The life in front of you is far more important than the life behind you
During the First World War, a soldier in the trenches
saw his friend out in no man’s land stumble and fall in a hail of bullets.
He said to his officer, “May I go, Sir, and bring him in?”
But the officer refused, “No one can survive out there” he said,
“I should only lose you as well.”
Disobeying the order, the man went to try to save his friend.
Somehow, he got his friend on his shoulder and carried him
back to the trenches, but he himself lay mortally
wounded and his friend was dead.
The officer was very angry, “I told you not to go” he said,
“Now I have lost both of you. It was not worth it.”
With his dying breath, the man said, “But of course it was, Sir.
It was worth it, because when I got to him, he said,
“Jim, I knew you’d come.” ~Leslie D. Weatherhead
These are the entrepreneurial stories of the men that will never leave you behind, men of the U.S Airforce Special Operations Command.
With over 40 years of military experience, Paul Koester is the quintessential U.S Air Force Pararescue Airmen. Having been trained to be the U.S Military’s best and with more operations to count, Paul now lives in Bozeman, Montana, and runs PK Gunsmithing.
I first met Paul virtually late last year as I was signing up for an event that he manages, the Weapons and Tactics (WEPTAC) Special Warfare Industry Trade Show, put on at Nellis, AFB, Las Vegas, the week prior to SHOT Show. It is a legendary show for industry insiders as WEPTAC personnel in the U.S Air Force are the most knowledgeable folks that we have in the U.S Military regarding lethality. We worked with Paul to get a booth but as per SOP, COVID crashed our party, and the trade show was slipped a year. While missing Paul’s WEPTAC show was an epic disappointment, the SHOT show was the following week, so we had little time for self-pity (see SITREP 009 for our preparation for SHOT)
Paul now runs a gunsmithing business up in Bozeman that focuses on lever-action restorations and custom AR builds. He is certified in Glock, Beretta, Remington, and Colt firearms. His work is phenomenal.
At SHOT we met some serious characters, but it was the unassuming ones that made us smile. While some guys were flexing their tacticool-resumes, in walks a distinguished gentleman that most guys couldn’t muster the strength to carry his bags and introduced himself as Paul.
Paul’s been an Air Force PJ since 1974, he’s seen it all. In 1987, Paul decided to pursue an education and left active duty to join the Air National Guard, 102nd Rescue Squadron, in New York. Paul’s rescue team was one of the first on the scene at Ground Zero immediately following the attacks on 9/11. Feeling the strong gravitational pull to return to Active Duty, Paul contacted the career manager at the Pentagon and thirty days later was holding fresh orders to Nellis, AFB. By 2005, he was on regular rotations to Afghanistan. In 2015, after 41 years of service, Paul decided to hang up his military uniform and focus on his second love, PK Gunsmithing. It is difficult for me to write enough good things about Paul, but I took a shot with this.
If you have any gunsmithing that needs to be done, contact Paul Koester at PKGunsmithing@yahoo.com or (850) 758-5880.
Between Paul Koester and the most recently graduated Pararescue man, are literally thousands of the best operators in the world. One such operator, Tyler Mace, has spent the last 10 years in the USAF as a Pararescue man (PJ).
The creation of Guardian Fitness has a cool story too. Remember during COVID when all of the gyms were closed, and you couldn’t find a shake-weight for your basement workout routine because they were sold out? I couldn’t find one either. I can also say it now, that in 10th SFG(A), we had a network of underground bro-gyms to keep in shape. Bizarre times.
What my buddies and I saw as this weird banishment from health clubs, Tyler and his friends discovered that it was the perfect opportunity to create a supplement company to aid workouts. Based on their regular payments to supplement companies each of them had forked out during their multiple deployments, they ran with this idea, “We found an FDA-approved facility that was willing to put together any blend we requested and have been working with them ever since. Our goal with Guardian Fitness is to become the premier supplement company for the members of the US military.”
Their aim is to create a solid following of like-minded people dedicated to physical fitness and community outreach. Their first supplement, Guardian Elite, is a mild pre-workout designed for everyone. Whether you’re a meathead like me or a couch potato, like me, this pre-workout is awesome. The current formula contains the perfect blend of 300 mg caffeine anhydrous, and beta-alanine to get you moving. Beta-alanine is also responsible for increased muscular endurance during high-intensity workouts. Guardian Elite also contains 4500mg of additional BCAA’s which serve to increase muscle growth and decrease soreness. Many of the other ingredients are specific to gut health as well as mood enhancement, all designed for long-term benefits so that as you continue to use their product, you feel better each time.
Tyler and the crew at Guardian Fitness create healthy products that support the military community. To reflect their commitment, Guardian Fitness never advertises the industry standard of the mysterious “proprietary blends” typical of most supplement companies, they list each ingredient. Careful consideration is taken into every ingredient, to including ensuring that any added ingredient is not listed on the DOD banned supplement list.
When I asked Tyler about his motivation he replied, “These small businesses are my vessel to becoming financially secure and living up to the higher calling of fatherhood.” What an awesome dude! You can find Tyler’s product at guardianfitness.us or Walmart.com
Tyler, count me as one of your biggest fans, I can’t wait to taste what you guys mix up next!
My first of many trips to Afghanistan came in late 2007. I had just returned from a six-week trip to the dumpster fire that was the Walter Reed Hospital, where I was taking care of a wounded brother. My plane had no sooner landed in Germany, when I was informed that my company, C/1-10SFG(A), was deploying to Afghanistan and didn’t have a single medic. I jumped at the chance. The only problem was that I wouldn’t be on a team, I was to be the dreaded B-Team medic. While most B-Team medics hate their life and would gladly sacrifice a finger to get back on a team, I was just happy to be back with the fellas for the possibility of some carnage and debauchery.
We occupied the Norwegian FSK compound at Camp Warehouse in Kabul, as they headed back to Norway for a quick breather, and my Battalion, led by Fran Beaudette, was just getting into the fight. Since I wasn’t on a team, I bunked up with the company Combat Controller (CCT) and Navy EOD attachments. That deployment, looking back, was led by the best senior officer that I’ve ever had, expertly mentored by the Battalion PA, Doc Bradley, followed by our legendary company and team leadership with Pat Lange and Bob Irby at the Company, Dan Brokos and Jeff Adams at the Troop, and life-long mentors Jerry and Franz on the teams. That deployment was filled with all-star soldiers and turns out, we had an all-star cast from the Air Force and Navy as well.
Brian Wadtke enlisted into the U.S. Air Force in November of 2003 and by April of 2006 found himself on his first Combat Control Team, at RAF Mildenhall, UK. A year later, he was the controller for C/1-10 SFG(A). Serving the next 10 years on Active Duty as a Combat Controller, Brian decided to transition to the Air National Guard, “it was an insane deployment schedule that was about to cost me irreversible damage to my body. I decided to transition into the Air National Guard where I still serve. After becoming a part-time guardsman, I noticed that the percentage of military life versus civilian life had been completely inverted in a matter of a single 24hr period. It was a culture shock, to say the least.”
Brian spoke fondly of his JTAC instructor time, “As a JTAC Instructor, I trained dozens of fellow Controllers who went off and deployed but, in 2012, I had the honor of deploying with one of the Controllers that I had trained. Seeing the fruits of my labor was amazing and this is when I fell in love with instructing.”
Brian later met his two business partners, Gerry and Luis, at a firearms instructor course. After realizing that their diverse and specialized backgrounds could fill the large gap in the civilian market, they decided to launch a high-quality training company, and just like that, Triple Feed was born.
Gerry, who, for some reason, everyone ends up calling Gary, which he hates, was a prior Marine turned 10-year veteran of the LAPD, where he still serves part-time while running a full-time Executive Protection team in California. Luis, the third gunslinger, is the jack of all trades as a civilian firearms instructor, Executive Protection Instructor, professional photographer, and media editor.
“We noticed there weren’t a lot of courses open to civilians, especially “specialized” courses such as low-light, NVG training, and CQB. We realized that with our diverse backgrounds we could fill the market gap and produce great media content specifically focused on the 2A community.”
Brian explained to me that the company name, Triple feed, comes from both the worst malfunctions on an AR15 style rifle and that there are three pipe hitters who run the company. They originate from three walks of life: the military, law enforcement, and civilian/executive protection. Triple Feed is a media production and firearms training company. To fill the gaps between firearms and media events, they sell apparel and swag and create original designs and artwork. The motto of Triple Feed is simple, Train, Learn, Repeat.
As per Brian, arguably the single best Combat Controller that I have ever had the honor of serving with said, “Please don't forget the dash between triple and Feed... or do. If you don’t, you will be well versed on how to breastfeed triplets!”
Brian, I am so happy that you’ve continued your career in AFSOC, while building a beautiful family, and partnering up with two other great Americans to create an awesome company. You can find them at www.triple-feed.com or their Instagram @triple_feed
What fascinates me about the PJ and CCT training pipeline, is how do you train for every unexpected technical problem? I think that it begins with finding candidates that have a strong desire to overcome any challenge and will stop at nothing until they've mastered it. Then, the trick is to regularly challenge the operator. AFSOC has a brilliant model that allows the best to flourish. I've been recently struggling with a SOF question, did the program create the operator or were those attributes always intrinsic to each operator? I think the answer has always been in front of me.
When you begin to break down SOF pipelines, you begin to realize that the AFSOC operator already possessed the inherent will to face any and all challenges, the pipeline simply presented increasingly difficult challenges to allow the operator to grow. They are the best amongst us.
Thank you for reading.
Always forward – Matt
Photo courtesy of my CCT brother, Brian Wadtke
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That is a damn fine article!! From an AD PJ, I wholeheartedly appreciate the love you put into this.