Whether you know Tim Kennedy as an Army Special Forces soldier, mixed martial artist, co-owner of military lifestyle company Ranger Up, tactical trainer, gun enthusiast, or host of the History channel’s Hunting Hitler, there’s one common thread that most people take away from all his career tangents — he’s one crazy son of a bitch. He’s also relentless and motivated, and he never stops looking for ways to reach out to and uplift the next generation of warriors.
In 2020, Kennedy announced that he is opening a private school in Cedar Park, Texas, called Apogee, an Acton Academy, for the 2021-2022 school year. He has also launched an online mentorship program. While the school is open to anyone ages 6 to 12, the mentorship program is for young men who want to be “more guy-ish,” Kennedy said.
“That was a little tongue in cheek, but I think this generation — millennials and Gen Z — really have a lot of talents and gifts that haven’t been realized,” he continued. “So I got together with a team of entrepreneurs and military advisers, and we broke the learners, the heroes, the mentorees into pods, and in each of those pods they have to journal a workout program, they have to reach out to military leaders and private-sector business experts in fields that they want to go into. [...] We balanced these pods so that they can kind of cross-pollinate experiences, and then they have a leader, a mentor, in that group that keeps them on track weekly.
“There’s reading lists that they have to get through from — honestly, if you pulled an officer’s guide from West Point, their reading list from their freshman or sophomore year, you’d see a lot of similar books on there. So, you know, it’s putting a little hair on some chests.”
Kennedy said they have young men in the program ranging in age from 13 to 30, and while some have an eye to joining the military, others just want to build or improve their leadership skills.
“We put them into pods appropriate to what their individual goals are,” Kennedy said. “And sometimes they don’t know what their goals are — that’s the point of mentorship.”
With his hands in five businesses, it’s tough to get a few minutes of Kennedy’s time, but Coffee or Die Magazine caught up with him while he was recovering from his fourth knee surgery for our first print installment of “11 Questions & A Cup of Coffee.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
COD: How do you take your coffee?
TK: If I am ordering out, I get an oat milk cappuccino. If I am making it at the house, I steam milk and add a little to my drip coffee.
COD: How do you make your coffee?
TK: I have a French press, a good pour over, I have a DeLonghi espresso machine. I have a burr grinder that rolls into the Cuisinart slow pour drip. So it kind of depends. This morning, I had a cappuccino, and yesterday morning I had a — it was actually a Cuvée locally roasted Colombia blend drip coffee.
COD: What is the most extreme or bizarre place you’ve ever gotten or made a cup of coffee?
TK: Oh my god. So I had MRE heating packets, and I would stick the MRE heating packets inside of my canteen cup. Then I would heat up the water in my canteen cup, and I would use that water to go into my AeroPress, and I would hand grind my AeroPress.
I have done this in Patagonia, Argentina; I have done this in the Sahara of Africa; I have done this in the Kruger National Park (in South Africa) on counterpoaching missions; I have done this on the beaches both on the east and west coast of Africa looking for pirates. I have obviously done this in Iraq and Afghanistan. So I think the main takeaway was it takes about five MRE heating packets to get the water temperature up to that like 190 degrees so that you can have a good AeroPress.
COD: What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done, physically or mentally — or both?
TK: I do a lot of dumb things. So I was filming a show called Hard to Kill, and we would take me and we would put me in the fuselage of a helicopter and we would put it over a glacier lake. So the water was a balance between melted ice and saltwater, so because there was salt in it, it wouldn’t freeze even though it was 32 degrees. It was amazing — I don’t know how that physics works. So they take this fuselage of this helicopter and then drop me into this frozen lake, and I would have to swim from the frozen helicopter, through the frozen water onto an iceberg, and then I’d have to survive on the iceberg.
On the TV show, you saw me do it one time. But when you’re filming TV, you don’t do things one time — you usually do things that you see one time, three or four times. So I had to take a pill and eat it, and that pill was my body temperature thermometer. That was run to the safety camera crew, and anytime that I went fully hypothermic, they would pull me out of the water, they would wrap me in — not warm, you can’t warm somebody when they’re hypothermic, you just have to wrap them and let their body warm them. And then once my body would get out of hypothermia, I would then go back to filming that scene again. And I did that four times in a day in 20 hours. So that was up there.
Ranger School was fun, Special Forces selection was fun, getting blown up sucked. I was in a three-day gunfight in Afghanistan, that sucked. I got my ass beat in the UFC a few times, those sucked. But I think the most difficult or hardest thing that I’ve ever done is pretending like I had fun while playing golf.
COD: That seems relatively easy compared to all the other things you just listed.
TK: Yeah, but I really don’t like golf.
COD: How do you define success?
TK: One’s inability to quit.
COD: Mountain view or ocean view?
TK: An ocean view from a mountain.
COD: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
TK: Good knees. In the battle for Troy and Helen of Troy, when Achilles was shot down, arguably, he could never have been defeated. But he had an Achilles’ heel, and that was his Achilles.
No, um, superpower would be — an Army system that functioned properly.
COD: What motivates you to do what you do?
TK: Sanity. Everything I have done seems insane, but if I ever stopped doing the things that I do, I think I would be insane. So a lot of the things that I have done — like violence on behalf of my country — it’s with the belief that it’s for a purpose. I continue to do those things, try to contribute to this vision of what we are supposed to be, and if I didn’t believe that it made a difference, I would go insane.
COD: What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about you or the work that you do?
TK: That it’s easy for me.
This right here is a game-ready ice machine, and it’s pumping water — the water is 33 degrees — and it’s pumping pressurized water into this wrap around my knee that I just had surgery on, which is my fourth.
But you see a curated Instagram feed, and you see me on top of a mountain, or you see me with my hand raised in the UFC. You see me with a green beret, the tower of power on my shoulder, Ranger, Special Forces, Airborne — you know, and you don’t see me lying on a hospital bed as they’re pulling shrapnel out of my back. You don’t see me laid up in this bed, you know, and preparing to go to rehab for the PT that I’m arguing like, “No, bro, I’m fine to start physical therapy.” He’s like, “Fucker, you had surgery on Friday,” and I’m like, “Yeah, but it’s Monday.”
And that’s the most misunderstood thing is that I’m different than everybody else. I’m not. I’m not special, I’m not tougher. I might be just dumber.
COD: What are your hobbies outside of what you’re known for?
TK: Cooking. Making great coffee. Swimming. Hawaiian shirt collecting. Collector of fragrant candles.
COD: On a scale of one to 10, how confident are you in your ability to survive in a post-apocalyptic world? One being I’m dead on day one, 10 being I’m pretty much going to be the king of the New World Order.
TK: This question alone gave me an erection. And I’ve fantasized about this happening and prepared for this in nearly every capacity. So being in Texas and having a whole bunch of friends like Evan and Mat down in Boerne, and friends up in Dallas, and Marcus Luttrell in Houston, Dakota Meyer: We have kind of set boundaries and borders for our future respective states when the apocalypse happens so that we don’t have to war with each other, we kind of already know our operating environments. And then I’m going to control everything from here to the Mississippi until we can consolidate our efforts, and then we’ll just go ahead and take over the rest of the world.
If the scale went to 11, I’m an 11. Ten is understated. I would be a 10 just with what I have in this room right now, not even what I have in this property or the things that I’ve set up. Yeah, like a 27, maybe?
This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of Coffee or Die’s print magazine.