KABUL, Afghanistan – Retired Army Col. Danny McKnight, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment during the “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993, discussed his life and faith Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the New Kabul Compound’s National Prayer Luncheon.
In his talk, called “God Promises a Safe Landing, Not a Calm Passage,” he said he could have been killed that day in Mogadishu, Somalia, but it was God’s will that he survived, and that his continued survival may ultimately have saved more troops.
The incident, he added, made him a better Christian in the long run.
“Everything that you do has his (God’s) hand upon it, one way or another, and I know that,” he said.
Speaking to a packed room, he told the crowd that the incident in Somalia, which became a first-run movie, tested his faith, but one thought, “God’s will be done,” helped him press on.
“I know that without a doubt, in my mind, I should not be here with you today,” he said. “I should be dead.”
McKnight, now a motivational speaker, called his time in the military “an incredible journey I can’t put words to,” but later in his speech focused primarily on his life since retirement.
His faith began to grow after he returned to his hometown of Rockledge, Fla.
“I, today, am very simply the best Christian I have been in my life,” he said.
He called his marriage to his wife Linda, a woman baptized in the same church he was and who he grew up with, “God’s will.” McKnight met her in 2004, following his retirement and return home before attending, for the first time, his high school reunion.
“Those things don’t happen accidentally,” he said, noting that the connections between the couple made an “interesting circle.”
McKnight received a standing ovation after the speech, which capped an event that included readings from the New and Old testaments, prayers and music.
After his talk, McKnight chatted, shook hands and took pictures with a steady stream of troops.
Navy Capt. Jim Muir, Afghan Hands Management Element director, praised McKnight’s speech. He said he understood what it was like to live through harrowing situations, having survived a suicide bombing in 2006 in Afghanistan, and that he agreed God had a role in directing events.
“You can do everything you can do, but you don’t have control over the plan,” Muir said. “His talk put things into perspective.”
Army Col. Doug Berry, J-8 director for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, noted that the dining facility was jammed for the event.
“I think it’s an overwhelming testimony of our service members’ faith,” he said. “This place, it was packed.”
McKnight later discussed the “Black Hawk Down” film, as well as the incident itself. Actor Tom Sizemore portrayed McKnight in the movie.
McKnight called the film well done, and maintained that if the deployed troops had access to an AC-130 gunship, a weapon system they trained with before deploying, but which was withheld when they arrived in Somalia, then the Americans who died that day still would be alive. The gunship was not used for fear of collateral damage.
“That cost people their lives,” he said of the decision.
He also discussed the Defense Department’s latest budget, which includes plans to reduce conventional forces while putting more of an emphasis on special operations.
‘Special operators can do it,” he said. “The problem is, are they going to be stretched too thin?”
He noted that a Ranger battalion has been deployed every day since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“If we’re going to make it more important, we better create another Ranger battalion,” he said.