Michael Durant became interested in flying when his father’s friend took him on a ferry flight in a helicopter. Durant later enlisted in the Army in 1979. After completing basic training, he was assigned to the Defense Language Institute to learn Spanish. He was then assigned to the 470th Military Intelligence Group based in Panama as a Spanish voice intercept operator. Durant also attended flight school in Fort Rucker, Ala., flying TH-55 and UH-1 helicopters. Upon his graduation in 1983, he was appointed as chief warrant officer and was assigned to the 377th Medical Evacuation Company in Seoul, South Korea.
Durant flew over 150 medical evacuation missions while in South Korea before transferring to the 101st Aviation Battalion at Fort Campbell, Ky., in June 1984. Four years later, he joined the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell.
In August 1988, Durant deployed to Iran for Operation Prime Chance to protect U.S. oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. And he participated in the U.S. invasion of Panama in December 1989 and Operation Desert Storm in January 1991.
The Battle of Mogadishu
It was in 1993 that Durant’s life would change. He deployed to Somalia as part of the special forces operations in Somalia. During the Battle of Mogadishu, Durant piloted an MH-60 Blackhawk when it was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade. Despite the helicopter’s crash, Durant survived and defended himself with an MP5 submachine gun with the help of Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart and Master Sergeant Gary Gordon. After Shughart and Gordon were killed, Durant was taken prisoner by enemy forces. He was held in captivity for 11 days. Durant’s experiences in Somalia were later portrayed in the 2001 film Black Hawk Down.
After being released from captivity, Durant recuperated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, but quickly returned to flight status and continued flying missions for the 160th Aviation Regiment. Durant logged more than 3,700 flight hours before his retirement in 2001. For his service, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star with Valor device, the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, three Air Medals, including one with Valor device; the POW Medal and the Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
Durant is the owner, president and CEO of Pinnacle Solutions, an engineering services company based in Huntsville, Ala., which specializes in aviation training and the development of sophisticated training devices such as aircraft simulators.
Thank you for your service!
Writers: Slavic Yezersky and Sarah Concepcion
Editor: Vincent Tran
Graphics: Rey Leal