Night Stalkers Don't Quit
Over the past few months, I’ve been writing about Special Operation Forces (SOF) entrepreneurs. It has been an awesome journey. I’ve been met with new ideas that challenge the way I think, and the impossibility of staying on a publishing timeline, all the while attempting to grow my brand in a crowded space. Helping others and promoting their businesses is the least that I can do, I owe my community for letting me stay as long as I have.
I’m not entirely sure that my next SOF entrepreneur requires an introduction as he’s a living legend in our community. For those of you not read-on to Task Force Durant, Mike has been a successful aviator in the legendary 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), a Prisoner of War in Mogadishu, an incredibly successful businessman, and a committed husband and father. Now, he’s a candidate for the Republican ballot, for the Senate race in the Great State of Alabama.
I can attest that the folks in the 160th live by the Regimental creed, I wrote about a couple of entrepreneurs recently from that unit here. The final sentence of the 160th Regimental creed is my favorite because it perfectly encapsulates the men and women of that unit;
This is exactly why the entire SOF community is wholly committed to seeing Mike Durant become the next US Senator for Alabama. Mike Durant has lived up to the creed of the 160th. Mike is unapologetically behind former President Trump’s America First policy. From building a southern wall to demanding fair trade with China, fighting unnecessary COVID mandates, being a pro-life candidate, focused on preventing big tech censorship, and a solid supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Mike's platform is deep.
After recovering from the injuries sustained during his captivity, and spending the next eight years in the 160th before leaving the Army, Mr. Durant began working for a few years in the private sector. In 2008, Mr. Durant decided to go out on his own, creating Pinnacle Solutions Inc. Pinnacle Solutions is a “leading innovator, developer, and provider of defense and aerospace products and services”. Since 2008, Pinnacle Solutions has grown to roughly 500 employees and 100 million dollars in revenue. Pinnacle Solutions focuses on aviation maintenance and operations services, aircraft modernization and sales, engineering, development, and light manufacturing. The company also assists in developing technical publications for domestic and international customers. Not bad for an Uber of the Sky pilot.
In 2022, he entered a new fight. One with far fewer boundaries but just as dirty. Can you imagine someone claiming that Mike Durant is anti-second amendment? The suggestion is comical and an obvious political attack, derived from an off-the-cuff comment during a speech about OPERATION GOTHIC SERPENT while on stage at the U.S Army War College in 2011. Mike was speaking about the hornet’s nest that was Mogadishu. I think that everyone in political campaigns expects a little mud to be slung, but from an education standpoint, this one is a little slimy. He was speaking to a group of Colonels as a part of their professional military education. Discussions, presentations, and lectures are, from an educational perspective, non-attributable. Taking an ad-lib comment, during a lecture in an educational setting, is disingenuous.
It’s also easy to sharpshoot a decade later. Mogadishu was the most dangerous place in the world. We sent our folks into that city, costing 19 American fatalities, 73 wounded, and one Prisoner of War. With almost two decades in Special Forces and over twenty deployments, and five combat tours, even I couldn’t begin to imagine the horror that took place during that single operation. But it’s 2022 now and we are irritated by supply chain delays and left lane drivers, a space in time where absolutely no one is shooting RPG-7s at you. I wouldn’t begin to compare my experiences with anyone else’s, however; I know from my own personal experience, that you cannot unsee what you have been through. Being taken out of context is the new enemy from a population that can’t empathize with our wartime experiences. Rather, our lives become a punchline for the elite. Mike’s political adversaries have spent their adult lives tied to politics. His one opponent has a silver spoon in her mouth, having only been a staffer or lobbyist. Mike Durant has worked for all that he has. How dare she take a military speech out of context for political gain.
The folks that initiated this smear have obviously never served in the military, risked their lives in combat to save others, survived being a prisoner of war, or been beaten to an inch of their lives. Mike did all of that, only to return with honor, build a company that values the community in Alabama, and resume the American way of life. To claim that Mike Durant isn’t a national treasure is to spit in the faces of those that have sacrificed all those things. I have friends throughout the military, both active duty and retired, that will proclaim that you would be hard-pressed to find soldiers that grew up in the 160th that weren’t the most committed Americans in the U.S. Army. Mike Durant is a great example of that commitment; he’s committed to everything that he does. It is unbelievable to me that career politicians would attack Mike Durant’s Second Amendment credibility because Mike’s a Night Stalker, and Night Stalkers Don't Quit.
I have fantastic memories of working with every Battalion from the 160th. Looking back, it becomes difficult to differentiate between all the missions, some stand out more than others. On one flight returning to our Forward Operating Base (FOB), my team was returning with a couple more passengers than when we had started. We had expected some pretty heavy resistance so I had carried a machine gun, but the weight of it, added with additional passengers, had left little room and my legs had fallen asleep (and I mean, dead asleep). The problem was that I didn’t know it, yet. The expert pilots, like always, got us back safe and sound and moved us to the drop-off point. Once we came to a stop, my team stepped off the bird, taking the detainees with them. I attempted to follow the last man off but I quickly found that my legs didn’t work. The horror about to happen was elevated as my upper body had already committed to getting off the bird because of the additional weight of the belt-fed machine gun and I ended up falling out of the helicopter, face-planting onto the tarmac. I picked myself up, picked up my machine gun, then my pride, and began hobbling off the runway. To my right, I saw the crew chief smiling. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw both pilots turn and grin. All the men aboard this bird had similar experiences and felt my pain. I saw the crew chief attempt to get out and help but I was already limping away. This was the unit of Mike Durant. I wasn’t about to show these pilots’ weakness. I did my best to put one boot in front of the other without actually feeling my legs. I passed the bird and took a wobbled knee, indicating that my pride needed to rest and for them to leave. Later, I saw one of the pilots speaking with my Team Sergeant, both smiling and giving the Dutch and Dillon handshake from Predator. I politely waited for the pilot to walk away before approaching my Team Sergeant, asking what the pilot had said. Apparently, the pilot wanted to make sure that I was ok and compliment us on an awesome mission.
They are simply the best.
In June 2020, I attended EXOS, a sports performance and physical rehabilitation program in Pensacola, Florida, set up by USSOCOM (unrelated to my faceplant a decade before). It was an awesome month of two-a-day workouts, an hour-long physical therapy treatment conducted by an expert in his field, weekly massages, the nutritionists can go pound sand (thanks for the 1500 calories), recovery baths, you name it, it’s a place for physical rehabilitation. It helped me so much that it inspired me to start my own non-profit, 18 Series Foundation, dedicated to getting more SOF to EXOS (more on that in future SITREPs). My birthday landed on one of those weekends and my awesome friend, Joe King (depicted in the picture on Mike Durant’s left), invited me up to Birmingham.
Joe is the Business Development Manager for Beretta USA, an expert on all things firearms. A former Special Operations Combat Flight Medic with the 160th, and likely the funniest person that I know (his wife is a saint). It makes perfect sense that Joe ended up working at Beretta, the company that makes functional works of art.
I took the long way to Birmingham, from Pensacola, because I wanted to see Alabama. I’m glad I did. I met dozens of great Americans in Birmingham. Everyone I met was super friendly and polite, had some awesome chow, and ended up buying a Tikka rifle at a local gun store, Marks Outdoors. After one of the most memorable weekends of my life, I hit the road, headed south on Highway 65, only to find my next true love, Dill Pickle Cashews (not a word of a lie, I took a picture and posted it to my personal Instagram so it’s time-stamped!).
Remember in June of 2020, we were in the thick of COVID crackdowns. I appreciated Florida and ALL OF Alabama protecting their citizens from the popular political expedient choice of impeding on personal liberty and crushing small businesses (that other states were triumphantly imposing). I chalk that up to a strong resilient southern will and genuine State leadership. This election has been nothing short of phenomenal with folks from each of the SOF branches running for political office; Night Stalkers, Green Berets, SEALs, Combat Craft Crewmen, and Air Force Special Operators; all running for local, state, and federal offices. It feels as if we were all distracted by the two wars that we were fighting, only to return home to find the Legislative branch having been taken over by dramatic children who can’t, or won’t, get along. The country deserves better than that.
Joe was recently on the range in Birmingham with Mike and another Night Stalker and great American, Nathan Hunt. Nathan who owns HDC Hunt and is a former MH-60 crew chief, Mike, an MH-60 pilot, and Joe, the single best trauma medic in the sky, made for an awesome trio of varied military and life experiences, but they all appreciated the firearms laid out on the table in front of them. While Mike could have brought his extensive arsenal of firearms, Birmingham is Joe’s backyard, leaving Joe ecstatic to bring his extensive collection for the three of them to shoot. I asked Joe what Mike wanted to shoot first and he said that Mike was drawn to the MP-5 on the table. Mike said, “I haven’t seen one of these in a while”. Joe said frankly, “and by that, he meant, he was shooting it in defense of his own life the last time he held one.” The trio spent the morning on the range shooting targets, clay pigeons, speaking about firearms, the 160th, life in Alabama, and the upcoming election.
The Alabama State motto is ‘We Dare Defend Our Rights’. The citizens of Alabama live up to that motto every day and based on the living legend that the SOF community believes that he is, Mike Durant is the US Senator that you want, and the one that we all need.
As I sit with my boys watching Rise of the Jedi for the seven thousandth time while writing this week’s SITREP, it makes me think of a quote that Maj. Dick Winters famously said in Band of Brothers;
That’s what I think about Mike Durant.
Please share this as widely as possible, especially in the Great State of Alabama. Thank you for reading.
Always forward – Matt
Next SITREP - Into the Breach