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Michael Durant is the author of the New York Times best-seller In the Company of Heroes. His lectures are moving and heart-racing accounts of life in the line of fire and speaks volumes about the significance in fighting to create a better world community.
Little did retired Chief Warrant Officer Four Michael J. Durant know when he entered the United States Army in 1979 that one day he would be the target of a Somali-fired grenade launcher, a prisoner of war, and the subject of an acclaimed book and major motion picture. The story of Black Hawk Down is a tense one, and Durant talks vividly about his experience as a soldier and as a hostage, and what it has taught him about being an American and a leader. An inspirational speaker, he illustrates the power of teamwork, leadership, and change through awe-inspiring stories and captivating visuals.
One of a few good men. Following basic training, Durant attended the Defense Language Institute, and got assigned to the 470th Military Intelligence Group in Fort Clayton, Panama, as a Spanish voice intercept operator. He then completed helicopter flight training at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Upon appointment to Warrant Officer One in 1983, he completed the UH60 Blackhawk Qualification Course and was assigned to the 377th Medical Evacuation Company in Seoul, Korea. His next assignment was with the 101st Aviation Battalion, where he performed duties as an instructor pilot, and he learned the importance of leadership at an early age. Durant joined the 160th Special Operations Group in 1988. Assigned to D company, he performed duties as Flight Lead and Standardization Instructor Pilot. He participated in combat operations Prime Chance (Persian Gulf in 1989), Just Cause (Panama invasion in 1989), Desert Storm (Liberation of Kuwait in 1991), and Gothic Serpent (Somalia in 1993).
On October 3, 1993, while piloting an MH60 Blackhawk in Mogadishu, Somalia, his craft was blasted off course by an enemy grenade, and sent hurtling out of the sky. With his leg broken and his rescuers shot down, Durant was taken captive by hostile forces for 11 excruciating days before his release. His story is the inspiration behind the best-selling book and Academy Award-winning film Black Hawk Down.
Leading and motivating from experience. Today Durant is the president and chief executive officer of Pinnacle Solutions. He has a bachelor of science degree in professional aeronautics and a master of business administration in aviation degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
A master aviator, qualified in the UH-1 Huey, MH-6 Loach, and MH-60A, L, and K models of the Blackhawk, he has clocked a total of 3,700 flight hours with over 1,400 under night-vision goggles. A highly decorated soldier, his awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Star with Valor device, Meritorious Service Medal, three Air Medals, one with Valor device, the POW/MIA ribbon, the Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart. Durant was just inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame.
Leadership, Organizational Effectiveness, Applying Lessons Learned, and Surviving Adversity
The presentation offers a fast-paced look at U.S. Special Operations. It includes a brief overview of this unique organization and a discussion of the fundamental elements that put the individuals in it at the very top of their game. Emphasis is placed on organizational effectiveness and the role of leaders in taking responsibility for both the short term and long-term success of any organization. In addition to leadership, other key areas of emphasis include providing the proper resources, processes and procedures, training, planning, and continuous assessment at both the organizational and individual level. The U.N. mission in Somalia is used as a case study to highlight how integral each of these areas is to the success of any undertaking. Lessons learned are discussed as well as an overview of which of these lessons can be applied to other organizations. As the sole survivor of the firefight at crash site two during the infamous Blackhawk Down mission, Durant also has the unique first-hand insight into the personal challenges involved in preparing for and surviving the extreme. His personal story of survival highlights the discussion. Following the presentation, the audience is encouraged to participate in an optional question and answer session.
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