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How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

The best entrepreneurs are like a good cup of coffee: fresh, strong, and bold.

Army Green Beret turned coffee brew master, Evan Hafer, is exactly that. As the CEO of Black Rifle Coffee, Hafer says they’re selling freedom, one cup at a time.


It’s a great tagline. You know what else? It’s an incredible business. The company roasts over a million pounds of coffee per year and grosses over $30 million annually. This isn’t a veteran with a hobby; this is a savvy businessman with a passion.

Here’s my 60 second interview with Evan, filmed recently at the White House.


As the CEO of StreetShares, my team and I fund America’s best veteran-owned businesses with veteran business loans, and contract or invoice financing. The questions we get asked over and over again are how to break away from the crowd; how to stand out as an entrepreneur. Here’s how:

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business
Evan Hafer, Mat Best, and the Team from Black Rifle Coffee.

Lesson 1: Find your passion.

“I fell in love with coffee 20 years ago,” Hafer told me. “I was the only guy who invaded Iraq with a bunch of boutique, small-roasted coffees.” Eventually, he began roasting for his fellow soldiers; they even converted a gun truck into a spot where they could grind coffee every morning.

To be a successful entrepreneur, the first thing you need to do is hone in on your passion. What’s going to make you want to get out of bed every day and hit the pavement until you can’t work anymore? If you’re not passionate about your business, why would anyone else be? Find out what drives you, then figure out how to make money doing it.

Hafer told me, “When I got back from the Middle East, all I wanted to do was roast.” That’s exactly what he did.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business
Evan Hafer inspecting coffee beans.

Lesson 2: Be clear in your vision.

Hafer knew his passion had potential. He teamed up with some friends at Article15 Clothing and did a test-drive of his Freedom Roast coffee on their site. They sold about 500 pounds of coffee, and it inspired him to launch Black Rifle Coffee in December 2014. “Conceptually, guns and coffee go together very well,” he said. “Every range that I’ve been to, coffee has been part of shooting.” He knew what he wanted to create: A lifestyle brand centered on supporting the 2nd Amendment in conjunction with great coffee. “You’re not going to find that anywhere else,” Hafer added.

Hafer’s time in the Army served him well in transitioning to life as an entrepreneur. “In the military, you have to push yourself past mental and physical limits, every day to the point where you’re almost desensitized to the work,” he explained. “Now I feel like I have an endless capacity to just always work. The military gave me the context to reach into basically a bottomless well of endurance.

Lesson 3: Be fearless.

One of the most important assets veteran entrepreneurs bring to the table that their civilian counterparts don’t always have is perspective. “While serving, you’ve been in the worst places,” Hafer offered. “The worst business you are put in will never compare to the worst experience that war puts you in.

“That realization is ultimately what encourages Hafer to be fearless. He explained, “I’m not going to lose my life or kill anyone. That allows me to fail and fail fast, so I can learn from my mistakes. At the end of the day, I don’t care. It doesn’t harm my ego – I just embrace the failure and move on.”

Any entrepreneur will tell you that failure is a part of the game. How you handle risk, and incorporate it into your business model will dictate whether or not you’ll be successful.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business
Evan and Mat Best in the shop.

Lesson 4: Be you.

Hafer always wanted to roast coffee. Now, he wants to make other people a lot of money doing it. “I’d rather make 100 people millionaires than make $100 million dollars myself,” Hafer shared. “This company is a good opportunity to make money.”

One of Hafer’s first hires was a soldier who served alongside him in Afghanistan. With 86 employees, 60 percent are veterans . That was a big part of Hafer’s vision. “It’s not PR – it’s who we are,” Hafer said. “This company is about freedom. It’s not about social issues. The premise of the company is, ‘You do you.'”

Next time you go to order a latte, think about the lessons you can learn from Evan Hafer. Then order your coffee like a good entrepreneur: fresh, strong, and bold.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A green beret with terminal cancer fights to sue military doctors

Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal went to medical one day in June 2017, complaining of breathing issues. The Army doctors at Fort Bragg told him it was a case of pneumonia. Just a few months later, still having trouble breathing, he went to a civilian doctor – who found what the Army called “pneumonia” was actually a tumor, which had doubled in size and spread to other parts of his body.


Stayskal’s cancer was now stage four. He was terminal, and the father of two was given just a year or so to live. Stayskal’s lawyers say the mistake was critical, and Stayskal’s outcome would have been different if Army doctors had not missed what an “inexperienced resident would have seen.”

The Special Forces operator is well aware of just how fragile life can be. In Iraq’s Anbar Province, he was hit by a sniper in 2004. The bullet pierced one of his lungs and nearly killed him then. Stayskal, now 37 years old, kept the bullet to remember how close anyone can come to the edge. He would have done whatever it took to fight his cancer before it reached this stage.

Stayskal wants to sue the Army for medical malpractice – but he can’t. A 1950 Supreme Court case, Feres v. United States, prohibits lawsuits from active-duty troops when they are injured or killed due to medical mistakes in military hospitals. He’s been lobbying Congressional representatives and even President Trump ever since. His campaign is finally starting to pick up some steam.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal testifying in Congress.

The Feres Doctrine, as it has come to be called, is a Supreme Court decision based on three cases of negligence from the Army. Feres himself died in a barracks fire in New York State, and his estate wanted to sue the Army for not providing an adequate fire watch and for housing troops in a building known to have a defective furnace. Two other complaints accompanied Feres, including that of a plaintiff named Jefferson. Jefferson had undergone surgery in an Army hospital and later underwent surgery again – this time to remove a 30-inch towel marked “Medical Department U.S. Army” from his abdomen.

The Supreme Court found that even though the Army was negligent in the cases that made up Feres, it maintained that Active Duty troops were not protected by the Tort Claims Act because the incidents were related to their service and that families of the deceased are compensated under terms of their service without litigation.

The Supreme Court has already refused to hear a challenge to Feres in 2019, so it’s up to Congress to change the law.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

The new law is called the Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019, and it has bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, but the Pentagon is warning Congress against the Act. Military spouses, family members, and retirees are already able to sue the military, and did so to the tune of million in fiscal year 2018. The Defense Department estimates that opening up the Pentagon to lawsuits from troops could cost as much as 0 million over the next decade.

“It’s not going to cost that much money. If we get competent medical providers, I guess it wouldn’t be a problem,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, an Armed Services subcommittee chairwoman and lead sponsor of the bill.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Marines are being surveyed on their favorite performance snacks

Call it fourthmeal.

Since early 2018, the Marine Corps has been issuing Marine recruits and officer candidates in entry-level training a “performance nutrition pack” of high-energy snacks to get them through the 10-hour stretch between dinner and breakfast. Now, nutrition specialists want to know which items in the packs these prospective Marines are most likely to eat.

Surveys were distributed this month at Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia to gather feedback on the items in the performance nutrition packs that candidates were most likely to consume, said Sharlene Holladay, the Marine Corps’ Warfighter and Performance Dietitian.


The packs are assembled with purpose; they’re composed of off-the-shelf non-perishable food items that can include fruit-and-nut trail mixes, cereal, peanut butter and jelly packets, shelf-stable milk and more. A typical pack totals 500-600 calories in a ratio of 50-60% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 12-13% protein, Holladay said.

The intent is to give trainees a caloric boost before they head out to rigorous morning PT before breakfast; but that only works if they’re eating what’s provided.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

Rct. Thomas Minnick Jr., Platoon 1014, Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, lifts a 30-pound ammunition can during his combat fitness test Feb. 11, 2014, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

“If you’re not consuming it, it becomes really nutrient-dense trash,” Holladay said.

The survey uses a Likert scale with ratings from one to five, inviting officer candidates to indicate what they are most likely to eat and most likely to discard. Feedback will be collected through the end of October, giving officials a 95% confidence rate in the results.

From there, the feedback will be used to design future nutrition packs. Holladay noted that tastes and preferences change over time with new generations of recruits, and the survey allows officials to stay current on popular items.

The rollout of performance nutrition packs at entry-level training, following a pilot program in fiscal 2016, mirrors efforts by other services to make sure trainees aren’t limited by chow hall meal times when it comes to fueling up.

The Marine Corps dispenses roughly 1,500 of the packs each month at OCS and the two recruit depots in Parris Island, South Carolina and San Diego, Holladay said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Australia’s spies to be allowed to use more force

The government is moving to give Australia’s overseas spies extra powers to protect themselves and their operations by the use of force.

Legislation to be introduced on Nov. 29, 2018, will allow a staff member or agent of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) to be able to use “reasonable force” in the course of their work.

It also will enable the Foreign Minister to specify extra people, such as a hostage, who may be protected by an ASIS staffer or agent.


It is understood the changes have been discussed with the opposition and are likely to receive its support.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne says in a statement that ASIS officers often work in dangerous areas including under warlike conditions. “As the world becomes more complex, the overseas operating environment for ASIS also becomes more complex”, she says.

The provisions covering the use of force by ASIS have not undergone significant change since 2004.

“Currently, ASIS officers are only able to use weapons for self-protection, or the protection of other staff members or agents cooperating with ASIS.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

R. G. Casey House houses the headquarters of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

(Photo by Adam Carr)

“The changes will mean officers are able to protect a broader range of people and use reasonable force if someone poses a risk to an operation”, Payne says.

“Like the existing ability to use weapons for self-defense, these amendments will be an exception to the standing prohibitions against the use of violence or use of weapons by ASIS.”

There are presently legal grey areas in relation to using force, especially the use of reasonable and limited force to restrain, detain or move a person who might pose a risk to an operation or to an ASIS staff member.

Under the amendment the use of force would only apply where there was a significant risk to the safety of a person, or a threat to security or a risk to the operational security of ASIS. Any use of force would have to be proportionate.

The government instances as an example the keeping safe of an uncooperative person from a source of immediate danger during an ASIS operation, including by removing them from the danger.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The real reason North Korea stopped talking to the US

Kim Jong Un didn’t like the art of President Trump’s deal, according to a recent AP story. The second meeting between the two powers in Vietnam was much less of a bromance than the first meeting, held in Singapore. While the Singapore Summit left many feeling optimistic about the chances of a nuke-free Korean Peninsula, the Hanoi Summit ended almost as abruptly as it began.


While North Korea’s early, unplanned exit from Hanoi didn’t rule out a third meeting between Trump and Kim, it left many wondering what happened behind the scenes to end the summit so quickly. Simply put, Kim wasn’t prepared for the Art of the Deal.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi.

Although the summit lasted for nearly the expected time, talks broke down before the summit’s working lunch and a planned “signing ceremony.” President Trump told reporters that Kim’s demand for an immediate end to all sanctions against North Korea was cause enough for the President to walk away. Trump whose reputation is built on his ability to negotiate, even writing a number of books on dealmaking.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump said during a news conference after the summit. “This was just one of those times.” Insiders told the AP the President implored Kim to “go all in,” referring to the complete dismantling of nuclear development sites not just the disputed one at Yongbyon. For his part, Kim wanted the President to go all in, demanding an end to the sanctions.

Trump wasn’t willing to go that far. But there was more to the decision to end the talks there than just this current impasse.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

The Art of No Deal, by Kim Jong Un.

(KCNA)

Kim Jong Un just didn’t like the “unreasonable demands” Trump made of him, despite a close, personal relationship with the President, one Trump himself affirmed to Western media. So this snafu in Hanoi doesn’t mean the negotiations are over forever. Neither side has ruled out a third summit between them.

“We of course place importance on resolving problems through dialogue and negotiations. But the U.S. style dialogue of unilaterally pushing its demands doesn’t fit us, and we have no interest in it,” Kim said during a speech to North Korea’s parliamentary body. The dictator went on to demand reasonable terms for a real agreement and to have them from the United States by the end of 2019.

Those terms include a withdrawal of the “hostile policies” the United States has imposed on North Korea’s economy, government, and its individual officials. North Korea has time and again implored South Korea to move away from Washington’s aggressive policies toward the North and deal with Pyongyang more unilaterally. In the interim, Kim has resisted complete disarmament, opting instead to join vague declarations of arms control efforts amid cooperation with the South.

“If the United States approaches us with the right manner and offers to hold a third North Korea-U.S. leaders’ summit on the condition of finding solutions we could mutually accept, then we do have a willingness to give it one more try,” Kim said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SMA conducts battle challenge at annual AUSA meeting

Surrounded by a small group of soldiers all dressed in physical training gear, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey kicked off the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition with a Battle Challenge event.

“Our soldiers need to be ready,” Dailey said. “Ready to do the basic skills necessary to fight and win on the battlefield. Soldiers need to have the physical … and technical skills to do their job, fight and win.”


Soldiers who participated in this year’s Best Warrior competition were among the first to run the Battle Challenge at AUSA. The winners of the Best Warrior competition will be announced at the Sergeant Major of the Army’s awards luncheon.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

Surrounded by a small group of soldiers all dressed in physical training gear, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey kicked off the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition with a Battle Challenge event in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Devon L. Suits)

“PT is the most important thing you do every day. PT is a primary and fundamental thing soldiers do to fight. That is our job — fight and win our nation’s wars,” Dailey said. “AUSA put this together for us, and we couldn’t be happier.”

During the Battle Challenge, soldiers raced against the clock to be the fastest to complete a series of nine different soldier tasks. There is no prize for the winner — just bragging rights knowing that they bested some of the Army’s fiercest competitors.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

“The Battle Challenge was fun,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Machado, a platoon sergeant with the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and one of the Best Warrior competitors.

“During Best Warrior, we were working with some amazing competitors and the battle challenge capped off the event,” he added. “(AUSA) is a lot of fun and great opportunity to see all the things going on (in the Army), and in industry.”

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

AUSA’s annual meeting is the largest land power exposition and professional development forum in North America, according to event officials. With the theme, “Ready today — more lethal tomorrow,” AUSA is driven to deliver the Army’s message through informative presentations from Army senior leaders about the state of the force.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

Soldiers participate in a Battle Challenge event at the 2018 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C., Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. P.J. Siquig)

The event also hosts more than 700 exhibitors, giving the estimated 300,000-plus attendees a hands-on opportunity to interact with some of the latest technologies from the Army and industry partners. Further, AUSA provides attendees with a variety of networking opportunities and panel discussions that define the Army’s role in supporting military and national security initiatives.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

Former U.S. Army officer killed in Israel terror stabbing

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business
(Photo: Vanderbilt University)


Former U.S. Army officer Taylor Force was stabbed to death on a recent graduate school trip to Israel. Force was in Israel on a trip with his Vanderbilt University classmates when he was stabbed in Jaffa, an ancient port city that is now part of Tel Aviv. The attack was part of a wave of violence that injured a dozen civilians and police officers throughout Tel Aviv.

The Israeli government and Vice-President Joe Biden, who was in Israel this week, called the stabbing an act of terror. The assailant, allegedly a Palestinian, was shot and killed.

Force grew up in Lubbock, Texas and was an Eagle Scout. He graduated from West Point and served in Iraq from September 2010 to August 2011 and in Afghanistan from October 2012 to July 2013. Force made captain before separating from the Army to pursue his MBA at Vanderbilt. He was in Israel to learn about global entrepreneurship. He was due to graduate in 2017.

Articles

‘Christmas in Afghanistan’ depicts the holidays for troops over past two decades

When special operations combat veteran Addison Blu was stationed in Afghanistan over Christmas, it wasn’t exactly like holidays back home. Now a writer, Blu teamed up with New Musicals Inc. to write a mini musical about his experience. Wrought with gallows humor and profanity, the tone will strike true to any veteran who was stationed overseas during the holidays. 

Released before the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the songs could be triggering or cathartic, depending on your state of mind while watching. This is not a claymation musical for kids. This is the truth of what it was like for decades of veterans who served in the war-torn region.

“Oh look, there’s another bomb in festive green and red wires. Maybe the Taliban does know it’s Christmas.”

“Christmas in Afghanistan” has a book by Addison Blu, music by Michael Finke, and lyrics by Addison Blu and Michael Finke.  Directed by Megan Rees, and featuring performer Tonoccus McClain. 

There’s an endless amount of evidence that shows that the arts have a way to help veterans — especially combat veterans — explore their experiences and find healing and catharsis after trauma. New Musicals Inc.’s “So Proudly We Hailed” web series honors veterans by dramatizing and musicalizing their story in their own words. They pair veteran honorees with an artistic team comprised of a composer, lyricist, director and dramaturg who help shape the vet’s story into a short musical re-telling on a digital platform. 

After filming the first eight episodes of the series, including “Christmas in Afghanistan,” the creative team is now raising funds to film the five remaining finalists. Stipends go directly to Veterans.

Check out their indiegogo campaign to help contribute to their veteran program!

For any veterans currently experiencing distress, there are people you can talk to.

The Veteran Crisis Line is also available around-the-clock at 1-800-273-8255 (veterans should select option 1 for a VA staffer.) Veterans, troops or their family members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here are some 10-miler tips to beat the heat while training

For many runners, slogging along in the hot sun is a quick way to shut down a good training run. Before heading to the shade, keep in mind that the best training involves running in conditions one may face in actual competition. Although some runners may be hoping for a cool and cloudy day for the Army 10-miler in October, acclimating to the summer heat can provide a competitive edge on race day.

“It is important to acclimatize your body to the heat,” said Dr. Alexis Maule, a Defense Health Agency epidemiologist who works at the Army Public Health Center. “Start your training with short distance runs and slowly work your way to longer time and distance spent running in the heat. It can take several weeks for your body to adjust to training in the heat.”


Maule recommends avoiding running in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak.

“If possible, train early or late in the day to avoid the hottest times of the day or find a running route that has plenty of shade,” said Maule. “You will get the same benefits of the aerobic exercise while avoiding unnecessary sun exposure.”

Maule recommends runners use sunscreen and eyewear that blocks UV rays to provide protection from the sun.

“Sunburn is the most common sun exposure risk runners face during training and competition,” said Maule. “Sunburn inhibits the skin’s ability to release body heat, which increases the risk of heat illness. High heat and humidity are also environmental risks that runners face during training and competition. Repeated sun exposure can also lead to skin cancer.”

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

Follow these tips for optimal hydration.

(U.S. Army Public Health Center Illustration)

Maule recommends runners balance the goals of comfort by having loose, breathable clothing, which is important for protecting them from environmental hazards such as sun exposure.

One of the dangers of running in the sun is heat illness, which refers to a range of conditions which includes heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most severe and requires immediate medical attention. Runners may develop symptoms including light-headedness, dizziness, fatigue, and muscle cramps.

There is no specific time of onset for heat illness symptoms, said Maule. The timing of symptoms can depend on many factors, including the outside conditions (temperature, humidity, wind and direct sun exposure), the intensity of the workout, and the physical fitness of the runner as well as their intake of fluids, electrolytes, and calories before, during and after a run. When enough of these factors combine, runners can lose the ability to regulate their own temperature. Immediate cooling are the two most important words to remember when heat illness is suspected.

“If you are on a training run, find a shady area to rest and remove extra layers of clothing,” said Maule. “If water is accessible, take sips of cool water and splash water on your head, neck, arms and legs.”

To avoid dehydration, runners might have to make themselves drink when they are not thirsty,” said Joanna Reagan, registered dietitian at the Army Public Health Center.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

(Photo by Tomasz Woźniak)


“It doesn’t take much water loss for your performance to suffer,” said Reagan. “With only 5 percent body weight of water, your speed and concentration are reduced. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, what your body composition is, or how old you are, you can easily become dehydrated. It can happen quickly when you are physically active, especially in extreme climates.”

For longer runs, Reagan recommends runners try different systems to determine what works best for them, such as a handheld running bottle, a waist belt or a running hydration vest.

“It is a good idea to drink water or fluids every 20 minutes,” said Reagan. “If you are out for less than hour, then water is the best choice. If you are running longer than an hour then you are losing electrolytes and if you lose too many electrolytes, your performance can suffer.”

Reagan says the key for replacing electrolytes is sodium and potassium along with calcium and magnesium. The easiest way to do with is with an electrolyte replacement sport drink. There are also powders or tablets that can be mixed with water runners can carry with them on their route.

The first signs and symptoms for dehydration are a slight headache and dark colored urine, said Reagan. As dehydration worsens, symptom are thirst, muscle cramps, fatigue and decreased heart rate. Runners need to listen to the signs and symptoms of their bodies and slowly sip on a fluids to help re-hydrate.

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business

“Water, sports drinks, diluted fruit juice, milk and milk alternatives are good choices,” said Reagan. “Don’t forget about food choices high in water content such as fruit, vegetables, soups, and yogurt.”

Drinking too much plain water or not eating enough sodium can result in hyponatremia (low sodium levels in your blood), said Reagan. This can be very serious, if not treated. Women can be at greater risk than men of developing exercise-associated hyponatremia. The signs and symptoms include headache, vomiting, swollen hands and feet, confusion and wheezy breathing.

“During exercise, limit fluids to four cups per hour or six cups in hot weather to avoid hyponatremia,” said Reagan. “Do not drink more than 12 quarts per day.”

The APHC Heat Illness Prevention and Sun Safety page has information and resources on prevention, detection and treatment of heat illness: https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/discond/hipss/Pa….

The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

6 times America went to war since 9/11

The Trump administration opened a new military front April 6 when it ordered dozens of cruise missiles against a Syrian air base, adding to a growing list of recent U.S. military forays.


A look at where the United States has fought in the 21st century:

1. Afghanistan

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business
U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a mission in Kunar province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 25, 2012. (Dept. of Defense photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy)

After al-Qaida attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. led an invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban. Though the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the war — now in its 16th year — drags on.

Some 8,400 American troops are deployed in Afghanistan, where they train the country’s military and perform counterterrorism operations.

2. Iraq

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business
An M2A2 Bradley in action during a mission in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force)

Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein. Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 after failing to reach an agreement with Baghdad to leave a residual U.S. force behind.

But the U.S. sent troops back three years later after the Islamic State group, a successor to al-Qaida in Iraq, seized Iraqi territory and sought to declare an Islamic caliphate.

3. Drone Wars

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business
Predator drone strike.

Under Obama, the U.S. dramatically increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to launch counterterrorism strikes without the need for a large U.S. military presence on the ground. The CIA and Defense Department have launched strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, some of them covert.

Intense criticism from civil liberties advocates led Obama to create legal parameters for drone use that he hoped future presidents would respect. At least 117 civilians were killed from 2009 to 2016 by drone strikes outside of traditional warzones, the U.S. intelligence community has said. Other estimates place the toll higher.

4. Libya

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business
A quick reaction force with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response prepares to depart Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, in support of a military assisted departure from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Maida Kalic)

The U.S. and European allies launched an air campaign in Libya in 2011, aiming to prevent atrocities by strongman Moammar Gadhafi against Arab Spring-inspired opponents. The bombing campaign toppled Gadhafi, but Libya slid into chaos and infighting. The Islamic State group later gained a foothold.

The U.S. has continued to carry out airstrikes in Libya that Washington says has diminished the number of IS extremists operating there.

5. Islamic State Group in Iraq and Syria

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business
U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis)

After IS captured a wide swath of Iraq and Syria in 2014, Obama announced the U.S. could target the group “wherever they are.”

The U.S. started sending small numbers of military advisers to help Iraq’s weakened military fight IS. The number has crept up to around 7,500 U.S. troops. IS has lost much of its former territory.

In Syria, the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against IS since 2014. More recently, the U.S. has dispatched growing numbers of special operations forces to assist Kurdish and Arab forces fighting IS. Roughly 500 U.S. fighters are in Syria, plus additional, “temporary” forces that rotate through.

6. Syria

How Black Rifle Coffee Company became a multi-million dollar business
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) is one of the two warships to fire 59 BGM-109 Tomahawks at the Syrian airfield on April 6, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo)

Even while fighting IS in Syria, the U.S. has avoided wading into Syria’s civil war by directly confronting Syrian President Bashar Assad — until now. On April 6, U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched some 60 Tomahawk missiles at an air base in response to a chemical weapons attack blamed on Assad’s forces.

The strikes mark the first direct U.S. attack on Syria’s government, which has waged a six-year civil war against opposition groups. It also puts the U.S. into a de facto proxy battle with Russia’s military, which is on the ground in Syria and has propped up Assad.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

The mission of the Nellis Air Force Base Honor Guard is to represent the Air Force in a variety of ceremonial functions in Southern Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah. They are responsible for rendering military honors for funeral services and various Air Force ceremonies, as well as provide their services at various opening ceremonies.

For the guardsmen, excellence is the only way “to honor with dignity.” Every day they are fine-tuning their skills, or tweaking the slightest hesitation or shift until they can no longer get it wrong.


Devotion to duty

Under the hot desert sun, a group of airmen stand motionless. In two rows of three, they’re positioned opposite of each other, where the only sound is coming from a gentle wind passing through the formation. Between them rests an unfurled American flag draped over a spotless white casket.

Without so much as a whisper, they simultaneously grip the flag and, with each motion as precise as the next, they begin folding it. As the flag reaches the final fold, the last airman bearing the folded flag breaks the silence.

“Again,” he says.

He hands the flag back to the formation for the airmen to unfold and repeat the movements. The airmen didn’t make a mistake, but in their line of work, they don’t practice until they get it right; they practice until they can’t get it wrong.

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Airman 1st Class MaryJane Gutierrez, Nellis Air Force Base honor guardsman, salutes during after playing taps during a military honors funeral at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sept. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

Before any guardsman is put on a detail, they have nearly a month of training to learn the basic movements. Afterwards, they continue to meticulously work out the slightest imperfections.

“Most of us will have put in about 80 hours of training in the weeks prior to a detail because we have to be perfect. We can’t afford to mess up,” said Airman 1st Class David Diez, Nellis AFB honor guardsman. “Every funeral we do should be as perfect as we would want our funerals to be.”

Grit for greatness

In the distance, the repeated percussion of hands smacking against wood and metal escapes the open doors of the Honor Guard practice room. Inside, three airmen stand shoulder-to-shoulder, staring into a mirror to analyze their every movement.

“Present arms!” commands Senior Airman Philip Spegal, Nellis AFB honor guardsman.

The airmen lift their rifles with both hands then remove one hand, hit it against the stock and hold the rifles vertically in front of them.

“Port arms!” commands Spegal.

Again, they hit their rifles then position them diagonally across their chests. After taking a brief moment to pause and discuss what needs to be fixed, the airmen pick up their rifles and start again.

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Nellis Honor Air Force Base Guardsmen march in formation after presenting the colors at the South Point 400 NASCAR race opening ceremonies at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Sept. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

“Honor Guard is pure teamwork,” said Tech. Sgt. Leon Spence, Nellis AFB Honor Guard Non-commissioned officer in charge. “You can’t go to a funeral or a colors presentation and do everything by yourself. You have to be confident in your abilities and confident in your fellow guardsmen’s abilities to execute each detail as precise as possible.”

Passion for perfection

Down a hallway, the soft brushing of lint rollers against freshly pressed uniforms competes with the sound of gentle laughter from a poorly delivered dad joke.

In a room, Staff Sgt. Victoria Schooley and Airman 1st Class Ashley Libbey, Nellis AFB honor guardsmen, sit eye-level with their uniforms. With a ruler in one hand and a butterfly clutch in the other, Libby is aligning her ribbons. Across the room, Schooley is running her fingers up and down every seam of her ceremonial dress uniform, combing for loose strings to cut away with nail clippers or melt down with a lighter.

For them, looking sharp is just as important to having a successful detail as performing the actual maneuvers.

“I joined because I wanted to do a lot more than my regular day-to-day job. I wanted to feel like I had a bigger purpose in the Air Force and a bigger picture of our impact as a whole,” Diez said. “It will teach you to pay attention to detail, when you realize something as little as a crease in the uniform or a slight hesitation in a facing movement can be the difference between precision and failure.”

“We’re here to serve our community and I want to challenge people to come by and tell us what we could do better or to just learn about us and see what it is we do,” echoed Spence.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Corpsman saves family from crushed car

“I don’t know how many people were outside the vehicle, but I heard them counting down ‘three, two, one, lift!’ while they moved the weight of the tree off the car. I pushed up on the roof with my back to allow just enough room to get the boy out without causing further injury to him,” said the corpsman of 15 years. The boy’s head had been lodged into the side of his own left knee. The vehicle’s roof was also pushed into the child’s back.

At this point, Rory Farrell had already saved the boy’s mother who was not breathing in the front seat of the vehicle. He was now determined to save her trapped son.

Farrell, a native of Colchester, Connecticut, had always shown compassion and the willingness to help others even at a young age, according to his family.


“In that time, there have been moments that hinted to the amazing young man he would become. Sparks of light in moments of darkness that were ignited by Rory,” said Alexandra McGrath, one of his sisters.

Farrell had never been to Yosemite National Park in California before deciding to vacation there. After suffering a hand injury, he thought a simple camping trip would help him “push the reset button.”

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Tree involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

It was Labor Day weekend 2017, a very busy time to visit the park. Farrell left a day earlier than anticipated. The U.S. Navy special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman finished up on a weapons range the day prior, where he supported U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, and decided it would be a good idea to keep his medical bag with him on the trip nearly 400 miles away. He did not know just how important that choice would be.

The following day soon after arriving in the park, he realized just how crowded it could be. Not wanting to be around that many people, Farrell decided to drive farther up north in the park.

After some time on the road, he eventually decided to turn around and started to backtrack his way toward the crowds once again for no particular reason.

“To this day, I still look back and say ‘wow that was a big decision,'” said Farrell.

It was only 15 minutes after he turned around that a tree, later measured to be 33 inches in circumference and 110 feet high, fell onto a parked Toyota Prius, crushing the car no more than 100 meters in front of him.

“It didn’t make sense at first, because you’re just seeing a giant tree crush a car,” said Farrell.

He got out of his truck and ran toward the vehicle to figure out how he could help.

Farrell saw two occupants outside of the vehicle and breathed a sigh of relief, thinking everyone made it out OK. He then saw the facial expression and desperation of the driver, clearly panicking – speaking no English – made it clear to Farrell that there were still people in the car.

Running up to the crushed vehicle, he could see a woman unresponsive in the front passenger’s seat and just behind her a 4-year-old little boy pinned down by the roof of the car, trapped in his booster seat.

“In a situation like that, time is of the essence,” said Farrell.

Because there were two people, he had to make the immediate decision of who to assess first. The mother was not pinned in the vehicle. He saw this as an opportunity to get her out of there quickly, according to Farrell.

He gave a single rescue breath to the mother, who responded. He then directed a few bystanders who had arrived at the scene to take the mother out of the vehicle and get her to safety, according to the accident report.

Because of the boy’s position and not wanting to risk further injury to him, Farrell decided to get into the vehicle and push up on the roof with his back while bystanders outside lifted the tree off the car just enough for the child to be removed from his booster seat.

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Rear view of white Toyota Prius involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park. Photo taken after the tree and occupants have been removed from the vehicle.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

With the boy free from the weight of the tree, Farrell could start a more detailed assessment. He felt for a pulse, which was high.

“As a medic, this is a good sign, a really good sign,” said Farrell.

The boy was not breathing, and his jaw was locked in place. Farrell’s attempted rescue breath did not work as it did with the child’s mother.

Realizing the increasing danger of the tree pushing into the roof, Farrell called for a bystander to come grab the boy as he passed him through the window. After getting out of the car himself, he immediately took the boy back and put him next to his mom, according to Farrell.

After manipulating his jaw enough to get it open and clearing the airway of any blockage, Farrell gave another rescue breath. This time the boy responded, taking a breath.

Remembering he had his medical supplies in his truck, he sprinted to retrieve the bag and return to the boy and his mother to further administer first aid.

Farrell heard a bystander on the phone with emergency services and requested to speak with the dispatcher. He disseminated vital information to the 911 operator, including a recommendation to fly the patients out instead of using ground transportation. The dispatcher requested a medevac, according to the accident report.

An ambulance arrived shortly after to transport the two to their respective helicopters. Farrell was asked by the paramedics to ride with the boy and further assist until they reached the medevac crew. He hopped into the ambulance and continued his efforts. He did so until the boy was turned over to the helicopter crew.

Farrell’s preparedness for this situation stems from his occupation as a special operations independent duty corpsman.

“Since Rory was a little boy, he has dreamed of being in the military,” said Megin Farrell, another one of his sisters.

With this goal in mind and the aspiration to help others, he joined the Navy in 2004 to be a corpsman. From there, he worked his way into the special operations community.

He became a special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman or SARC, giving him a unique opportunity to complete additional and more challenging schooling, furthering his personal goal of being able to help others, according to Farrell.

Whether during this incident or when helping an injured Marine or sailor on one of Farrell’s multiple overseas deployments, his reaction is no different.

On his behalf, Farrell’s family traveled to Washington, D.C., Sept. 12, 2019, and accepted the U.S. Department of the Interior Citizen’s Award for Bravery for his actions and heroism.

“I was at the right place at the right time with the right training to make a difference, and that’s what’s important in a situation like this,” said Farrell.

Farrell is currently deployed aboard the USS Boxer with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

Former Marine Corps captain is new Navy Secretary nominee

President Donald Trump says he’s found a new candidate for the civilian post of Navy secretary.

His name is Richard Spencer, and he’s a former financial industry executive. Spencer is also a former Marine Corps captain.


The White House says Spencer most recently was managing partner of Fall Creek Management, a privately held management consulting company in Wyoming. Spencer also was vice chairman and chief financial officer for Intercontinental Exchange Inc., a financial market company, and president of Crossroads Group, a venture capital firm that was bought by Lehman Brothers in 2003.

Trump’s first choice for Navy secretary, businessman Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration in February. Bilden cited privacy concerns and the difficulty of separating from his business interests.

The Senate must approve of Spencer’s nomination.

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