Keni Thomas | Army Ranger (ret) Involved in "Black Hawk Down" Mission

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Keni Thomas

Army Ranger (ret) Involved in "Black Hawk Down" Mission

Keni Thomas

In the summer of 1993 Staff Sergeant Keni Thomas was deployed to Mogadishu Somalia with the 3rd Ranger Battalion as part of an elite special operations package called Task Force Ranger. Their mission was to find and capture a criminal warlord named Mohammed Farrah Aidid. On the 3rd of October, Keni and his fellow rangers distinguished themselves in an eighteen hour fire-fight that would later be recounted in the highly successful book and movie "Black Hawk Down". Nineteen Americans gave their lives and 78 were wounded in the worst urban combat seen by US troops since WWII. A powerful speaker, Keni captivates audiences from beginning to end as he tells the incredible story of extraordinary individuals and how they fought to bring each other home. Drawing from his experiences on the battlefield, Keni inspires people to achieve greatness by stressing the importance of outstanding leadership at every level, even if the only person you are leading is yourself. His message of "Train as You Fight, Fight as You train and Lead By Example" for epitomizes the Ranger motto "Rangers Lead the Way!" Keni sums it up like this, "Leadership has never been the rank, the position or the title you hold. It's the example you set for the ones you serve. And we all serve somebody. There are people to your left and to your right who are counting on you and it's up to you to deliver. But you will only be as good as you prepared yourself to be." After Mogadishu, Staff Sergeant Thomas volunteered for one more enlistment in the Army. He became an assistant team leader for a six-man ranger reconnaissance team. He earned his master parachutist rating with over 400 military free fall jumps. He completed the Special Forces Combat Diver course, became an Advanced EMT and was one of ten Americans to complete the Belgium Commando Course. Keni got out of the Army to pursue his music career and became an award-winning country music recording artist and songwriter in Nashville. He and his band Cornbread were featured in the movie "Sweet Home Alabama" and his music can be heard on country stations nationwide. Keni continued to serve our troops with regular tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. Keni Thomas is a best selling author, an Emmy-winning producer and a regular guest on all the major news networks as a military analyst. Keni also got to be a military advisor for the Mel Gibson movie "We Were Soldiers". He has been recognized by the President of the United States, by Congress and has been awarded the American Patriot Award for his dedicated work on behalf of our veterans and their families. Keni is most proud of his appointment as a national spokesman for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. They provide college educations to the children of our special operations personnel killed in combat or training. "Our special operations warriors are the tip of the spear. Their's is a dangerous and high risk mission" says Thomas. "Because of that, their losses are disproportionately high when compared to the rest of our military. Taking care of their kids, is the least we can do. It's what those dads would have wanted." Keni is a graduate of the University of Florida and a recipient of the bronze star for valor.

Keni Thomas
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My Mission, My People, Myself

The Ranger servant-leadership model of “My Mission, My People, before Myself” is a mind set that is taught and lived by our decorated combat operators from the Special Operations community; Army Rangers and Special Forces commandos. The Battle of Mogadishu ( Blackhawk Down ) is still the most highly decorated single battle in the history of the United States Military. The stories of selfless service are an opportunity for each leader in the audience to evaluate their personal leadership style, how it affects others, the organization and the success of the mission.


Most of us want to make a difference in this world. We want to know at the end of the day, that we matter, that we counted for something. Just like the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States military, the educators and teachers of America need not worry about that. But in a world where you are seldom thanked and your actions go unrecognized, we struggle with our sense of worth. The truth is, it’s easy to lose perspective on just how much we matter to those around us.

How do I matter? How will I count? How will I make a difference? My friends, these are easy questions to answer if all you do is lead and lead by example. Because when you set an example for others to follow, those around you take notice. I promise you they do. Whether they tell you or not, they are watching. You lead, they will follow, and the team around you becomes stronger. Thus, you have made a difference and have changed a life. The Army manual on Military Leadership FM-22-100 has a simple definition for leadership, “the process of influencing others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction and motivation.” It is a simple explanation, but exactly how you go about providing the purpose, direction, and motivation necessary to influence others is a topic that can fill thousands of books and millions of pages.

I’m certainly not here to give you another lesson on how to be a better leader. I just want you to be one. While the definition may be easy, the hard work of leading is not. You will be called upon on a daily basis to rise above yourself and do what others can not do for you. Your character will be tested. You will feel the burden of leadership that comes with the job of educating a nation. I realize that most of us do not actually hold a position of leadership. But notice at no point does the definition of leadership say anything about, rank, seniority, status, tenure, hierarchy, pay-grade, pecking order, totem poles, or ducks in a row.

Remember it’s never the title or the position that defines a great leader. It is the example you set. Oz never gave anything to the Scarecrow he didn’t already have. My time in the military with the Ranger Regiment helped instill in me the daily commitment to leading by example and the absolute value of the person on your left and the person on your right. You are that person. People are counting on you. When you set an example for others to follow, the people around you take notice. Whether they tell you or not, they are watching and they become stronger because of your positivity. And that’s how you make a difference. So please, never sell yourself short and think you are just an “ordinary” individual. “Oh I’m just a school teacher” or “I only work in the front office”.

You are anything but ordinary. Out of the billions of people on this planet, there is no one else like you. You are one-of-a-kind. God created you as a unique individual, armed and equipped with special gifts to be used for the greater good of you and those around you. Take those skills, commit yourself to constantly improving them, and go out there and LEAD THE WAY!

“Wars may be fought with weapons. But they are won by men” (General George Patton)


The Ranger motto is “Rangers Lead the Way”. Leadership is at the core of every skill developed as a Ranger. But they will never tell you leading others is dependent upon your rank the stripes on your sleeve, the position you have, or the title you hold. Leadership is the example we set for the people we serve. And we all serve somebody.

Keni Thomas’ stories of Task Force Ranger are extraordinary examples of leadership. And, the stories are not about Generals, Colonels or Captains. For example, Private David Floyd was in charge of one person that day - himself. But his leadership and example saved lives.
In the pace of life, it is easy to lose perspective on our value to others. Make no mistake: Your presence is crucial! The individuals to the left and right are directly affected by the result of your actions. Each team is a puzzle with invaluable pieces.

There is no greater responsibility than to lead others! When you raise your hand or assume a task, you have put on the “uniform”. This is a choice you have made. Duty follows that responsibility. It’s up to you to deliver because your actions directly affect those around you. Keni Thomas helps attendees see themselves in the light of extraordinary. Because people who believe they have something to offer, who believe they have what it takes, will be the ones to rise to the occasion and step up in difficult times. It is the ultimate definition of LEADING THE WAY...

Training and planning will prepare the team for the mission. But, the mission’s execution hinges on leadership - every person at every level taking care of one another. General Garrison oversaw the entire package while Private David Floyd was responsible for himself, but each carried responsibility.
“Leadership is not a is the example you set!”

Team Building
No-one in the world is better at team-building than US Special Operations forces! Special operations units like the Rangers operate globally in small teams and squad-sized elements. Since every job is dependent upon the other, and lives are on the line, it’s critical each member of a team understands their value to mission success. Enduring hardship together, builds trust and instills a unified sense of purpose. These are required necessities for creating an extraordinary team. Companies who understand this become important players.

Tough, realistic training demands that every team member constantly seeks to improve. You will only be as good as you prepared yourself to be. Preparation will define your performance. “Train as You Fight Fight as You train”

It wasn’t raining when Noah built the arc! A well defined plan is essential to mission success. Rangers have a very deliberate process for planning. The 5Ws..Who, What, When, Where, Why help develop a mission statement and get everyone on the same page. “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail”

Note: Keni Thomas ends his presentation with a song accompanied by his guitar.


Special Op training is based on this principle: You are only as good as your preparation. When the entire team embraces this philosophy, the standard is high, and the hard work is done in advance of the moment. While perfection is not attainable, it is always the goal! Tough, realistic training scenarios provide confidence in your training. The day the team is called to “Get it On”, the unit is prepared and ready. The Boy Scouts are right - Be Prepared! For those in assigned leadership, confidence in your team’s execution and abilities is built through training. General Patton once stated, “The single most important characteristic in a great soldier is self-confidence.” Self-confidence is based upon trust, and trust must be gained by situational proof. Keni Thomas’ stories of Task Force Ranger are extraordinary examples of leadership and training. 19 Americans died and 78 were wounded in one of the worst urban combat situation since WWII. Without training and leadership, many more American lives would be lost.



Tough, realistic training is a must. Every team member must constantly seek improvement. It is an individual and team responsibility to develop the skills needed for duty. “Train as You Fight Fight as You train”


Great planning is the cure for complacency. Situational planning and awareness are a hallmark of the Rangers. “ Fail to plan, Plan on Failing.”


Training and Planning are paramount to success, but execution comes from leadership. But, leadership is in the hands of EACH team member. “Leadership is not a position. It is the example you set” Note: Keni Thomas ends his presentation with a song accompanied by his guitar.

Keni Thomas
Featured Books

Get it On!by Keni Thomas

Get it On!

by Keni Thomas

"Three words. That’s all it took. I was writing a letter home to my mom when the call rang out across the American compound: 'Get it on!' And just like that, the course of my life changed forever."     
Decorated U.S. military veteran-turned-country musician Keni Thomas gives a personal account of his heart-wrenching experiences in the chaotic 1993 Battle of Mogadishu to express a unique set of leadership lessons and inspired view of our greater purpose. Get It On! reminds readers "that we, as individuals, do indeed matter, that we are anything but ordinary, fully capable of carrying out life-changing assignments at any level and in any situation. We can make a difference in this world."

Carrying a guitar now rather than a rifle, Keni also shares stories from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry to overseas concerts for active soldiers, always passionate about the battle that "still shapes my thoughts on a daily basis" and eager to encourage the absolute best in those who are willing to answer whatever call God places on their lives.


"Keni Thomas is a great storyteller. (This) is a book for everyone."

-- War on Terror News

Gunslingerby Keni Thomas


by Keni Thomas
Cracker Barrel Country Faith Americaby Keni Thomas

Cracker Barrel Country Faith America

by Keni Thomas
CD: Give It Awayby Keni Thomas

CD: Give It Away

by Keni Thomas
Flags Of Our Fathers: A Soldier's Story by Keni Thomas

Flags Of Our Fathers: A Soldier's Story

by Keni Thomas

Keni Thomas
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Written by Samantha Stephens As we honor our servicemen and women on this Veterans Day, Army Ranger-turned-country singer Keni Thomas gives us the perfect soundtrack to...
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