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
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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.

Become the Kind of Leader Others Want to Follow

There is no greater responsibility than to lead others. So please, take that responsibility seriously and learn to lead well. Being a transformational leader requires more of you than the transactional tasks of managing metrics and making decisions. Transformational leaders must also know how to provide the purpose, direction and inspiration required to accomplish any mission for the greater good. When you learn how to motivate others to work together, you will then inspire operating excellence. As we move through the battle we will use the story to define what it really means to lead others and discuss the ideal model of the transformational leader you want to become.


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.


The single biggest problem in communication is assuming it happened. The ability of a team, a squad, or any military unit to communicate quickly and accurately with each other is a critical battlefield necessity, perhaps second only to military strength. Effective communication enables a leader to efficiently disseminate information so their intent is clearly understood. This enables all involved to understand their role in the mission with clear expectations. In other words, the ability to communicate clearly—to get your intent and ideas across so others understand your message and act on it—is one of the primary qualities of a good leader.

The Army Field Manual for Leader Development states
“Leaders communicate by clearly expressing ideas and actively listening to others. By understanding the nature and importance of communication and practicing effective communication techniques, leaders will relate better to others and be able to translate goals into actions”

Being heard is not necessarily being understood. There are thousands of leadership books on the shelves describing what leaders should be, know and do. However, they give little attention to the importance of effective communication and what that really means. We are drowning in communications tools, and the victim is good leadership. PowerPoint, video conferencing, e-mail, social media, are great tools, but they are no substitute for clarity. Research shows all these advances in communication capacity are actually having a negative effect on message clarity. Fortunately, the solution is remarkably simple: acknowledge the importance of effective communication and integrate the teaching of good communication skills.

This class will be a fun practical exercise to help illustrate the biggest problem in effective communication which is assuming it happened. Just because we said it, doesn't mean they heard it! Communications are effective when the recipient of your message, whether by listening or reading, understands the meaning intended by you the speaker or writer. Good communication is simple and direct, sometimes intensified by emotion, but never confusing.

Class Objectives
- Understand the importance of effective communication
- Explain the Communication Process
- Know when effective communication occurs
- Experience the “ah hah!” moment when discovering what you said is not necessarily
what they heard


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.


My Mission, My People, Myself

The Downrange Advanced Leadership school is an outdoor three day, intensive leadership and team-building experience. At Downrange we believe the most important responsibility a person can be given is to lead others. Leadership is the example we set for the people we serve. And we all serve somebody.

The Downrange servant-leadership model of “My people and My Mission, before Myself,” is a mindset that is taught and lived by our decorated combat operators from the Special Operations community; Army Rangers and Special Forces commandos. We employ the ranger-school doctrine of teaching small unit troop-leading procedures in a highly challenging outdoor tactical environment.

Downrange is a transformational opportunity for your team to train side by side with special operators and become the type of leaders men and women will want to follow! If you think you are ready to take on that challenge then come train with us. You can discover everything you need to know about this one-of-a-kind experience by visiting the new web site.


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)


“There is no greater responsibility than to lead others”

Leadership Practices and Decision Making

This one day course is all about the how-to’s of leading by example and developing your leadership style. Whatever your chosen profession or calling, you are being counted on. There is always someone to your left and your right and they are watching. How will you get them to accomplish what you need accomplished? If you are a person in a position to influence others, and especially if you are in charge of people, this seminar is for you. This is an opportunity to explore different techniques and evaluate your personal leadership practices. Led by retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Tom Di Tomasso, you will benefit from first-hand accounts of lessons learned about leading people under fire and in high-stress environments. Tom draws from his extensive experience as a special operations leader including the intense fighting in the streets of Mogadishu, (Black Hawk Down) and the war on terrorism where he planned and conducted high-risk raids into the heart of enemy strongholds in the most remote corners of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The full-day course includes hands-on instruction in several areas: -

Leadership 101: What it Means to Lead the Way

So now you are in charge. What does that mean? What is the difference between Leadership and Management? Why is it important? What is a good Leadership model to follow... and more.

Leadership Practices, Gaining Trust and instilling confidence.

In order for people to believe and trust in you as a leader, they have to have confidence in you. TRUST must be gained. It cannot be issued. Leadership Practices will give you tangible skills that you need to earn trust and instill confidence in others. When you are confident. They are confident and the team becomes stronger.

Introduction to the Decision

Making Process We will introduce you to the Decision Making Process, and most importantly, Problem Analysis, the first step in the Decision Making Process. We will talk about Deliberate planning versus Hasty Planning and how they are different. We will give you the tools to conduct Hasty Planning in your environment.

Practical Exercise

Putting your new skills to use, we will break into groups of 4-5 and conduct a practical exercise using the tools we discussed in the Decision Making Process. Together, we plan a mission and react accordingly as the situation changes. Groups will brief their products at the end of the class.


Keni is also available musically for your social gathering, conference send-off or attendee receptions. Wether you are looking for a high-energy full band show, or a more intimate acoustic performance, Keni and his band Cornbread are a fantastic way to entertain your people while continuing Keni’s message of positivity. Musicians and back line can be adjusted according to the feel and needs of your event.

Keni Thomas is 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. He has sung the National Anthem for Game One of the World Series and continues to serve our troops with regular tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. As an entertainer, Keni has been recognized by Congress, the White House and was inducted into the VFW Hall of Fame for his dedicated work on behalf of our military and their families.

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