The Green Beret Foundation has a new Executive Director. Brent Cooper is dedicated to transforming the perception of the Green Beret through education, innovation and an epic new video.
Cooper assumed leadership of the Green Beret Foundation in 2019. Almost a decade before that, he spent his career chasing what he called the corporate ladder. Although highly successful, it was never really what he deemed enough and left him feeling like he was living a life without purpose.
Then, the military came calling.
Cooper wanted to serve his country his entire life. At 30 years old, he knew if he didn't do it soon it would be his biggest regret. So, he joined the Army with his eye on the coveted Green Beret. "If I was going to join the military – I wanted to be among the best," he said with a smile. Two years after enlisting, Cooper completed the Special Forces Qualification Course.
Established in 1952, the United States Army Special Forces are the renowned and elite Green Berets. On April 11, 1962, President John Kennedy stated that the Green Beret was, "A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage and a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom."
Cooper served as a Commo Sergeant in the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. He spent five years serving the Army, eventually leaving to focus on his family. Not long after earning his MBA, Cooper found himself back in what he termed the "hamster wheel of the corporate world," unfulfilled. "I severely underestimated how much I would miss serving something bigger than myself," he explained.
That was about to change.
"When I got out in 2015, I received a coin and a patch from them [the Green Beret Foundation], but I knew absolutely nothing about the Foundation," Cooper shared. Once he saw the job advertisement, he dove into researching and really liked what he saw. Three months and multiple interviews later he was offered the position and never looked back. "I feel extremely blessed and that for the first time, I am exactly where I am supposed to be," he shared.
The mission of the Green Beret Foundation is to provide vital support to Special Forces soldiers and their families. Since its inception in 2009, GBF has invested over $15 million and served over 13,000 families. Cooper admitted that most people, especially Green Berets, don't even know exactly what the Foundation does – something he has made it his mission to change.
On his first day, Cooper put two questions on the white board in his office. "I told everyone that these questions would guide every decision that was made. The first question was, 'Does this service our soldiers?' and the second, 'Will this make our donors proud?'" he shared. Cooper believes that if they always do the first thing, the second will easily follow.
With that vision now guiding the Foundation, Cooper set out to educate and change mindsets. "Many people don't even know who Green Berets are to begin with. For me, it's been a constant effort of focusing on communicating effectively who they are to both the civilian and military populations," he said. Cooper said that although Green Berets are known as the quiet professionals, it doesn't mean they need to be silent.
It is with that in mind that led Cooper to spending his first year as Executive Director revamping the Green Beret Foundation logo, website and even the promotional video. The original video itself was about nine years old and in his mind, didn't adequately showcase the role of a Green Beret or the Foundation itself.
"What I really wanted to convey was something that the regiment could be proud of. That shows who Green Berets are... in a different light. Not just the cool guy stuff either, because Green Berets are warrior diplomats. They actually solve conflict by talking first," Cooper explained. He shared that Green Berets have a strong focus in humanitarian work for allied countries, something most people may not be aware of.
The role that the Green Berets serve in for this country is both extensive and vital. One thing the public may not realize is that they are embedded within other Allied nations' military forces, dedicated to preventing terrorism and training through Foreign Internal Defense. "If we can demonstrate that Green Berets are warrior diplomats and teachers first, that will resonate. It's very difficult to do in a six minute promotional video, but I think the first minute really demonstrates that," he said.
Green Berets also have a higher mortality rate in combat.
In 2019, almost 65 percent of soldiers killed were Green Berets. Since 9/11, Green Berets have accounted for the majority of casualties in the Special Operations' community as a whole. "These numbers demonstrate that they are in a lot of conflict. They are the first ones in and the last ones out," Cooper explained.
The Green Beret Foundation remains committed to supporting wounded Green Berets, those in need and the families of the fallen – something the new promotional video deeply showcases. The foundation has also doubled down on their dedication to serving transitioning Green Berets, supporting them as they head back into civilian life.
Cooper stated that when you ask a soldier to do the things Green Berets do, you need to be there when they are done with the job to support any fallout. "These are the tip-of-the-spear guys, the ones who suffer the most. This inevitably means they are going to need the most support. These long-term effects, the visible and invisible scars... it's lifelong," he said.
It is with all of this in mind that Cooper says he works as hard as he does and asks the same of every person within the Foundation stating, "We have a mission and that always comes first. It is bigger than any one of us and we are going to continue to do the right thing, which is serving Green Berets and their families."