By GREG MARKLEY
On Oct. 3, 1993, I was in Hohenfels, Germany. We were in the “maneuver box” playing a war game. A crony of mine said: “This place is muddy, freezing, wet, full of snow and dark practically all day. That must be why they call it Hell.” A few minutes later, I plugged in a small black-and-white TV that we illegally took to the field. (You know how bold and headstrong journalists are.)
On TV were scenes of Operation Gothic Serpent, to capture a Somali warlord. Video showed heavy fighting and a U.S. helicopter down as bodies of soldiers were dragged on streets. An American pilot appeared on TV, with a face full of scrapes and abrasions. His name: Michael Durant, a warrant officer who would endure a Hell that would make Hohenfels seem like Disneyworld.
Almost 30 years later, Durant finds himself in a close three-way contest for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator in Alabama. He was never enticed to be a politician, despite many people wishing he were a candidate due to his courage, business acumen and patriotism. So what propelled him into politics?
“The way the Afghanistan withdrawal ended really upset me,” Durant said. “We should have stood our ground there and at least kept a small presence. It is a frustrating thing to see — I have a military intelligence background and know that when you get a strategic presence you don’t throw it all away.”
I told him frankly that I knew he would have a visceral reaction to hear that perhaps thousands of American embassy workers and allies of the U.S. were stranded or even murdered because they were identified with the Americans. “Yes, seeing that disaster on TV made me more emotional than I thought, seeing our soldiers giving heart and soul into Afghanistan and having it end that way.”
The Battle of Mogadishu, part of the 1993 Somalia operation, was a failure. Reinforcements were desperately called for but came too late. The Clinton administration and the United Nations were too indecisive or slow-acting to get more airpower so foot soldiers were either killed or as in Durant’s case, captured.
A native of Berlin, NH, Durant served as an enlisted soldier and attended the Defense Language Institute and worked in military intelligence. Later, he completed helicopter flight training at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Eventually, as a warrant officer he participated in Operations Prime Chance (Persian Gulf), Just Cause (Panama) Desert Storm (Kuwait Liberation) and Gothic Servant (Somalia).
Durant retired from the Army in 2001 and within a few years established a business called Pinnacle Solutions that today has approximately 600 employees. He enjoys Huntsville and loves Alabama. He supports former President Trump, as Katie Britt does, as well. But Congressman Mo Brooks is the only candidate for the U.S. Senate in this contest who Trump has officially endorsed.
Saying he gets along with people, invariably, Durant added that he “would stand my ground on values, but find ways to move legislation forward.” He declared that his philosophy is not
only “America First” but “Alabama First.” He recognizes that on complex bills, such as in the “Farm Bill” or the Defense Authorization Act, compromise shows it may be possible.
“In the Senate, I would help curtail these ridiculous mandates and regulations,” Durant said. “The paperwork we have related to financial oversight is absurd. Pinnacle offers seminars to military personnel on helicopter maneuvering and Combat Search and Rescue operations. The military is our ‘life blood,’ we are always competing for government contracts.”
He is unhappy about the way the media has traded accuracy for speed, “get it fast and get it first. They don’t tell the truth. You need to check in different sources to get the real story.” Durant did cleverly use his military intelligence background to get “secret” messages out in an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper, while in captivity in Somalia.
For my interview, I met Durant at Montgomery’s Renaissance Hotel. When he told me how good his life is after his harrowing experiences in Somalia in 1993, I saw his Alabama decades as sort of a “renaissance.” I know that word normally applies to a rebirth in the arts, music and literature. The only way he could possibly be uprooted would be if he is reactivated into the Army and is assigned to Hohenfels, Germany. That would be Hell. Trust me.
Facebook: Mike Durant for Senate Web: www.mikedurant.com/
Greg Markley first moved to Lee County in 1996. He has Masters’ in education and history. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to the Observer for 12 years. email@example.com