2017 San Diego ASMC Professional Development Institute

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More than two dozen finance professionals from the Utah Chapter of American Society of Military Comptrollers spent the first few days of June in San Diego, California, soaking up the knowledge of several experienced presenters.

Keynote speakers included Utah’s own Jason Hewlett, motivational speaker and comedian, and U.S. Army pilot Mike Durant, who was captured and held by Somali militants for 11 days in October 1993. His compelling story is the purpose of this article.

Durant is founder of Pinnacle Solutions, http://pinnaclesolutionsinc.com/, in Huntsville, Alabama, where he now lives. The company’s philosophy is “Mission First, People Always.” This thinking has grown from his Army experiences.

Many have seen Hollywood’s adaptation of the Somali mission, the objective of which was to arrest two top lieutenants of the warlord Mohammed Aidid, who controlled the city. “They estimated it would take 30 minutes to 45 minutes to conduct the raid, but things did not go well,” says journalist Mark Bowden, who reported on the events of that day.

Although these types of raids are practiced and rehearsed, Durant learned that success is accomplished only when everyone performs their duty. He now teaches that mission success synchronizes six critical elements: the people involved, their leadership, appropriate resources, necessary tactics (which he defines as ‘how it is done,’ the processes and procedures involved), sufficient training, and last but definitely not least, planning.

These steps brought Durant success in Manuel Noriega’s Panama, in the Gulf War, in Iraqi Freedom, and almost in Mogadishu. He feels that it is important to learn from mistakes in order to save lives and defend our values. It has been said that the Warfighter on the front line is always right and the rear echelon (assumed to mean Washington leadership) is always wrong until proven otherwise. In Mogadishu, the politics were pushing toward withdrawal. The request for additional resources, one of the critical elements, was denied because it was felt devoting more resources to the fight would send the wrong message. Because resources were withheld, even with all the other spokes in the wheel performing flawlessly, fate snatched success from this operation. This “mistake” cost the lives of 18 servicemen and 5 Black Hawks.

While Durant survived, he paid a heavy price. The broken femur and back were exacerbated by the Somali’s beating his face and shattering his eye socket. These injuries resulted in him being deemed unfit to fly, thus sapping his livelihood as well as his hopes. While he could not walk, his drive and determination helped him resolve to run the Marine marathon. 

His training in uniform conditioned him to believe he could not quit. After months of surgeries, therapy, and training, he completed a marathon in 3 hours 37 minutes. He took this win, as evidence of his recovery, to the Army and demanded his cockpit back. He then flew for five more years until HE chose to retire.

The moral of this lesson is that every player is important, from the the waterboy to the team owner. Success as a team will always be fleeting unless each of us takes our duties to heart. To join our team, please visit our website at http://www.asmconline.org/membership.