When asked what daddy does for work my daughter replies, “types on computer.” When pushed for details about what I really do she says, “punches in faces.” I like the second answer better but the first is more accurate. The punches in faces part is something I used to do when I served in the US Army, first as a Ranger and then as a Green Beret. Today, I work as an investigative journalist and authoring action-adventure novels. I can’t complain though as I get to travel the world, heading out to various hotspots to do boots on the ground reporting.
9/11 happened while I was in my senior year of High School. I had already been planning to join the French Foreign Legion or something like that but after 9/11 it became clear that America was going to war. If I joined the US military, I would not be stuck in a peacetime army. I enlisted at 19 years old and became a member of 3rd Ranger Battalion. While there I served as a anti-tank gunner, sniper, and team leader. To this day it remains one of the best experiences of my life. I also graduated from Ranger School and Sniper School and did two combat deployments to the Middle East.
In 2005 I attended the Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) and then the Q-Course in 2006. Upon graduation I served in 5th Special Forces Group as the senior Weapons Sergeant on a military free fall team. We deployed to Iraq where I was the senior advisor to a 100-man Iraqi SWAT team. I had some amazing experiences in the military and don’t regret my time there for a moment, however I found myself frustrated by the crippling bureaucracy that prevented us from winning. I was ready to set off on my own.
I left the Army in 2010 and graduated from Columbia University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. While I was still in school I co-founded SOFREP.com with my friend, former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb. Special Operations Report (SOFREP) was to be a news and information website run by Special Operations veterans. We started the site on a shoestring and a prayer, but it soon blossomed into more than I could have imagined. By the time I finished college, I had helped create a full time job for myself as a journalist on the website.
While attending college I also took up my hand at writing fiction, penning the first couple novels in my Deckard series. Having grown up reading action-adventure from the greats like Don Pendleton and Robert E. Howard served inspiration but so did so many hacks in what is now an oversaturated genre. I try to bring my military and journalistic experiences into my novels, grafting details into the books that other writers never could. Some of those details come way to close for comfort according to some parties. To date, there are four books in the Deckard series and book five is being written.
With SOFREP.com I’ve done reporting from Iraq, Syria, Switzerland, the Philippines, and South Korea. I’ve met with the spies, refugees, a president, US Special Operations soldiers, private security contractors, foreign counter-terrorism operatives, and many more. I’ve broken major news stories and appeared on national television. From crossing middle eastern borders on foot in the dead of night to getting detained by the secret police or rolling into an IED laden war zone with Kurdish soldiers, it has been quite a ride. The transition from US Special Forces soldier to journalist has its challenges but frankly I feel like I’ve been able to accomplish more without the constraints I had to work with in the Army.
From a recent interview in the Huffington Post:
What do you hope people most get from your fiction, and then also from your non-fiction writing and reporting? Is there an overarching theme you’re finding yourself drawn to personally in writing both fiction and non-fiction when it comes to international security issues?
I hope they get the facts and in a larger sense, I hope that they get the truth. There are good journalists and bad journalists, but most of them have no military experience and really have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to defense matters. For that reason they end up relying on controlled leaks from the CIA and the Pentagon for information, or worse yet, they use so-called “activists” on the ground in Syria as sources who are really just Al Qaeda propaganda agents. I hope that I am able to bring a finely honed BS detector to my work as a journalist.
I hope that my fiction writing provides the ideal action-adventure novel for the reader, one that is authentic, dark, and catches the audience like a shotgun blast to the face. Most authors in this genre are just too tame, too domesticated for me. What they write doesn’t even remotely resemble what combat is actually like. Within those exciting fictional stories, I hope the narrative also carries an embedded message about what it means to be a soldier and the complexities of the threats that we are currently facing around the world as well as at home.
Read the rest of the interview here.