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".


Monday, September 1, 2014

Alaska- 2 person, 15 day self supported big game mission!

Here is a pre-trip SITREP from AOG friend and teammate James Croy.  James is from Alaska and is currently in the field, no doubt pushing it beyond normal limits on this mission with his teammate Mike. Good luck boys.  B-rad

James Croy pre mission SITREP-


It's fall here in Alaska, which of course means fall colors, back country adventures and hunting season. My good friend and former Ranger Mike approached me last year about going on a 15+ day ATV excursion into the back country of Alaska to go hunting.   I immediately agreed and we began pre mission planning for what would truly be an epic adventure with a great friend.  The concept may seem fairly simple but honestly when it comes to heading into the "bush" as we call up it here nothing is simple.  In fact there are many challenges to overcome for an extended trip such as this.
Undertaking an Alaskan mission like this is daunting and requires more than a simple 3B's (Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids) logistics plan. In reality there are many dimensions to surviving and thriving on a multi-day self-supported Alaskan big game hunting trip.  To give some scope this trip is for two men unsupported for 15+ days in a really remote part of Alaska (remote= 50+ miles down an unimproved dirt road, then 30-50 miles as the crow flies off that road with no other road within 100 miles of that). So no cell service, no satellite phone, no roads, very few trails and no structures to use as shelter except for what we take with us. Having any kind of failure could literally be catastrophic with results ranging from a very bad day to death. I could write a book on how wild it is out in Alaska's bush country and how dangerous it is if you’re unprepared or even when you are prepared.

Reality check
Just because we are using ATV's on this mission doesn't mean we can haul heavy and take unnecessary gear going in. All of our gear and logistics needs are carefully figured for weight and size. If we are both successful hunters we figure on coming back from the bush with 1600-2000 lbs. of meat. Yes you read that right. A Large Alaska-Yukon Moose can weigh in at 800-1000+ per animal after being quartered for transport.  Hauling that much weight out on ATV’s is challenging on a good day. When factoring in the potential Alaskan backcountry contingencies; Grizzly's or Black bears, steep and uneven terrain, rivers, streams, boreal forest, tundra, glacial boulder fields and steep and very uneven terrain- you can understand that hauling that much weight out becomes even more daunting.
"When undertaking a mission like this the quality and preparation of your gear is paramount"

I've been doing trips like this for over 30 years and a lot of my knowledge of gear and experience has simply come from both success and failure.  Gear failures are going to happen, period.  Minimizing the effects of the failure, or being able to make field repairs is an absolute necessity.  In other words, always be ready to improvise when necessary.   I will not get into the brand name, “Ford-Chevy debate" or the "you should take XYZ whizz-bang gadget".  When I mention brand names it's for reference only, not a brand endorsement for your unique situation or mission.  The only thing I will say about the gear you choose is to make sure it WORKS WELL prior to taking it to the field. In other words test it thoroughly under various conditions.  Understanding the limits of your gear and your individual abilities is critical in many activities, none more so than Alaskan backcountry travel. 
"Planning for this mission started almost a year in advance and encompassed coordinating overall logistics, total time in the field and team and individual equipment needs" 

The machines   
I will be using my Artic Cat TRV550 towing an ATV trailer. Mike will use a 2011 Artic Cat Mud-Pro 700 with an ATV trailer. We fitted both machines with a 2500# winches on the front and Mike's with a rear #2500 winch. We added 40 watt LED lights to front of both machines. Other than Tires, LED Lights and the winches, the machines are bone stock. We will each carry 15 gallons of extra fuel for each machine.   We both have tools assembled to do minor to medium emergency repairs in the field plus we each carry recovery gear. Taking a tool kit beyond the OEM supplied kit is really mandatory, Sockets, wrenches, tire repair, etc. Here is where experience, knowing your machine, and how to do field repairs comes into play. If you don't know how wrench on your machine, LEARN! Recovery gear is also critical because you are definitely going to get stuck. It's not if, it's WHEN you do. So bring a shovel, ax/saw, tow ropes (more than one), block and tackle if possible. Recovery gear makes it possible to get you, the machine, your gear and cargo back home at the end of the mission. We did reliability checks again and again, ensuring each piece of added gear and all of the accessories worked properly. 
Camping gear

As with all missions that involve camping, some gear is essential and some is just plain snivel gear. We obviously trend toward the essential, but do allow for a few gear choices to improve comfort in the field. For our shelter on this mission I am bringing my freestanding 6 man tent man (sierra designs Bedouin 6). That will be our base camp accommodations. There are numerous reasons for such a large tent for two people: you can stand inside it, dress or undress out of the weather, hang and dry wet or damp clothes and when necessary, all of your personal gear can come inside. For cooking needs on this mission we have chosen to run propane for the stove and heater in base camp.  We are bringing enough propane (in 1lb bottles) for the expected duration plus 3 days. Mike built a great mini alcohol stove and I use a Giga stove that travels in my "go bag". Water Filters- in base camp we have 2 Katadyn gravity filters and two MSR mini-works for out and about. We have 4 Primus Butane lanterns for base camp also. We constructed a table from one the ATV trailer lids and have enough tarps/cordage to construct improvised weather ports. It sounds like a given but where we are hunting there are trees (some places in Alaska don't have trees) so we should have enough natural pole making material and fire abilities should we need.


I've learned over the years that the difference between a great Alaska trip and crappy one is good coffee, an occasional shower, a warm, dry place to sleep and good food. Next to fire, Chow is the most important component of backcountry morale.  I find plain, freeze dried camping meals to be lacking in what I like to call “flavor”.  I go to the grocery store and purchase shelf stable food for extended missions such as this one. They are still simple meals; most only require boiling water but are loads better tasting than backpacking meals (see picture).  I’ll bring some canned goods also. When planning for this I planned for two people to eat three meals a day plus some snacks. Snacks are essential as they allow you to not over eat your rations. Again I planned for 15 days plus 3.

Personal Gear

My under layers are Smart wool top and bottom base layer (two sets). Three sets of wool blend socks. Pants are two pair of USMC issue MARPAT (personal choice). One pair of light weight chest waders. Jacket is a pullover type that is both wind resistant and lined with Gore-Tex type material. One light weight rain jacket. One pair of wind block Fleece style gloves and one pair of polypro liner gloves.  North Face Dark star -40 sleeping bag w/ fleece blanket.  A note on Bags. I DO NOT endorse any type of down bag for trips like this. I don't care who made it or what the down is encased in. The climate we will be in is wet, period. Instead, bring a well-constructed, high quality synthetic bag to the lowest temperature rating you expect to encounter along with a self-inflating 2" ground pad. We will each carry a small trauma bag and some basic first aid items along with head lamps and high output tactical style flashlights with spare batteries.
Hunting equipment

Everyone has an opinion. Again KNOW your gear and its limits. This is where my personal choices are informed from my past experiences, both good and bad. My rifle is a Ruger Hawkeye stainless in 375 Ruger with shooting sticks. Mike will be using a Remington 700 stainless in 35 Whelen. Both are great choices for Alaskan sized animals. We carry approximately 1.5 boxes of rifle ammo and one reload for the side arms. Mike will carry his Glock 20 in 10mm and I will carry my S&W performance center R8 357 mag. as my sidearm. We both have two to three knives of varying size configuration for field dressing animals/camp/general use with sharping kit. My trusted Leica 10x42 binos and Leupold 15x30 compact spotting scope w/ small tripod. Leupold rage finder. We both carry a Camel back style small back pack with a stove, pot, cup and small snacks and rations to use as a bug out bag.

 So some of you are probably wondering, "Why are you not taking a SAT phone, EPERB, or SPOT tracker"? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, they don't always work in Alaska due to satellite coverage and terrain. Second is the expense.  All of the above are expensive pieces of kit that can be easily damaged. I'm not totally discounting the value of them in many situations, but remember that they don't work at the bottom of a river/lake or after being run over by the machine that's rolling down a hill, or after they have caught on fire, are chewed on by wild animals, frozen, lost out of batteries, etc.  Always have capabilities that don’t rely on satellite coverage and batteries.  It really goes back to experience and knowing your limits and, wait for it - personal responsibility. I know my personal limits, I will also let people know my depart dates, travel areas (with highlighted maps),

Contingency mindset

To many people of all walks of life head into the wilds under prepared but have this notion that if I just hit that "easy" button on my said rescue beacon a Helicopter with highly trained individuals will come rushing to my aid within minutes and greet me with hot coco and a blanket. I choose to travel with knowledge and better planning.  Tentative return dates in Alaska are just that. Be prepared for added delays due to weather or any of the aforementioned situations or conditions.  Don’t panic, plan for delays and contingencies. 


Finally, there are plenty of "experts" on survival, back country exploration, etc. out there. I do not lay claim to being an "expert".  I have rescued a few "experts" but I will never suggest that I am all knowledgeable on Alaskan backcountry travel.  I continually learn and train and stay ever prepared for “Beyond Normal Limits” situations.  The best piece of gear anyone can have can't be bought or rented. It sits squarely (for most people) between your ears and just north of your shoulders. Unfortunately the ability of some people, especially in modern times, to use this piece of kit under stress let alone under normal conditions is always up for debate.  Alaska judges these types harshly.  If you come here, make sure you are prepared and have planned to make it back alive. 

Look for more SITREPs on this mission on the AOG blog.  Interested in planning your own Alaskan mission?  Contact us for more information. 



Monday, June 9, 2014

Beyond Normal Bad

Not all Beyond Normal Limits is the way to go, keep it in check and don't cross the line between hard, tough, strong and stupid.


Although the judge is right on this, he should write a book.


Monday, March 24, 2014

The Mental Performance Pipeline

The Mental Performance Pipeline- Brad Christian
It’s difficult to extract any one component or principle of Special Operations teams and apply it to success in the corporate environment.  Throughout the entire process of identifying, assessing, selecting, training and managing Special Operations personnel there is an immense amount of logic, legacy, analysis, overhead and investment in the pipeline to ensure that the product that is produced is, to put it simply, extremely capable. 

What is useful however is to analyze how individual SOF operators and teams approach professional goals and objectives.  From this analysis we can identify some mental tools that anyone can use to navigate challenges and obstacles commonly found in any corporate environment and in most organizations. 

First, here a few assumptions and personal observations from which I draw conclusions and create associated principles that are applicable in non SOF, corporate or other civilian environments. 

1)      Regardless of the specific SOF unit, (US Army Special Forces, Rangers, US Navy SEALS, Marine Special Operations, Special Mission Units and Others) there exists a highly developed program that assesses, trains and produces individuals capable of carrying out that unit’s mission in most any environment.  Additionally, the individuals that comprise these teams, on any given day, are significantly more prepared to adapt to unexpected challenges than most.  Finally, these individuals are among the most innovative and capable problem solvers, thinkers and “doers” found anywhere.


2)      Individuals and teams in the SOF world have a level of “trust among peers” that is unique, highly valued and extremely durable.  The trust I reference here results from the knowledge that your teammates at every level have been through a significant testing process, and they have passed.  They have proven that they possess “all conditions dependability”, or very close to it, and have demonstrated an above average ability to communicate, think, move, drive, shoot, fight, lead, follow, organize, you get the idea.  No matter what it is, they are pretty good at it.  They train hard, take risks, laugh at challenges and stay focused on the right objectives, most of the time.  They can be counted on to do “whatever it takes” to accomplish their mission.  They will give “100% and then some”; endure cold, heat, thirst, hunger, physical pain, uncertainty and threat of death or great bodily harm to achieve their objectives.  They all believe in their chosen profession, and take pride in knowing that their contributions often go unseen and nearly always misunderstood. 

3)      Most civilian companies that I have worked for, (and there have been a few), and most that my close friends have worked for, fail miserably where “assessing and training” their employees are concerned.  The phrase “thrown to the wolves” is the norm in most corporations.  This is true for entry level jobs, mid-level management and executive positions. 

4)      Civilian corporations want #2, but have no idea how to get it.

On any given day, someone who is a part of a team that I described in #1 possesses superior mental tools.  They are highly aware of themselves, their surroundings and their team.  They are mentally strong.  They have unbelievable focus and finally, their perspective is highly developed.  These traits are sometimes also found in other areas, specifically teams of elite outdoor guides (ex: Exum Mountain Guides) and other extreme athletes often possess very similar mental capabilities.

 These four components (awareness, strength, focus and perspective) make up what I refer to as the “mental performance pipeline” and with practice and training are available to anyone, anywhere at any time. 

1)      Awareness- SOF operators possess highly advanced personal and situational awareness.  Your awareness is tested in selection, an environment where you are constantly observed by instructors who take their jobs very seriously.  A simple mistake or oversight by a hopeful Green Beret or SEAL can result in a “no go” during any portion of the training pipeline.  After selection, new graduates enter the supercharged environment where elite teams train and prepare for daring and dangerous operations.  Training for these types of missions is in itself dangerous.  Shooting in close proximity to your friends, jumping out of planes, swimming at night with heavy gear, protecting VIP’s, driving big off road trucks through the mountains in total darkness are all dangerous activities that result in unfortunate accidents and even deaths each year.  You learn early and quickly to pay attention in training and your situational awareness is honed to a sharp edge.  Finally, living and working in high threat areas and executing combat operations puts you and your team in the sights of highly motivated and creative enemies.  On any given day, lack of awareness by a single individual can result in catastrophic failure for the entire team. 


a.       How can you develop this type of awareness?  The answer is by conducting your own personal assessment and training program. There are many great tools in the civilian world to assess your individual personality type and identify your mental strengths and weaknesses.  It’s critical to keep an open and honest approach when assessing your personality type.  Think about who you really are, not who you would like to be.  This is “Phase I”.  You need a solid foundation of awareness, and it starts with an accurate self- assessment.  During a senior year Management course at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, we devoted nearly an entire semester to studying and analyzing assessment and personality profiles tests.  I was personally able to try out many different types of personality and mental assessments tests.  There is something to learn from most of the reputable products on the market.  A classic product is the Meyers Briggs type indicator that assigns a letter code (explained by a detailed matrix) to each individual.  Many are available online and are quick and easy.  What does the SOF selection process look for?  Integrity, selflessness, team work and above average powers of deduction, to name a few. 


2)      Strength- the SOF world is filled with challenges at every turn.  Individual, team and organizational challenges exist, are often daunting and always require a positive mental attitude to ensure a successful outcome.  In this world, there are no points for second place and the phrase “pays to be a winner” is taught from the beginning.  The most important type of strength is the mental strength that mature SOF operators possess.  Overcoming challenges develops mental strength.  Long rucks, early mornings, cold, heat, night jumps and repeated deployments cause a forging of the mind and a certain type of mental toughness to occur that becomes an individual warrior’s greatest weapon.

a.       How do you develop this type of strength?  You have to challenge yourself with tough goals.  Training never ends.  Face your fears and train to improve your weaknesses.  Are you afraid of heights?  Go skydiving.  Lack confidence?  Run half a dozen obstacle course races and make yourself speak in public.  Are you physically out of shape?  Find a good local cross fit box and a community of supportive peers or better yet, check out Mountain Athlete.  Take an advanced shooting course at ACADEMI or, after you have done all of those, and think you are ready, sign up for an AOG Teton Operator Course.  The mental forging that occurs by overcoming challenges is powerful. You will be better equipped to deal with everyday problems and stressors.  Training never ends.  Whatever you choose, do a lot of it.  Repetition is key.  Change up your training, diversity is important.  Keeping setting bigger goals for yourself.  You peers will notice the difference and will see you as a leader, even though they won’t be able to exactly understand what is different about you.  Find your arena.  No excuses.


3)      Focus- Awareness and Focus often increase simultaneously.  Focus often means the difference between success and failure.  I have come to understand and teach the optimal approach to understanding focus by thinking of three different, overlapping and often competing missions that must be kept in balance.  These are your individual, team and organizational mission.  First is your individual mission.  What are your personal goals?  In combat, they are pretty straightforward.  Keep yourself and your teammates safe.  Second is your team’s mission?  What are your small unit objectives?  Again, in combat these are usually pretty clear, communicated down from a higher chain of command and normally achievable based on precedence, training and expected outcomes.  Third is your organization’s mission.  Organizational missions are strategic in nature, sometimes more difficult to understand (best case) or completely misunderstood (often) by the individuals and teams comprising the organization.  The best approach is to understand where the territorial boundaries are for each “mission circle”, when you are crossing the boundaries and especially, which circle is the most critical one to address at any time.  It’s rare that all three are in sync, but military organizations and objectives most often come closer to achieving balance between the three than most civilian organizations. 


a.       Accept the reality that in the civilian world, these three mission circles will usually be out of sync, but hopefully not all three at the same time.  Though your job will not be fun or always uplifting, keep in mind that your job is fulfilling an individual objective for your personal mission.  Whether that is providing for yourself or your family, acting as a launching pad for another opportunity or challenging you to grow as a leader, your individual mission is important in the work you do.  Your team’s mission circle, the second type, will have many ups and downs and will be among the most unstable of the three, in the civilian world.  Poor communication, lack of peer trust, high turnover, insufficient training all contribute to sometimes negative small team mission circles in many corporate environments.  (All the more important to have certainty in your personal mission circle).  In the modern economic environment most companies are dealing with more uncertainty than ever before.  Don’t expect that your organization will always be able to communicate the master mission statement, or describe the path to success for your company to accomplish its mission.   Accept it.  Strive to lead by example and develop your version of a roadmap to organizational success.  If your chain of command fails to give you the proper training, guidance or support, then prove you are capable of succeeding in any environment, use “SOF Focus” to lead yourself and your team through the chaos.  You can always find one thing to do, one task, one objective that your boss, or your boss’s boss will approve of.  There are no excuses. You must find or create a way to help your organization achieve its mission.  Will you always, or ever, be recognized?  No.  Will your peers, family or friends understand how your sacrifices or creativity contributed?  Hardly ever?  But drive on.  You know the reasons why.


4)      Perspective- More than anything else, keeping perspective will help you stay emotionally balanced and healthy.  Your awareness means that you are thinking ahead and setting yourself up for success.  Your strength means that you will endure the hard times with greater resiliency than your peers.  You’ll be seen as a leader, and relied on during periods of chaos or uncertainty.  Your focus will ensure that you achieve the right goals, keeping the three mission circles in balance, and courageously forging a path ahead when others are wandering aimlessly. 

Brad Christian is the founder of Adventure Operations Group, a company dedicated to improving individual and team performance.  Brad and the entire AOG team draw upon diverse backgrounds and benefit from a balance of critical operational and corporate leadership experience.  The AOG team creates custom individual courses, specialized team assessment programs and epic guided experiences designed to develop a “Beyond Normal Limits” mindset.    Contact AOG today for a confidential consultation or visit our website to learn more about our custom corporate consulting services.






Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Small groups, heavy loads

Character is forged and awesome things happen to those that volunteer for hard missions.  Moving thru rough country day after day with a heavy load, a few friends and the remnants of a plan is a “great day”.  When your team is en route to a rally point that will require you to rise above the pain, hunger, confusion and fear that you all feel, to complete a difficult job is simply the best.  Knowing that you have miles left to go, and a job to do when you get there, and then miles left to get out, is an awesome feeling.  Suffering like this is a privilege and one that you have fought for.  It’s joins you with a proud legacy of those that went Beyond Normal Limits long before your time. 
It’s commando to move fast on foot day after day with a ruck so heavy you can barely put it on by yourself, or by truck, boat or horse and know that you still own the night, and can pass right through someone else’s AO.  It’s you and your team.  Most sane people stopped long ago, but you’re still out there- struggling along rough trails, fighting your way through a jungle, climbing to great heights on remote mountains, you push on with a team.  You put the pain out of your mind.  You thrive in the chaos and know that it’s your advantage.  You maintain 100% accountability and security all the time.
The objective is far in front of you, way beyond.  You catch an encouraging look from a teammate.  It’s subtle.  A barely perceptible nod and a quick flash of a smile that says, “Keep pushing brother, I’ll see you on the other side”.  So, you do.  You are in it all the way to the finish, no matter what. You left normal a long time ago.   When you get there, you know it was worth it. You know that no one else will understand.  “Why did you do it”?  You don’t even bother to answer. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Corporate survival- Part 2

What can you do to survive if you find yourself as a leader a part of a schizophrenic team or company?

1) Stay focused.  When leaders and motivated individuals, especially former SOF operators and Veterans find themselves on dysfunctional teams it can lead to epic frustration.  If approached correctly however, there are valuable personal and professional lessons to be gained.  Focus on your individual mission, your team's core capabilities and ensuring quality output continues (within your sphere of influence). Just like in military selection courses, your personal growth and development will increase exponentially during periods of extreme corporate hardship, and you will be refining your leadership skills to help guide a future team or organization through a similar challenge. Setting the example for others to follow is NEVER a bad personal strategy.

2) Keep the Type A in check- If you find yourself swimming against the current, or fighting an irreversible trend, don't make your personal situation any worse by drawing attention to your obvious disgust with the situation, or by inwardly thinking of "them" as the enemy.  Now is the time to fade into the grey, and adopt a lower profile with respect to any open forums or group meetings.  Now is also the time to increase your observation to ensure your situational awareness is at max zoom.  There are numerous lessons to be learned, so make sure you observe as much as you can and take lots of notes, especially when the negative feelings and emotions are strongest as these are likely the most important "what not to do" moments.

3) Proficiency- Many former SOF operators struggle with the proficiency, or lack thereof from among their peers in the corporate world.  After a career of mastering advanced individual skills, adapting to numerous environments, performing elite tasks in unthinkable conditions and enjoying the camaraderie of an elite team lifestyle, many former SOF and Veterans have difficulty assimilating into a corporate culture that often rewards the very opposite traits of their former professions.  It's rare in corporate America to find the level of accountability that SOF warriors are accustomed to.  Often times, individuals in companies can get away with poor communication, incomplete assignments, lack of diligence and disruptive behavior.   The effects on veterans can be devastating.  Rather than allow a dysfunctional reality to corrupt your positive mental attitude, think of soft resistance techniques and create individual proficiency standards for yourself.  For me, my focus is on email communications. I hate long drawn out email conversations, arguments or worse, the wrong outcomes when employees don't understand the intent of my email. I continually assess myself on how effective and complete my emails are.  Additionally, I hold myself to a high standard of accountability and ensure that I "own" outcomes, both those above and below me.  These areas are my personal proficiency checks that keep me focused on maintaining a high standard.  Now if I can just remember to sign my time sheet.....

Remember, when you make the transition to the corporate battlefield, it's not if, but when you will find yourself in an unfamiliar environment where things are screwed up and not as they should be.  Most companies and teams are understaffed and running super lean, many are reacting to uncertainty  about the economy or the competition and all of them are trying to increase profit. 

Don't underestimate the difficulties of thriving in the private sector as a corporate warrior, it can be done but it takes deliberate action and a disciplined approach.  For former SOF operators and Veterans or any highly motivated individual, remember the steps to surviving the difficult times are to stay focused, keep the attitude in check, maintain YOUR proficiency and be an example for your team.


Beyond Normal Limits


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Corporate survival- part 1

A good friend of mine is a former SOF Operator turned corporate warrior.  We were recently chatting about his career and his company and his strategy for surviving an especially challenging corporate environment. 

I am always interested in how former highly trained, combat proven, energetic SOF warriors make the transition into corporate life, and how they in turn handle the challenges and uncertainties that so many companies are currently dealing with.  I'm equally amazed at how effectively the SOF mindset can de-construct a problem (mission), create a clear path to success (plan) and ensure with 100% certainty that they achieve the objective (execute).

He shared with me the story of his company, a struggling, mid-sized logistics firm based in a major west coast city.  The company's recent history had been an unfortunate one of multiple management shakeups, a few minor scandals, declining stock value, high employee turnover, and a recent merger that now placed the company within a much larger structure of a portfolio management group that was focused on one thing, growth. The company faced an uncertain market place, shifting economic realities and competition from smaller aggressive companies as well as larger competitors. The firm had been unable to gain new clients, and was in danger of losing more market share if they couldn't improve performance.  My friend, no stranger to hard challenges, had recently joined the company, excited by the opportunity to have an impact by helping the organization grow it's current business and expand into new AO's (markets or vertical channels).  As a junior executive he had inherited a business unit that was vital to the overall organization and was responsible for leading a team that had a long history of success, but was also struggling to maintain their performance metrics while achieving aggressive new goals.  (sound familiar?)  Many business leaders I speak with share the same story.

After a year at the company, he called me to give me a short SITREP of the situation, and to discuss some options for how to move forward. 

The company was struggling, he said, with everything, but especially the simple things.  It was plagued with sluggishness, and there was angst, dysfunction and even anger within every level of the organization over confusion related to marketing and social media, sales, core capabilities and strategy.   He observed morale, cohesion and focus at the company to be dangerously low.  The situation was exacerbated, he said, by misplaced and inexperienced mid-level and senior leadership who lacked understanding of the company's potential, or the ability to communicate the company's value to potential clients. 

I laughed, "You just described half of the organizations in existence didn't you"?  He assured me it was no laughing matter, and we continued on with the de-brief.  His understanding of the situation (warrior's situational awareness) was keen and expected from someone who had survived multiple combat deployments and high risk missions but was also educated with business experience.  Though far from the only former veteran at the company, he was perhaps one of the few from the SOF world, and by his own assessment was one of a very small group of individuals who "got it" at the company.  That mindset is obviously consistent with Type A's who have a history of high achievement and while his frustration was evident, he was also aware that to keep his wits about him, and his objectivity he needed to monitor his frustration level and stay focused on forward progress.

We summed up the overall issues over many cups of coffee, and extracted the core challenges as he saw them:

1) The company could not define it's value or mission to it's employees, clients or shareholders any longer- Organizations have to be able to clearly communicate their mission to the world.  Employees and clients both have to understand what the company's purpose and value are, so that they can, in their respective ways make the correct decisions and achieve the desired results.  The value message is directly linked to cohesion and growth.  Employees at every level have to understand the strategic mission, team mission and their individual mission or the company will be mired in the mud.

2)  The company would not advance or grow until there was functional cohesion and unity in thought over the simple things. 

I told him I thought the company sounded schizophrenic.  He agreed.  In true SOF fashion, he was determined and focused on finding solutions and creating impact to reverse trend.  In short, he was focused on winning. 

I left amazed at his determination, dedication and his well thought out strategy to start with his team, master the basics, lead by example, think three steps ahead, know his environment and create multiple options.  He had SOF focus.  He was not going to quit.  He was up against perhaps his greatest challenge, the most difficult mission, deep behind enemy lines, and had a smile on his face as if to say, "Just another day in the office". 

I wondered if his company had any idea how lucky they were to have him.  I wonder how many others are out there? 

In Corporate survival Part 2- we will look at three practical steps you can take to ensure your success and survival as a leader if you find yourself in a similar circumstance.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Performance- Cold Weather Bug Out Rucking

WHAT: 11 mile cold weather ruck

WHY:- To test optimal load out and layering system for thermal regulation (prevent overheating) while rucking in cold weather


Bug out.  72 hours, get from point A to point B.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Well, maybe, but I don’t know, and I’m not the type of guy to leave things to chance.  While planning a 72 hour bug out exercise would be great (stand by for the announcement if you want to participate!!) a more practical method is to break down portions of it into smaller digestible chunks.  With that in mind, the actual movement is always something that I’m trying to improve.  There are things that will be variables, like overall circumstances (natural disaster, car broke down in the back country, terrain, etc.) some things will be consistent, like my ability to carry 30-40 lbs across flat ground.  That is my baseline.  The variable that I was fortunate enough to include was weather.  My friend and I, both with 30-40 pound packs, decided to do a flat ground movement in reasonably cold weather.  The starting temperature was right around 30 degrees, and our ending temperature was around 38 degrees.  While not EXTREMELY cold, it was a good temperature to see how well we could regulate temperature while moving at a reasonable pace for a distance of about 11 miles.  We kept a pace of about 15 minute miles, the standard for infantry ruck marching.

On several other movements over the last few months I’ve found that proper layering while exerting effort (moving quickly over varied terrain) caused me to overheat, sweat, and then have a hard time warming back up once I stopped moving.  The short answer is I was dressing too warm for the temperature and effort I was expending.  For this movement I didn’t wear any base layer on my bottom half, and only 2 layers on top.  I prescribe to the 3 W’s (wicking, warmth, weather) and with no chance of precipitation, I dressed light enough that if I were standing still I’d be cold, but moving would keep me comfortable.  My layers consisted of Smartwool PHD medium weight socks with Salomon Comet boots, Kuhl Raptr pants, an Icebreaker GT 200 performance top, Westcomb Ozone hoodie, Patagonia capilene beanie, Outdoor Research gloves, and the pack was a Gregory Savant 48.  The gloves and hood over my head were not used after about 2 miles.

The last time I did the same move (fall of last year) I was completely drenched in sweat, including my boots.  After this move I stripped off the Icebreaker top, put on a Tshirt, and walked into work.  I was able to keep my core temperature to a reasonable level, establish a baseline for moving a certain distance over a certain time, and give myself confidence in my ability to move over a reasonable distance and still be able to perform any task I might need to do.  I felt like I did a much better job of regulating my body temperature, allowing me to keep functioning throughout the day, as well as avoid risk of hypothermia.  The last thing I want to do is find myself in a very cold environment, with minimal gear and equipment, soaking wet from perspiration, and have to bed down or stay static.
While most everyone reading this will have some level of physical and equipment preparation, I encourage all of you to test yourself and your gear, know what you can and can’t do.  Life’s emergencies are unforgiving to those that only speculate and assume.


  • B-rad
    • Layering- For upper layers I wore an Arc Teryx Ether Crew (long sleeve) for my base layer, with a synthetic Mountain Hardware T-shirt (short sleeve) over top for a 2nd layer.  On top of that I started out with an Arc Teryx Atom LT (lightweight insulated jacket).  For pants I wore Arc Teryx soft shell tactical pants (Bravo) with no base layer. 
    • Feet- XA Pro 3D ultra/ mid-weight Smartwool PhD socks
    • Head- Arc Teryx RHO lightweight beanie
    • Hands- Arc Teryx Venta LT gloves
    • Pack- Osprey Kestrel 48 with 38 lbs. (including water)

  • Josh
    • Layering- Josh wore an Ice Breaker GT 200 performance top (base layer) with a Westcomb Ozone Hoodie (lightweight performance fleece top made with Polartec Power stretch pro).  His pants were Kuhl Raptr (performance stretch nylon pant) and he also wore no base layer.
    • Feet- Salomon comets/ Smartwool PhD socks
    • Head- Patagonia Capilene Beanie
    • Hands- OR storm sensor gloves
    • Pack- Gregory Savant 48 with 38 lbs. (including water)


Friday January 18, 2014
Moyock, NC
0603- 31 Degrees (F), Clear, Winds- Calm, 94% humidity

0703- 32 Degrees (F), Clear, Winds- Calm, 96% humidity

0805- 33 Degrees (F), Sunny, Winds- 5mph, 95% humidity

0904- 39 Degrees (F), Sunny, Winds- Calm, 94% humidity


For those of you not currently serving in a combat arms or SOF unit, or working as a professional outdoor guide, it may be safe to assume that you don't regularly throw a pack on and walk 11 miles at high performance pace.  Most people reading this however, may routinely find themselves somewhere, doing something that will either require moving with a pack or having to walk out if things don't go as planned (hunting, hiking, back country travel, ETC)  

If you've ever wondered about the basics of cold weather movement like how to layer, how much weight should you plan for or how fast to move, the standards described above are a good goal to achieve.  I've done a substantial amount of rucking, with heavy and light loads, moving fast, in virtually every environment on the planet, and consider the above weight, layer and pace combination to be near optimal for cold weather movement.