by Matt Lambdin
This first appeared in 18 Series Bag Company on April 15, 2022. It is republished here with the author’s permission.
I want to begin by celebrating the unsung heroes of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), otherwise known as the Night Stalkers, better known to the SOF community as the ‘Uber for Commandos’. The pilots are the best in the world, that’s without question. What does not get the deserved recognition are the maintainers, the logisticians, the crews, the medical staff, and the rest of the folks getting those birds in the sky.
“I pledge to maintain my body, mind, and equipment in a constant
state of readiness for I am a member of the fastest
deployable Task Force in the world, ready to move at a moment’s
notice anything, anywhere, arriving time on target plus or
minus 30 seconds.”
Anywhere in the world, plus or minus 30 seconds.
I can attest that the folks in the 160th live by the Regimental creed. I know former 160th rockstars at Beretta, killing it in real estate in Texas (see below), an awesome former co-worker who returned to his old stompin’ grounds in Huntsville, and a former crew chief in Colorado helping design lighter, stronger, faster equipment for the military. The 160th does something to the folks who serve in that unit, and I can’t help but think, that something, is great.
I met David Burnett after he stumbled into the lion’s den, otherwise known as the Force Modernization shop at 10th Special Forces. It was a free-fire zone for anyone that walked in, and rightfully so. We checked everyone’s ego at the door because good ideas are only as good as the person who come up with them. Ideas must be broken down, placed into context, and then realistically employed. Simply saying, “Hey I have this cool piece of kit” isn’t good enough. We must holistically look at each concept, from tip to tail, ensuring program compliance, budgetary constraints, and oh ya, briefing the Group Commander and his staff, you know, the group of people that have the never-ending list of priorities.
David was one of those guys that willfully stepped into the lion’s den and came out better for it.
Blackbridge Defense was founded in 2014 after David Burnett decided to hang up his 160th flight uniform. David served as an MH-47G Chinook crew chief and conducted daily Oprah makeovers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead of doing one’s hair and makeup, like in the popular show, David was busy turning enemy combatants from human form into a pink mist with his powerful M134 minigun.
David told us that while he was deployed, he had recognized countless unsolved capability gaps plaguing the overall Helicopter Assault Force (HAF) mission. After his honorable discharge, David began inventing equipment that filled requirement gaps, such as a quick-release clamping device necessary to secure gear inside any rotary-wing platform. Unfortunately, that new and exciting product, which took over four years to develop, while bootstrapping the company, would never make it to mass DoD market penetration. Defeated and exhausted by the setback he recounted, “Like all SOF components, we had a motto. That motto was instilled in me through our selection process and will continue to aid in my decision-making process until the day I die. Night Stalkers Don’t Quit.”
David wanted to see if the quick-release clamping device, or Tac Clamp, would have any applications on their ground vehicle fleet. Unfortunately, the team guys didn’t see any added value in incorporating the device into their fleet. However, what came from the meeting was a request to implement the same quick-release technology in the clamping device, into a quick-release M240/M249 weapon mount for their fleet of SOCOMs Family of Special Operations Vehicles (FOSOV). Having spent significant time behind an M240, a light bulb went off once the main weapon mounting problem was conveyed.
Blackbridge Defense, in conjunction with the 10th SFG Force Modernization, immediately got to work. After 18 months, continuous testing, and several prototypes, the newest M240/M249 shadow mount was unveiled. This system has been received as the new standard in mounting crew-served weapons by operators and the team at Blackbridge continues to make small improvements to deliver the best weapon mounts with the shortest lead times. It is lighter, stronger, and faster employed than anything currently used. In the adage that ounces make pounds, David’s mount will aid in USSOCOMs effort in building hybrid electric platforms by lessening the load on the battery and aid in lightening the load for the Commando’s Uber platforms.
David, you are a testament to the Vetrepreneur. The nation is better because you’re still in the fight.
Recently, I had to track down some medical supplies to go into my Fanny pack. We had been queried by some of the SOF folks in E. Europe who wanted to use our fanny as an IFAK, which I love. When asked if I could provide the medical supplies along with it, I was referred by two 160th alumni to Jimmy Gruenewald. After some discussion about medical supplies, Jimmy purchased an 18 Series Fanny (I’m glad that you like it). After graduating from the Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP) and deployment to beautiful Afghanistan, Jimmy became a Physician’s Assistant in both the 1st and 2nd Battalion of the famed 160th.
Founded three years ago, Orion Medical Consulting focuses on providing medical education and training to backcountry hunters and outdoor adventurers. Jimmy started with the idea of offering a one-time first aid class before going to a hunting event, “I founded Orion Medical Consulting after I was preparing for an elk hunt out west and saw that there was not a first aid kit that was specifically geared towards the hunter and outdoor adventurer.” After that first class, Jimmy recognized a huge gap in the unserved market, so he jumped in. “We took first-hand lessons learned in combat to provide the essential equipment for the backcountry hunter and outdoor adventurer. We also want to provide the education with their equipment to instill both knowledge and confidence. Our mission is to equip, educate, and empower.” In addition to providing classes and education to hunters and the backcountry folks, Orion Medical Consulting also has an awesome First Aid Kit offered on their website. Like a tactical IFAK, Jimmy’s First Aid Kit is a lifesaver in backwoods. Getting injured and being unprepared in the woods while hunting is a big fear of mine. Not because I’m worried about the injury, but rather, that if I somehow survived, my wife wouldn’t ever let me live it down and more importantly, she’d never let me go out again.
During Jimmy’s time at 160th, he contributed to the modernization of CASEVAC equipment to meet the demands of prolonged evacuation times, equipment that the unit is still using today. His innovation efforts are exactly what makes the 160th great, continuous tactical improvement. It’s why they’re the best at what they do.
Jimmy currently offers a one-day course but is now designing a curriculum specifically for wilderness guides, “It’s been challenging at times but completely worth it!” Eventually, Jimmy plans to make it his full-time hustle, but growth is required for that. In the meantime, Jimmy will still be doing what he does best, saving lives in the ER.
When not saving lives in the Emergency Room or preparing hunters for backcountry medicine, Jimmy works with another 160th alum, Kyle Faudree, who created Advanced Medical Concepts LLC. Advanced Medical Concepts provides tactical medical training and critical care medical training for flight paramedics and flight nurses. It makes perfect sense to me that Jimmy and Kyle are capitalizing on their training and experience to teach a difficult, but needed, subject. They are setting the example for the rest of us entrepreneurs to follow. It’s safe to say that if you find yourself in a medical emergency, you want Jimmy in your corner.
**After Jimmy and I did the final edit of this blog, Jimmy wanted me to emphasize how much Kyle had mentored and helped him and how appreciative he was for the help in standing up his business. Jimmy wrote, “I think it’s worth mentioning since all of us in SOF continue to look out for one another and help those veterans that are transitioning to a different battlefield. **
Jimmy, it’s been great getting to know you, and I can’t wait to see what you do next.
My friend Joseph King, the all-star medic whom I sat beside during the first half of the Special Forces Medical Course, first introduced me to another awesome 160th medic, Daniel Bell. Daniel was a medic in the 160th during the first five years of the Global War on Terror. Those were the years that trauma medics earned their pay, and for the 160th, business was busy. It all makes sense now. Since being introduced to Daniel, the guy doesn’t have an off switch. I need a moment to switch gears between ideas but not Daniel, he just free flows through ideas and keeps moving. I think it’s a real talent.
Daniel left the Army to finish up his education, which led to him pursuing a career in Real Estate, an equally challenging job. If you want to get into a business that is saturated with a lot of people shooting for the stars and being overly competitive, just look at the real estate market. In San Antonio alone there are nearly 16,000 agents, and that number is predicted to increase by seven percent in the coming years. Real estate is a service sector that will test one’s abilities, many are not up to the challenge.
As a dual military family, the Bell’s moved to Texas in 2018 and Daniel saw an opportunity to use his skills to help others as they were looking for property in and around San Antonio, Military City USA. “I had a surgeon that would say, “In medicine, we talk, give out pills, and cut.” It is a phrase that has truth in it, no matter the service one provides. People have needs and we must listen first and act second. Buyers need someone that can listen and understand their needs to navigate through all the options.”
San Antonio has a robust SOF community, so it just makes sense that Daniel connects with his former community to leverage his abilities and engage in this market. As he applies the SOF truths to his civilian employment, Daniel can focus on the value of people, quality, competence, proactive approaches, and the need for support outside of our wheelhouse, “Recognizing the things that provided stability and success in my sector of the SOF community, and applying those to my current vocation, have helped grow my business.”
Patrick Brennan, a former 7th SFG 18D, has been the lender partner that Daniel has turned to, to assist his residential clients with their mortgage needs (SOTXmortgage.com). They both jumped into the real estate space in 2019 and have been able to work together to provide the right homes at the right rate for many of the active-duty folks making that PCS to Joint Base San Antonio. Linking up with Patrick provided Daniel a pathway for engagement with other SOF veterans and growing his network.
If you are looking for a place to live or a place to move your business, reach out to Daniel at DanielBellSATX.com.
My goal for this series of SITREPs is to help other SOF entrepreneurs achieve a bit more business recognition, a bit more sales, and connect with other folks getting after it. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about Daniel’s work with the Warrior’s Journey.
I’ll let Daniel tell you about that:
“Over the past six years, I have been involved with The Warrior’s Journey (TWJ), an organization that connects and engages service members, veterans, and their families. We have been working on developing a program that provides opportunities for veterans to engage in helping others through the use of their military skill sets. The invasion of Ukraine called for a response that fits the SOF skillset, so we launched TWJ forward at the beginning of March to help distribute aid, provide prehospital care, and transport or evacuate individuals from difficult circumstances. Our response has been small, but the Special Forces veterans that make up our team have been able to reach further with less and make life better for the Ukrainians we’ve been able to help. We continue to build our team, maintain a small footprint, and positively impact the situation. You can visit TWJ.org/Ukraine to support our team and get more information.
Daniel likely has a better credit score than the rest of us, runs fast, swims, and can tell you about the best place for tacos in the San Antonio AOR. Daniel, I’ll support whatever you could be doing, because I know, it will be great.
Thank you for reading.
Always forward – Matt