Wake Forest, N.C.—Jeff Struecker, one of the heroes of the 1993 conflict in Mogadishu that inspired the movie “Black Hawk Down,” graduated this spring from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a doctor of philosophy in Christian leadership.
The former Ranger and retired chaplain for the United States Army is now lead pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga. During his military career, he was decorated for bravery above and beyond the call of duty for any Ranger, a special operations warrior, or soldier that resulted in saved lives.
He retired from active military duty in 2011 after 22 years of service and received several awards, commendations and decorations throughout his military career.
Struecker said he was drawn to SEBTS because of President Daniel Akin’s passion for the gospel and desire to train spiritual warriors to go to dangerous places.
“I am convinced that Jesus’ church is desperate for great leadership today,” Struecker said. “I’m equally convinced that SBC seminaries do a great job of educating people to be effective theologians, preachers and church historians, but I think more emphasis should be placed on leadership at the same time.”
Akin noted, “Jeff’s skills as a leader have been on full display in his superb work in our Ph.D. in leadership program. It is an honor to have him as one of our graduates. As he excelled as an Army Ranger, he has continued to excel as a pastor and a student at Southeastern.
“I first met Jeff as a M.Div. student in my preaching class,” Akin noted. “I was immediately impressed with his love for the word and faithful expository preaching. Since then I have watched him continue to serve our country, our Lord and Christ’s church with passion and excellence.”
Struecker said he views Christ as the ultimate leader. “The study of God is the study of leadership,” he said. “In order for Jesus’ church to confront sin and spread the gospel to the ends of the earth it will require men and women who are courageous leaders with a bold vision for God’s glory. God alone can make a man or woman into the leader the church needs them to be.”
Larry Purcell, associate professor of leadership and discipleship and associate dean of ministry studies, also shares Struecker’s passion for leadership. “I was honored when he came to me and asked that I be his major professor,” Purcell said. “We both share the experience of the military and combat.”
At Purcell’s request, Struecker shared his testimony of the conflict in Mogadishu during class. After washing away the blood of comrades, Struecker told fellow students, he went back into the “kill-zone” numerous times.
“He seemed fearless,” Purcell noted. “This opened the door to many Army Rangers hearing the gospel and coming to salvation after the fire fight.”
Struecker finished his modified residency Ph.D. in three-and-a-half years while transitioning from the military to leading a church congregation and serving his family of five. He has a master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and undergraduate degrees from Troy University in Alabama.
He was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and he enlisted in the United States Army as an infantryman when he was 18. In addition to Mogadishu, Struecker’s combat experience includes participation in the invasion of Panama, Operation Desert Storm, and more than a dozen combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Struecker has been awarded medals for valor in combat and has received many medals as recognition for his service in the U.S. Army.
Struecker retired after serving for 10 years in the 75th Ranger Regiment in positions from private to platoon sergeant and spent his last 10 years as a chaplain, in both Airborne and Ranger units.
Struecker is the author of five books. He and his wife Dawn have five children: Aaron, Jacob, Joseph, Abigail and Lydia. (BP)