Nat Geo No Man Left Behind, the Real Black Hawk Down

Mike Durant: Nat Geo Channel's No Man Left Behind

Mike Durant, was the pilot of the downed helicopter and held captive for 11 torturous days. Nat Geo Channel’s No Man Left Behind

Military series premieres on Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 at 9pm ET/PT

By Gabrielle Pantera

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Daily Star) 6/28/2016 – “Black Hawk Down, when we first heard about it, the movie not the book, you know we were all concerned, how is this going to turn out,” says No Man Left Behind chief warrant officer Mike Durant, He’s the pilot who was held captive for eleven days. “Some films are horrible, and they don’t represent what happened at all, and none of us want to take ownership of it, and we wish it would have never been done. And there’s always that concern that that’s the way it’s going to turn out. But it actually turned out pretty well.”

This new Nat Geo series explores the military tradition of not leaving any man behind. The first episode is The Real Black Hawk Down, the true-life story about the shooting down of two Black Hawk helicopters in Mogadishu during a battle between U.S. forces and Somali militia. For the first time, the pilot and two of the soldiers from the battle  are reunited and recount the intense details of one of the most desperate situations in U.S. military history since the Vietnam War.

“My personal perspective on it was I was concerned about going to see it, because I wasn’t sure what my reaction would be,” says Durant. “I mean, I’m going to watch my friends lose their lives on screen. And I didn’t go. I waited probably six months. It was a premiere. I didn’t attend. I just waited, until one morning, I woke up, and I felt, you know what, I think I’m ready to watch it. So I went to watch it. I brought a friend with me, and it didn’t bother me. And the only explanation that I have is, as I’m watching the film, these are actors. I mean, this is not real to me. When I was watching the beach scene in Saving Private Ryan, I’m ripping the arms off the chair, because I feel like I’m there. But watching Black Hawk Down, it’s not real, because those are not the real people…because I was there. So for me, anyway, the reaction to it was not nearly as significant as I thought it would be.”

“I was talking about it earlier, that there were moments of sheer terror, where I was sure I was going to die, that the next few moments were the end of my life, and there were moments where I actually laughed in captivity,” says Durant. “The treatment was very hostile initially, and I think that’s because at that point in the mission, Somalis had become very anti American, at least the supporters of General Adid, had become very anti-American. So I’m in their hands, and I represent everything bad in their life, is the way that I always characterize it. But as they got to know me better, things improved, and they became more human and treated me a little bit better. So as one might expect, they started to understand me better, I started to understand them better and sort of the human aspect of it took over.”

“The president sent former Ambassador Robert Oakley over to get me released, and I met with Ambassador Oakley a couple of times, and he told me the story, firsthand,” says Durant. “You have two choices: Your first choice is let him go, unconditionally, within 48 hours. Your second choice is, don’t.” And as Ambassador Oakley was talking, all of the assets that we had previously asked for to support the mission, the AC 130’s, carrier battle group, 10,000 troops, tanks, personal carriers, all the things that had been denied us, were brought in and were sitting on the airfield. So not only did Robert Oakley have tremendous capability as a person, but he had the credibility of the US military behind him, and the Somalis realized it was in their best interest to let me go, and they did.”

“I stayed 22 years in the military,” says Durant. “It was who I was. It was in my DNA. I loved the unit, I loved the mission, and I didn’t want to give it up. So I stayed I retired in 2001 so eight more years. And since then, I’ve actually started my own business and own an Aerospace company, supporting NASA, the Air Force, and Special Operations.”

“You’re taught from the day you enter the Ranger residence, the day you enter the 160th, especially the operations units, you are taught, take care of each other,” says former Sergeant, Keni Thomas who was involved in the Black Hawk Dawn battle. “Take care of this guy on your left. Take care of this person on your right. You’re responsible for them. That’s a heck of a responsibility to put on a 20 year-old kid and say, “Lives are in your hands.” But you start buying into that, and they tell you every day. And when you get told something every day and you say it every day, you start believing it. And you start believing that we are our brother’s keeper, and that I am responsible for these people. So it’s not even a question, “Hey, No Man Left Behind. Well, what are my options? And somebody ought to do something about that.” It’s not even a question. It’s just an absolute, because it’s been drilled into you, and you just that’s who you are, that I will be there if you’re in trouble, and I’m not going to leave you to fall into the hands of the enemy, under no circumstances. It’s not even a question.”

Twitter: @NatGeoChannel, #NoManLeftBehind, @NGC_PR

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