Michael Durant was the first helicopter pilot to engage a SCUD missile launcher during Operation DESERT STORM. Born on July 23, 1961, Durant was the son of a full-time First Sergeant in the Army National Guard and grew up in Berlin, New Hampshire. His interest in flying started at the age of 14. His father's friend, a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Four, owned an air transport business and took Durant on a ferry flight in a helicopter. A few years later he brought Durant to a National Guard base to see the Army's newest platform-the UH-60 Blackhawk.
That day changed Durant's life forever. He realized his future was in flying, and he enlisted in the United States Army in August 1979. Following basic training, he attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, for intensive Spanish language training. Durant's next assignment was with the 470th Military Intelligence Group, Fort Clayton, Panama, as a Spanish voice intercept operator. As a pilot candidate in 1983, he flew the TH-55 trainer and UH-1 helicopters during flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Upon appointment to Warrant Officer One in November 1983, he completed the UH-60 Blackhawk Qualification Course and received orders to the 377th Medical Evacuation Company, Seoul, Korea. By the time he was 24, he had flown over 150 medevac missions in the UH-1 and UH-60.
After 18 months he transitioned to the 101st Aviation Battalion, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. As a Chief Warrant Officer Two, he attended the instructor pilot course and flew air assault missions in the UH-60. Durant joined the newly formed 160th Special Operations Group in June 1988. He performed duties as a Flight Lead and Standardization Instructor Pilot in combat operations such as PRIME CHANCE (Persian Gulf, 1989), JUST CAUSE (Panama Invasion, 1989), DESERT STORM (Liberation of Kuwait, 1991), and GOTHIC SERPENT (Somalia, 1993). On October 3, 1993, while piloting an MH-60 Blackhawk in Mogadishu, Somalia, he and the crew of Super 64 were shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade.
He gained worldwide notoriety when the Somali National Alliance held him captive for 11 days, and his face was featured on magazines and TV screens worldwide. After his repatriation, Durant recovered quickly and continued to fly with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). After 21 ½ years of active duty service, he retired as an Army master aviator with more than 3,700 flight hours, over 1,400 of which were flown under night vision goggles. He was qualified in the UH-1, MH-6, and MH-60A/L/K.
He earned the Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star with Valor device, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, three Air Medals (one with Valor device), the POW/MIA ribbon, the Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, and numerous other awards. He is the author of the New York Times Bestseller In the Company of Heroes and currently works as the Program Manager for Rockwell Collins Simulation and Training Solutions. Michael and his wife Lisa have six children-four boys and two girls.
In February 1991, Mike Durant led a flight of 160th SOAR(A) special operations MH-60 Blackhawks on an "armed reconnaissance" mission to find and destroy SCUDs in the western desert of Iraq. He was the first helicopter pilot during Operation DESERT STORM to locate and engage an enemy SCUD missile launcher.