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November 30, 2012

Army ranger's mission changes

THOMASVILLE — While staring into the face of great danger, Jeff Struecker saw God.

In 1993, the 24-year-old sergeant was assigned to Task Force Ranger of the 75th Ranger Regiment. He led a three-vehicle convoy through fierce gunfire in Mogadishu, Somalia. The film “Blackhawk Down” is based on the bloody encounter.

Struecker, a veteran of Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait, had yearned for danger since he was a teenager. He joined the rangers straight out of his Iowa high school because he wanted to conquer his childhood fear of death.

In Somalia, Struecker and his men had one mission  — to find Mohamed Farrah Hassan Aidid and other warlords so that there was a chance for peace in Somalia. The people there were starving in the lawless state.

Systematically, one by one, Struecker and his men caught some “really big fish.” After three months, they were just looking for Aidid and two other notorious thugs.

After receiving a tip about the whereabouts of the other two, a plan was created to seize the building they were in. Despite operating in daylight instead of their customary darkness, the task force’s plan worked until an unexpected mishap.

See Saturday's edition for more details.

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