‘Black Hawk down’ survivor says Jesus is the only Way

Jeff Struecker

By Michael Ashcraft —

What impacted Jeff Struecker most was NOT the thousands of hostile Somalis swarming his Humvee, nor the hailstorm of bullets and RPGs as he attempted to rescue fellow Rangers in the ill-fated 1993 raid of Mogadishu made famous by the movie Black Hawk Down.

What impacted him most was the next October morning back at base when his buddies one by one asked him about death and the afterlife.

“It changed my life forever,” Struecker said at Liberty University in a video posted on YouTube. “I would still be a sergeant in the ranger regiment today if it wasn’t for what I saw the morning after the firefight. It wasn’t really the blood and the bullet holes that had an impact on me. It was back at the base the grown men, some of the toughest warriors on the planet, with tears in their eyes. They said, ‘Jeff, what happened to my best friend who just died last night? Jeff, what happens to me if I get on a helicopter or a Humvee tomorrow and I don’t make it home?’

black hawk down“Almost all of them were saying, ‘Jeff, there was something different about you last night, and I want to know what it was,’” he said. “For the next 24 hours, I had guys lined up to ask me about Jesus Christ because they could see the difference that He makes when you’re getting shot at and when the bullets flying.”

The advice he gave that night did more to direct Struecker’s career than the intensive Ranger training. Seeing a chance to impact the lives of men, Struecker became a chaplain for his same Ranger buddies in the 82 Airborne Division, a post he’s held for more than a decade.

The Ranger/Delta Force mission code-named Operation Gothic Serpent began to go awry when Ranger PFC Todd Blackburn failed his fast-rope drop-in and fell 70 feet to the ground headfirst.

While other Rangers secured the perimeter and Delta Force operators seized two of Mohammed Farrah Aidid’s top lieutenants, the subsequent efforts to rescue the fallen ranger led to two helicopters being shot down and 18 deaths.

The attempt to rescue pilots and rangers from two helicopter crashes led to the casualties and the debacle that forced Defense Secretary Les Aspin to resign.

The U.S. in 1992 was trying to provide free food during acute famine in Somalia at a time when the country was ruled by seven warlords. One of the warlords, Aidid, opposed the international aid and even killed 24 Pakistanis while they distributed food.

In 1993, the U.S. acted on a U.N. resolution and sent a military task force to either capture or kill Aidid and his top advisers. After seven missions, they had seized almost all of Aidid’s leaders. On Oct. 3, they received a tip that two outstanding top leaders were meeting in a building in Aidid’s stronghold; they decided to move in on that fateful Sunday afternoon.

Struecker led a column of Humvees to positions at each of the four corners of the building. Struecker rescued Blackburn, who was unconscious and bleeding through his nose and mouth, and stretchered him to a Humvee that would drive him to the base.

Steering through a narrow alleyway full of potholes, Struecker drove 15-20 miles an hour so he would not jar the injured soldier.

special forces operators
Delta Force special operators deploying from a “Little Bird” helicopter drop in.

Turning a corner, “the entire city erupted with gunfire,” Struecker said. “We were being shot at from a 100 different directions, it seemed like – from rooftops, from alleyways and from doorways and windows. There were rocket propelled grenades and automatic gunfire from AK-47s from 20, 30 feet away.”

Rear gunner Sgt. Dominick Pilla was killed by a militiaman waiting in ambush.

“When I turned and looked over my shoulder, it looked like the whole back of my vehicle had been painted red with Dominick Pilla’s blood,” Struecker said. “I thought I was going to die in the next moments, but then I remembered I was in charge and I needed to get myself under control if I was going to get my men out of there.”

The column of Humvees managed to escape the hostilities in the city and return to the base. Medics and surgeons ran to stretcher in Blackburn. Meanwhile Struecker thanked God that he had gotten out alive.

fast rope
Rangers “fast-roped” in to secure the perimeter of the target building where two Aidid lieutenants were meeting.

“I leaned over the hood of that Humvee completely exhausted, and I said, ‘God, I can’t believe I survived that. I can’t believe that anybody survived that,” Struecker said. “There were thousands of armed Somalis that we just drove through.”

At that moment, the platoon leader informed Stuecker that a Black Hawk helicopter had been shot down, and that the pilot needed Humvees to go rescue him. A special operator counseled him to wash the blood off the Humvee first so as to not terrify the new crew.

“I took buckets and sponges and brushes, and I began to clean Dominick Pilla’s blood off of the back of this Humvee,” Steucker said.

As he washed the Humvee, he experienced convulsions of fear like he had never felt before. “I was totally completely certain that I was going to die,” he said. “And every fiber of my being was saying, ‘No, Jeff, don’t do this. This is crazy. It’s suicide. You’re going to get yourself killed if you go back out there.’

jeff struecker

“I was thinking that as a leader, not only would I get myself killed but I would get every one of my men killed if I went back out there,” he said. “There will be 10 more body bags tomorrow morning if I go back out there.”

But then he remembered he was a Ranger, whose creed is to never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy. As a Christian, he started to pray.

“God I’m in big trouble right now, and I need your help because I’m certain that I’m going to die tonight,” he said.

The Lord brought to his mind the recent Bible devotional about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, Jesus said, “Not my will but yours be done.”

“Jesus, the perfect sinless Son of God, walked into the hands of the enemy and He willingly, freely gave His life up so that your sin and my sin could be dealt with once and for all,” Struecker said. “At the back of that Humvee, I prayed, not my will. From that moment on, God once and for all dealt with that fear. I had no worries about what was going to happen to me that night.”

Rangers and Delta Force operators fought through the night Oct. 13-14, 1993 to save their lives.
Rangers and Delta Force operators fought through the night Oct. 13-14, 1993 to save their lives. Picture from the movie.

He was given no surety that he would survive, but he felt strangely assured that if he died, before his body fell to the ground, his soul would be transported to Heaven.

“I realized if I go home to my family in Georgia or go home to my Father in Heaven, in either case I cannot lose because of what my Savior Jesus Christ had done for me,” Struecker said. “That alone gave me the peace to go back and forth into the streets repeatedly for the rest of the night.”

Meanwhile, dozens of Rangers and Delta Force operators were fighting for their lives, completely surrounded by militiamen. Superior marksmanship and helicopter strafing runs held off the masses attempting to overrun the U.S. soldiers.

Struecker drove back into the maelstrom, dodging burning tires and evading ambushes at every turn. Once an RPG bounced off the hood of his Humvee and exploded against the wall, Gunmen opened fire on him with AK-47s from point blank range, but miraculously no one on his vehicle was injured.

He found half of the assault force in the city, loaded up the soldiers and headed back to the base.

To rescue the second batch of soldiers, Pakistanis and Malaysians joined the effort.  At 11:30 p.m. the convoy left to rescue the rest of the assault force.

In all, U.S. forces suffered 18 deaths and 73 injured. The U.S. left the region shortly afterward  and Aidid was subsequently killed in battles for control of Somalia.

As fallout hit Washington, Les Aspin, U.S. defense secretary, resigned because he had refused requests for tanks and armored vehicles in support of the mission. President Bill Clinton was criticized extensively for abandoning the region before goals were achieved and for failing to recognize the link between Aidid’s forces and Al-qaeda.

After counseling a large number of comrades shaken by death, Struecker realized God had something greater for him than “kicking in doors and slinging lead at the enemies of our country,” he said.

He became a chaplain for his same Ranger regiment.

“Before that night, I thought you could transform the world through military prowess and national power,” Struecker said. “But I realized something in Mogadishu, Somalia: There is only one force great enough to transform the world, and it is the Holy Spirit of the Living God through his Son Jesus Christ.”


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  1. Outstanding testimony. Outstanding soldiers. Outstanding faith. Outstanding Father.
    I am praying that the Holy Spirit within each of God’s children would cover the earth with His Word and His Love

  2. Thank you for this testimony and the truth about what happened. It’s so encouraging to know something good can come from war – salvation, hope, strength, the proof – Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends –
    You are a Hero and your comrades are heroes of faith, duty, honor and all that America is supposed to stand for – exceptional greatness. thank you very very much for your Service to us all!
    Proud to a sold – out Christian American, Lynn Kishaba

  3. Fantastic testimony. So encouraging. On a political note, however, I couldn’t help but notice the difference between this paragraph and our current situation: “As fallout hit Washington, Les Aspin, U.S. defense secretary, resigned because he had refused requests for tanks and armored vehicles in support of the mission. President Bill Clinton was criticized extensively for abandoning the region before goals were achieved and for failing to recognize the link between Aidid’s forces and Al-qaeda.” Some things never change….

  4. Thank you from the depths of my heart for your service to our country, but more pointedly, for your devotion and faith in serving our worthy Lord and Savior Jesus, and the calling He instilled within your soul to this greater battle, which is the battle for the hearts and souls of these great American warriors. I attend Calvary Chapel, Philadelphia, and have had the privilege to hear while in visit to our body, a visiting Lieutenant General William G. Boykin, who has blessed us with testimony of His military service intertwined with the Lord’s work within. Our family is akin to the service to this country, in that my brother served many years for the 82nd Airborne, 5th group, Special Forces, with also lineage within our family leading back to my Fathers first cousin , Brigadier General William S. Carpenter ( my Father’s Father and ‘Billy’s’ Father were brothers), whom we continue to pray for, that the fervent and gracious Spirit of God may also take hold to create the disposition of servitude as He has done within the likes of the aforementioned and yourself. Thank you again for your service my spiritual brother, in this physical realm as an American warrior, but more so, your faithfulness as a service to the King of Kings in the spiritual Kingdom of God realm. Stay strong and continue to fight the good fight !

  5. Thank you for your service to our country and for your testimony. Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Light. With Him we can face any fear because we know where we will spend eternity. God Bless you.

  6. Just as an update: Jeff is now the Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia with a large campus that contains an assisted living community, a community for seniors who still care for themselves, a pair of Alzheimer units and a large Christian School…He recently went back to Somalia with ABC news and took them on that same route…awesome man and awesome family with three of his boys following in his footsteps…

  7. Pretty amazing story. Jeff is right and not alone in his sentiments:

    “…outside of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I know of no other hope for mankind.”
    -Konrad Adenauer

  8. Thanks so much Struecker for your Service to our country and to help people in the less fortunate countries, I’m sorry for the loss of your fellow soldiers, and thanks for being a Christlike example to your fellow soldiers in that they noticed you were different, God’s work was done and is being done!!! When we get to Heaven, I can’t wait to meet you brother!!!

  9. “Greater love has no one but this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13.
    Jeff Struecker realized that “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Phillipians 1:21
    Jeff lived despite realizing that to depart and be with Christ would be far better, nevertheless God willed that he remained in the flesh because it was, has been and is more needful for others, hence he is still laying down his life for others.
    God be praised for vessels like Jeff.
    Pray for those throughout the world that are persecuted, moreover put to death because they will not forsake their faith in Christ.

  10. What words could I use to describe a man like that? I’m in awe. Why, because he was a Ranger? Not just that, but he was a man who put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ. God bless him and I pray his story and experiences can be used to bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We need to acknowledge he is the answer to every question and the solution to every problem, even through our world looks to be near it’s end and Islam seeks to invade and dominate the West. Jesus is the answer: http://invasion2020.com

    • Hi Jeanne Harrington: I’m struck by the certainty of your post – and the claims you make.

      Is Jesus the answer to the children dying all over the world from hunger, war, disease? The little boy who died in agony of cancer in the room next to my son’s – despite thousands praying for him?

      And what exactly does it mean that ‘Jesus is the answer’? Really – what does that mean?

      I agree that some Muslims (clearly not all nor anywhere close to a majority – so it’s important and reasonable to discriminate) seek to invade and dominate the west (unlikely that they will get far though). But I’m not sure what that has to do with the article?

      I’ve never been a soldier: I was an aid-worker though. I’ve been in some horrible, scary, extremely dangerous situations. I have come away from situations surprised to still be alive. I never found that religion would have helped in any of them. In many of them religious sentiment and motivation was the direct cause in fact.

      I find I disagree with your post pretty fundamentally.

  11. I served in the Dominican Revolution, Vietnam and Cambodia. Now I am a deacon in our church.

    There is definitely a place in Christianity for warriors.

  12. What an experience. The Lord is good.He saves our lives, because He still has work for us to do. As our brothers are resting/sleeping in their graves, we look forward in seeing them again when Jesus returns in the clouds of heaven to fetch His people during His second coming to earth.

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