Beaudin said.

Beaudin said Durant’s talk was a highlight of the program.

“Today tops everything,” Beaudin said as she introduced Durant to the room full of students. “You’ll never get this close to a hero ever again in your life.”

Durant said he had dreamed of being a pilot almost all of his life, dating back to the first time he saw a Black Hawk helicopter at the National Guard base in Concord as a young boy.

He had the opportunity to learn from a family friend, who flew planes, and graduated from flight school at 22.

Durant has since moved away from New Hampshire, and now runs his own business building military training simulators, Pinnacle Solutions, in Alabama. But he still has roots in the state.

Durant will be playing in the Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament in Concord this weekend for the sixth year in the row.

He urged students to examine their passions, and try to take them to the next level.

“You were born in the right place,” he said. “There are opportunities here for you to go out and do the things you want to do – you’ve just got to go after it.”