How Leadership at BRCC Shifted From Government Service to Veteran Service

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Omar “Crispy” Avila stands strong. Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.

Black Rifle Coffee Company was born from a desire to be free of government service. The founders of this company reached a point where we needed to replace a commander’s intent with personal drive. We needed to move away from our reliance on government and get back to what it means to serve, and we needed to reinvigorate a relentless pursuit of happiness.

That’s where BRCC comes in: We’re a community built on hot, brown water that extends beyond a typical corporate company’s capabilities. Our mission has never strayed from that ethos.

After the horrific handling of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, it is apparent now more than ever that the individual pursuit of purpose and liberty cannot, and should not, be wholly reliant on the government.

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Gates to Kabul airport became deadly chokepoints for crushes of refugees. The Taliban, says Jariko Denman, continued to send crowds to the airport, adding to the crush. Photo by Jariko Denman.

Master Sgt. Jariko Denman in a picture from his first deployment to Afghanistan in April 2002. Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.

In August, we saw a torrent of individuals flooding to help get people out of Afghanistan. Not because they were told to but because there was an intrinsic calling every individual felt to be a part of the solution. Jariko Denman was one of those individuals.

Jariko was on the ground in Kabul working back-channel communication lines to coordinate the removal of Americans and Afghans. He described the scene as a death metal show with one exit — and the arena is on fire. After 15 trips to combat zones as an Army Ranger, Denman said the situation was worse than any deployment he was ever on. Yet there he was, on the ground, risking life and limb to pull good people out of a shit situation.

In addition to the international blunders that we have seen unfold over the past year, the health care system specifically designed to serve veterans — the Department of Veterans Affairs — continues to fail the American veteran too often. There are only so many depressing hospital visits mixed with improper care that our community can endure. What is working is the heroic work ethic that is ingrained into many of us who served, repurposing that mindset and applying it toward our communities and ourselves.

Jariko

Master Sgt. Jariko Denman in a picture from his first deployment to Afghanistan in April 2002. Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.

Omar “Crispy” Avila was blown up in Iraq, resulting in burns covering more than 80% of his body, an amputated leg, and hundreds of surgeries during his ongoing recovery. It’s something that Omar will be dealing with for the duration of his life. He is in a constant tepid state of recovery, and he needs solutions in order to live a good life. At 35 years old, it may seem on the surface that he has plenty of time to figure this out, but as a former athlete powerlifter, Omar doesn’t have time to wait on a broken system in order to live a pain-free, productive life.

That is why he went on a trip to Colombia to receive stem cell therapy in a capacity outside of what is currently available in the United States. Months after the treatment, Omar is in a better state than he has been in years.

The overarching themes here are atypical to how we are traditionally trained to think. If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it is that we need to carve out capabilities and concepts outside of how we existed in the military. The mindset we have adapted inside BRCC is one we hope others will see and aspire to. We hope that you, as an individual, can exist in circumstances where you are only limited by how creative you can be in pursuit of your desired existence.


This article first appeared in the Fall 2021 print edition of Coffee or Die Magazine as “The Caffeinated Life.”

Read Next: Secret Mission to Kabul: The C-17 Crew That Launched the Afghan Airlift

Logan Stark is the Editor-in-Chief of Black Rifle Coffee Company. A Michigander by birth, Logan joined the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after graduating from Greenville High School. He trained as an Infantry Assault-man with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines out of Camp Pendleton, CA and later completed deployments to Okinawa, Japan, and Sangin, Afghanistan as a Scout Sniper. After his time in the Marine Corps, Logan earned a degree in professional writing from Michigan State University. While at school, he directed a film titled “For the 25,” which focused on his deployment to Afghanistan. This project led to him being published in USA Today and the New York Times’ ”At War” Blog...and ultimately his role with Black Rifle Coffee Company.
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