Adventure Operations Group (AOG) is a veteran owned company dedicated to the pursuit of adventurer. AOG's Training Programs and Adventures will take you "Beyond Normal Limits". AOG leads epic adventures, instructional programs, leadership training and assessments for individuals and organizations. Our programs are unique and emphasize mental focus, individual skills, leadership and personal achievement. We specialize in Human Performance Training. Working with AOG is the best way to achieve "next level" results for your corporate group or to enhance your personal capabilities. Contact AOG today to learn how we can get you or your team "Beyond Normal Limits".


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Adventure Operations Group

Adventure Operations Group (AOG) offers instructional programs, leadership training and guided adventures for individual and groups. We promote a unique adventure lifestyle that will elevate your capability and keep you ready for big missions and the toughest assignments.  
AOG's programs are unique and emphasize mental focus, advanced skills, stress inoculation and adaptability. We specialize in Team Training, Human Performance Coaching, Adventure Travel and Other Consulting Services. Working with AOG is the best way to forge "SOF Focus" performance for your corporate group or enhance your personal capabilities. Contact AOG today to learn how we can get you or your team to a new level of focused performance. AOG is the Special Operations "Hard Skill" Adventure Company.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Workplace stress inoculation

The research about stress and it's effects on humans gets better every day. In a decade we may all be as well informed and conscious of the negative effects of stress as we are currently of fast food, smoking and lack of exercise. 

There are different forms of stress.  Some good, some bad.  Good stress is often referred to as short term acute stress, and this type can often be exciting and promote positive action.  This kind of stress will cause you to work hard on an upcoming presentation or push yourself off the starting line of a Saturday obstacle course race.  It will help an extreme kayaker focus on making it down a tough section of whitewater, or help a Commando to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles to succeed and survive in almost any situation.  Short term acute stress is usually good and is the bodies natural response to a stimulus that requires immediate action. 

The stress I'm focusing on here is of a particular variety that is so prevalent in modern society, and especially the modern corporate workplace, and is referred to as chronic stress.  Simply defined, chronic stress is constant, relentless and occurs when people are perpetually overwhelmed with no way out of their situation.  Chronic stress is very real and presents a serious threat to individual and organizational survival. 

Most people, whether civilian or military are constantly balancing multiple and disparate missions.  In the military individual soldiers, even SOF Operators in elite units, have to balance different levels of mission priority.  There are national objectives, theatre specific objectives, unit objectives, team objectives and finally individual objectives and each has a purpose.  Along with different missions come different levels of stress that can impact individual team members, teams and units.  Successful SOF operators learn to balance the different mission circles, and focus on the one that is most necessary at the moment to ensure total mission success.  I refer to this as the 3 circles of Mission Focus (Individual, Unit and Strategic). 

Employees, Managers and Executives in civilian organizations have the same types of competing  objectives.  The strategic mission of the organization, the department or division's mission, the individual business unit and individual employee's goals may all be out of alignment with each other.  Misaligned goals can create stress.  Poor communication, lack of trust or inability to build rapport among other team members creates dysfunction among small teams.  Managers who lack leadership skills, or support from above often create more problems than they solve.  Poor leadership creates massive stress among employees and companies.  The result is widespread stress, organizational distrust and extremely low morale among some of our nations largest and most "trusted" corporations.  Household names that touch many sections of the US economy are filled with employees who are suffering under chronic stress, many don't even recognize the signs. 

I am extremely concerned with the amount of chronic organizational stress I see in almost every organization and also by the fact that the preferred course of action seems to be to ignore it.

Individuals that serve in the military are generally much more knowledgeable about the effects of stress, how to recognize and guard against it, or how to harness it for useful purposes.  The ability of the Special Forces, Navy SEALS and other SOF operators to endure stress or suffer the negative effects less than other troops in the military is well documented and is linked to research conducted around Special Operations stress inoculation as individuals participate in classified training. 

Research shows that among the reasons that SOF operators perform in a superior way under stress is that they release more of a chemical known as Neuropeptide Y.  This amino acid (NPY) is known to help regulate blood pressure, appetite and learning and also to buffer the effects of anxiety and adrenaline (all successful Commandos excel in these areas).  The presence of increased levels of NPY also helps SOF Operators recover quicker from exposure to extreme stress. 

What does this mean?  Higher levels of performance and survivability.  Higher levels of individual and organizational health.  And in terms of US Special Operations, it means that when called to action, our nation's Commandos remain laser focused on successful outcomes of their missions, much to the dismay of those who would do our nation harm.   

Just knowing that SOF operators possess more of NPY isn't enough, and the SOF units and personnel certainly don't rest in that knowledge.  They are constantly training in realistic scenarios and stressful missions.  Individual skills (marksmanship, fitness, driving, parachuting, leadership, climbing) are constantly trained and then integrated into small team drills, which are integrated higher into larger organizational goals. Throughout the training, difficult scenarios replicating current, past or future missions are the foundation of elite units preparation.  These scenario driven training evolutions are what individuals and teams use to refine, and perfect their reactions to stress, and ensure that they possess superior mindset and abilities. 

You, your company, or your organization can benefit from this knowledge by creating a custom training event that is tailored to your specific goals and abilities.  Ranging from 1 Day to 1 week, AOG's solo, small group and team courses are perfect for creating mission focus.  Led by some of the most talented and diverse instructors in the industry, AOG's courses blend multi-sport and tactical skill training with elite final missions in some of the most spectacular locations to create a truly epic experience.  Need help creating the right goals?  AOG offers custom coaching and leadership seminars to get your team SOF focused.  AOG's staff are accomplished tactical thinkers and successful corporate leaders and are the experts in small group Human Performance Training.

You can take action to help your individual situation right now. 

1) Start a real workout program.  Individual physical readiness is at the very core of every successful SOF operator and is a huge focus of elite individuals in all walks of life.  Two places to start your search are:
www.crossfit.com (large national presence with thousands of "Boxes" around the US and a supportive culture that encourages beginners to push hard)
www.mountainathlete.com (focusing on training programs for the most elite athletes and warrior athletes based out of Jackson, WY)

Both of these organizations are recommended by AOG and will get you on the right track for functional fitness and a healthy lifestyle.  If you are not familiar with the terms WOD, AMRAP, Paelo, 1RM, Thrusters, Box Jumps, Ruck and Explosive energy then you need to get started today.  Forget what you learned in school, don't waste your money on traditional gym memberships unless you want to continue to be disappointed and not get results.  AOG, other similar companies, current and former SOF Operators and the most elite outdoor athletes overwhelmingly support a very similar approach to fitness and lifestyle.  This is the standard.  The links above will get you started down the right path.  You can contact us for additional help and information. Get serious about your health.  It's the single fastest way to beat stress.

2) Orient yourself around missions, learn situational awareness, get motivated and SOF focused
David Rutherford-FROGLOGIC

SOF motivation and situational awareness are absolutely necessary for successful missions and for winning battles with stress.  You can't choose when stress shows up, but you can choose how you react to it.

3) Train hard, increase capabilities, take risks, set a high standard and be a leader on your team every day.

Somewhere right now, someone is training to beat you, take your job, or impart their will on you at work.  You can choose to increase your ability through training and improve your odds of winning every situation and surviving each stressful encounter.



Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bail out/Infil training with kayak

What if something totally unexpected happened near you or your family and you needed to travel 20 kilometers over water, in a hurry and all you had was a kayak and a paddle?  Do you know for certain you could make it or how long it would take to paddle that far?  If you had little time to pack, what would you take?

Time for some amphibious bail out/infil testing.  On a recent Sunday afternoon I gave myself an hour to plan an afternoon paddle mission to find out the answers to the above questions. 

I did a quick map study and measured out a route that was just short of 20 Kilometers on the nearby Northwest River (Northwest River Park) in Chesapeake, VA.

I packed quickly, and very light.  The goal was to move as fast as possible, so I took what I needed for a long day on the water, but purposely left behind over night gear.  The load out was:
  • 1 small water proof bag
  • 1 Small Arc Teryx Hydration pack (w/ 100z water bladder)
  • 1 Nalgene Bottle (filled)
  • water filter (straw)
  • Food (1 sandwich, 1 orange, 2 caffeinated Gu packs)
  • 1 Garmin GPS (new batteries)
  • 1 cell phone (fully charged)
  • Survival kit (assorted first aid and trauma bandages, 1 tourniquet, assorted fire making supplies, 1 chocolate bar, 25 ft 550 cord)
  • 1 knife
  • 1 Black Diamond Head Lamp
  • Wallet (ID, Credit Cards, no cash)
  • Boonie Hat
  • 1 pair of boots (w/ socks)
  • PFD 
Packing for fast and light travel

The boat was a pretty standard 14 ft sit on top, self bailing type.  A stable, but slow design capable of hauling a decent amount of gear if needed.  For this trip, I kept things pretty light, but wanted to bring enough to last if the trip went longer than expected.

Kayaks are simple and effective tools for bailing out and covering long distances on water
Remember I said I packed quickly, the point was to put myself under a little time stress and pack as if I had to move out in a hurry.  Yes, I left tons of things behind that I should have taken, including a map or anything to make shelter with in case I got stuck overnight.

It was 3pm when we headed to the put in. After a few stops along the way and a few minutes to stow the gear, it was 4:15 PM by the time I was finally in the boat and paddling away.  There was just over 3 hours of daylight left, and I had to cover slightly more than 11 miles along a route I had never been on before with no map and no true idea of how long this would take, though I was guessing and hoping around 3 hours. 

Fast and Light.  Easy to grab bags close at hand

After a few early map checks (performed with GPS and cell phone) I was moving out and paddling aggressively along the river route I had mostly committed to memory.  The route followed the NW River south and crossed the VA/NC border.  Although heavily traveled by boaters, the surrounding terrain was mostly uninhabited and rural.  Traveling over water always presents unique navigational challenges that are not found on land.  For instance, maps generally only show major tributaries in and out of major bodies of water, but often there are numerous "false" rivers and creeks that can fool those unfamiliar with the surrounding areas and present you with choices if you are looking for the right turn or bend in the river for a landmark.  Fishing boats and pleasure boats generally travel at high speeds and although most boaters are responsible and observant to hazards in the water, people using kayaks to traverse waterways where there are high speed boats have to pay constant attention to their position relative to main avenues of travel.  It's always tempting to change sides of the river to cut down on as much distance as possible, but don't get stuck mid stream around blind corners when fast boats are approaching. Current speed and direction, especially in tidal waterways can have a major impact on the time it takes to travel so always check the tide charts. 

Be observant for anything that aids in navigation or time/distance/speed calculations
I kept a steady pace for the entire route.  I was in good paddling shape, although I had not been paddling recently and couldn't remember the last time I paddled over 11 miles.  Part of this route was a section of a local trail system that was marked with mile markers.  I recorded my per mile pace for 5 miles of the total trip.  For those 5 miles my pace ranged from 12:42 to 14:58/mile.  It seemed that I was paddling about the same pace as I would be moving over land with a heavy ruck.  The total number of paddle strokes per mile ranged from 765-800.  Paddling speed can vary significantly based upon paddler skill, boat design, weight of gear, wind and current and whether or not you are traveling solo. 

In total, I paused for three quick breaks to drink water and eat a Gu pack.  I slowed once to observe a Water Moccasin (a little too close) attempting to climb out of the water onto a tree limb.  I also paused briefly just after a fish jumped out of the water and hit my paddle (just to see if anyone else saw it) but other than those brief breaks I pushed myself steadily to keep a quick pace.

I finished the route in just over 3 hours and had about 30 minutes of daylight left.  I felt strong enough at the end that I could have easily kept paddling.  Over the whole 3 hours I only drank about 12 ounces of water, and ate one Gu pack, so my water/fuel intake was not enough and had I been required to keep paddling for another 11 miles, or to return back to the start point with a heavier load, I would have started to crash quickly.  Forcing yourself to drink, and keeping your calories up while paddling takes a little more discipline that when running, rucking or biking (or at least it does for me), so that's something to be conscious of and work on.

This was a fast and light bail out paddle mission that worked well for a quick emergency scenario.  I had just enough gear to feel comfortable on the water for a long day.  I had a pair of boots in case I had to bail on foot and move through the swamp, make it to a road and ruck home.  I had a little food, plenty of water for the 3 hour trip and the ability to filter more water w/ a straw.  I had a headlamp in case I got stuck after the sun went down.  I had the ability to make fire and a GPS/Cell phone for navigation and emergencies. 

Variations of this type of training course can and should include experimenting with heavier loads, longer distances, different paddle types and overnight stops to cover the widest range of scenarios.

Contact ADVENTURE OPERATIONS GROUP if you would like to plan a half day or full day  paddle course near you.  Kayak and gear selection, proper paddling techniques, water/river safety, moving fast and light, situational awareness and bail out/short term survival techniques are covered.  The course is suitable for beginners to advanced paddlers, but all participants should be able to paddle continuously for a minimum of 3 hours.