Mike Durant is a prime example of an individual who took a terrible situation and turned it into a positive life experience.
He’s the real “Black Hawk Down” pilot shot down and captured during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. Today, he credits his harrowing ordeal for his success in business and his personal life.
Durant — a young chief warrant officer at the time — was part of a Special Operations aviation unit deployed to Somalia in August 1993 to assist U.S. forces during the peacekeeping mission there. The country was ripping itself apart by clans and militia groups vying for power after strongman, Mohamed Siad Barre’s downfall.
His unit’s objective was to capture Somali clan leader Mohammed Farrah Aidid and to provide security to relief organizations trying to aid the starving locals. As a result, Durant’s team had several successful operations, capturing about two dozen warlords.
Related: Hussein Farrah Aidid left the Marine Corps to become a warlord like his father, Mohamed Farrah Aidid
But everything went pear shaped on October 3, 1993, while providing air support to the troops hunting Aidid’s senior militia leaders. A man on a rooftop fired a rocket-propelled grenade at Durant’s slow-moving UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter causing it to spin toward the earth from 70 feet in the air.
“In my mind, I died,” Durant told National Geographic. “When we crashed, I was knocked unconscious, and I think psychologically that was the end for me.”
Durant had been trained at survival, evasion, resistance and escape school, but nothing could compare to the real experience. He’s thankful to Delta Force operators and Medal of Honor recipients Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart for sacrificing their lives while attempting to rescue him. He almost suffered the same fate but was taken prisoner instead.
“I have tried to raise the bar on myself, elevate my game, do things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t had that experience,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of things that stray outside the lines for me, but I did them because I realize I already have a second chance, I’m not going to have a third. So, I’m going to take full advantage of what’s been offered to me.”
Watch Durant explain his mission, captivity, and how it turned his life around:National Geographic, YouTube