Sgt. Jeff Struecker: Soldier For Christ
"God, I know I’m going to die in the next few minutes and I need your strength."Sergeant Jeff Struecker, The Battle of Mogadishu
In the blood-soaked streets of Mogadishu, Jeff Struecker was confronted with the same stark truth that Jesus Christ dealt with in the Garden of Gethsemane: He was going to die, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. He had only minutes before he survived a withering barrage of enemy fire in a city determined to exterminate him and his comrades. He had just witnessed the incredibly violent death of a friend, tearing free a false veil of security. Now he was being charged with the unthinkable: leading his fellow Rangers back into the lead-ridden gauntlet of the insurgent-controlled city. Confronted with a budding family at home waiting for him, a squad of Rangers looking to him for leadership, and the reality of his own mortality, Jeff’s faith in Christ was crystallized and his life’s purpose defined. As he prayed his prayer for strength, the Lord revealed to Sergeant Struecker the only reality that a saved Christian need ever rely upon: that his life was in Jesus’ hands and that no matter what happened to him, his faith alone settled the issue; his soul’s eternity. With his question of faith answered and his Savior by his side, Jeff Struecker led his men back into the fire.
The phenomenal acts of courage displayed by Jeff and his Rangers during the Battle of Mogadishu were well documented in Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down and later adapted to an Oscar-winning feature film. But the impact of the Lord’s guiding hand in Jeff Struecker’s life is a story of Christian courage which has continued to be played out far beyond what Hollywood could ever depict. This is a story of an already bullet-proof faith honed in the crucible of combat, exerted and advanced through the Chaplaincy, and poured out today as a Pastor, author, and mentor. Moreover, this is a story of a man who overcame a paralyzing fear of death and embarrassment; shed the false reality of “cultural Christianity” to become an unapologetic Christian leader who became convicted to allow the Lord’s eternal peace to shine through him in order to seize salvation for souls otherwise subject to Satan’s grasp.
Army Rangers are hard men. Defined by their adherence to a strict warrior code and a singular focus of mission accomplishment, Rangers take great pride in efficiently operating in the worst possible environments and conditions. Embracing the dark, cold, and arduous, Rangers eschew the fears and trepidation that would otherwise paralyze those who would even comprehend the tasks they perform in the course of duty. By the time that Bravo Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion was called upon to go to Somalia, Jeff Struecker had passed every test that the United States Army and the world had put in front of him. And on that day of October 3, 1993, Jeff Strueker stood with his fellow Rangers; trained, hardened, and ready at the gates of some of the most violent warfare of the 20th century. But unlike many of his peers, Sergeant Jeff Strueker was unafraid.
From Fearful to Belief to Salvation: Shedding Cultural Christianity
Jeff’s testimony of brokenness to salvation is superbly detailed in his book The Road to Unafraid. A child of a divided home, Jeff grew up paralyzed and even haunted by a seven-year fear of death, embarrassment, and failure. Despite knowing of Jesus Christ, attending Church, and desiring salvation, Jeff was still haunted by fear and lacked the peace that only the eternal confidence in one’s salvation can provide. In the end, it was a single prayer that was the catalyst for the transformation from fear-ridden soul to a warrior for Christ.
"God, I don’t want to go to hell. I don’t want to be afraid of death anymore like I’ve been my whole life. I want to know I’m going to heaven."13 Year Old Jeff Struecker
That God could recalibrate a soul broken by death and shame into one fearless enough to become an Army Ranger was only the beginning. Years into Jeff’s walk with Christ, his faith and his daily duty remained bifurcated. Given his environment, this was not surprising. Not unlike the world where the common man finds himself surrounded by daily pitfalls, Jeff’s surroundings were such that kindness, compassion, and temperance were generally mistaken for weakness. Through mentorship, fellowship, and faith, Jeff made the choice to transcend the temptations and actions that did not glorify Christ, invigorated by the words of the apostle Paul, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble.” (1 Corinthians 10:31-32). But Jeff would need every bit of intestinal fortitude ingrained in him by the Ranger Creed and inspired by Jesus Christ to meet his next challenge.
Leadership Emboldened Through Faith
With his walk singularly focused, Sergeant Struecker faced the challenge of proving the strength of Christian leadership to the world’s toughest combat soldiers. A significant component of this challenge was, and is, the widely held assumption within the military’s combat arms that Christians are, “too compassionate and distracted with moral restrictions to be tough.” Jeff combated this “philosophy” by boldly weaving the Ranger doctrine with scripture, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). In doing so, Jeff achieved a nexus between Ranger discipline and the courage shown by Jesus Christ in the Word. Like all things in the military, combat would serve as the authoritative barometer for both Jeff’s Christian leadership and the marriage of Ranger discipline and faith. Exactly what kind of Christian, warrior, and leader Jeff Struecker had become through Christ was to be revealed on October 3-4, 1993. With a guiding sense of peace and purpose, Jeff led his men back into the city two more times, executing their mission with an unflinching call to duty. After 18 hours of brutally intense combat that included three trips into the streets of Mogadishu, Jeff and his men emerged alive, emboldened, and witnesses to the protection that only God’s hand can provide.
As Jeff sat down and tried to make sense of the battle, Christ provided Sergeant Struecker his next challenge through the words of one of his men, “Hey Jeff, I’ve got questions. I need to talk to somebody.” And so Jeff’s walk toward the chaplaincy began.
Pastors Lead the Way
Having followed God’s calling into the chaplaincy, Jeff continued bringing God’s word to combat soldiers through more than a dozen combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now a co-pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia, Jeff Strueker’s passion for the advancement of Christian leadership remains on fire. In his present role as co-pastor, Jeff endeavors to lead a Christian engagement of injustice while keeping mindful of Jesus’ call for Christian accountability in Matthew 12:36.
"And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."Matthew 12:36
Jeff Struecker has never been one to shy from the mantle of righteous leadership. A significant component of Struecker’s aggregation of pastoral leadership today relates to what he sees as an abdication of Christian leaders’ responsibility to properly and unapologetically educate their respective flocks about Godly anger as well as God’s love. Struecker refers to the book of James in reminding us that Christians must provide for the innocent and be furious at their mistreatment. Each component of faith requires the same level of dedication and oneness with the Father. Jeff believes that the responsibility of the conveyance and clear interpretation of the Word rests with Pastors, regardless of what a culturally lukewarm society would say. This unapologetic approach to the zero-sum undertaking of salvation versus damnation is not unreflective of the same no-excuses endeavor of combat. In neither arena is there a place for weakness in leadership in the face of the bold truth borne out through the Word.
Buoyed by his faith and gift of leadership, Jeff lists his life’s passion as reaching un-churched men with the Gospel. Today he does that through his fiction and non-fiction writings, public speaking, and ministry group, The Gathering. Through these endeavors, Jeff is able to glorify God by sharing his testimony on the platform that the Lord has provided him.
Most will never experience the horrific nature of combat. That arena is reserved for those who would selflessly volunteer their lives to preserve ideals often taken for granted in today’s society. But the spiritual combat that the average men and women who Jeff lists as his present day heroes face every day is no less fraught with eternal peril. To overcome one’s fears, through faith and trust in Jesus Christ, is to triumph over dangers no less spiritually tumultuous than the killing fields of Somalia. Jeff Struecker’s story is a portrait of meeting and defeating those fears bravely, boldly, yet meekly; and is a true testament to the words of Timothy:
"Be strong with the special favor God gives you in Christ Jesus…Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. And as Christ’s soldier, do not let yourself become tied up in the affairs of this life, for then you cannot satisfy the one who has enlisted you in his army."2 Timothy 2:1 3-4
By: Anthony Canorro
Anthony Canorro is a freelance writer living in the Tampa Bay, FL area. He is a former Army Ranger and veteran of ten years of service as a non-commissioned and commissioned officer. Tony currently enjoys life with his wife and two daughters and is a member of Southbay Church in Riverview, Florida.Read More Articles by Anthony Canorro