GORUCK Origins

Jason McCarthy_Iraq_GORUCK Founder


Special Forces sent me to cities, mountains, jungles, and deserts, by day and night, in every condition imaginable throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. I surrounded myself with the best, a standard I grew to expect, and I trusted my teammates, my instincts, and my equipment. We never knew what we might find, so we always came prepared for anything. Through it all, we worked hard and played hard, sometimes in that order, and I learned an honest way of life that will always be my core and the core of GORUCK.

In 2008, war’s unrelenting harshness was behind me, though it remained at the forefront of my mind. With a napkin sketch of GR1 and a vision for GORUCK to become one of the most respected brands in the world, prototyping began. My buddies took early versions of our rucks to combat and to cities the world over, and critiqued every last detail. Green Berets became judge and jury of quality.

But I disliked the notion of sending unproven gear to war. So the GORUCK Challenge – an event patterned after Special Forces training – found its roots in 2010 to serve as the preeminent proving grounds for all GORUCK gear. Adventure-seekers showed up for the unknown, stuffed our rucks with bricks, and began an experience rarely found outside the military.

In that process, adversity spared neither gear nor the people carrying it. And people became the focus. The other Cadre and I taught Challenge takers how to lead, how to solve problems, and how to work better, together. Human bonds formed, limitations disappeared, and classes persevered. The Challenge now serves as the foundation for all GORUCK Events and remains our proving grounds.

We proudly build GORUCK gear in the USA and prove it in the harshest conditions in the world. My Special Forces brothers trust it with their lives, and my duty is to honor that trust with the best and most durable gear that exists. If you said quality was a matter of life or death to me, you would be correct.

Jason McCarthy
10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) 2006-08
Vice President, The Green Beret Foundation
Founder, GORUCK
(And Java‘s Proud Dad)

Scroll down for the PS

GORUCK Origins_C-130 airplane

The back story is that our origins were always very much my origins in Special Forces. Without that experience, GORUCK would not exist. But Green Berets (aka Army Special Forces) like me are taught to remain quiet professionals, and all I ever wanted to do was to live up to that community. And to not disappoint them. It was a long process for me to open up my life to you, and to GORUCK, and to start to share my story the right way. Our original ‘About’ page had only the picture of the C-17 airplane (above) and some text about Special Forces this and that on it. Like a trillion other sites. My plan was to stay in the shadows. When I realized it was live or die, sink or swim based on my story, I still didn’t fully commit. Java was the segue in 2010, and came to dominate the news blog and much of the site. And you might say he still does. But as the stories and the pics got more personal, including those about my service and the guys I served with, I’ve been humbled by the encouragement of the Special Forces community. And the encouragement of people we’ve met in cities around the world. It’s humbling to start something that people see as a voice for good. Something that people believe in. And as we’ve grown I’m increasingly curious what you’re curious about. Via snail mail, email or the comments section below, I’d love to hear from you. So, the floor is yours…


  1. Laura says:

    Years ago – I was too scared to try anything then I joined the fire department and proved myself among the men. I then wanted to run but I had a hard time so I challenged myself to race a 5k and I never looked back. Now I have done uncountable number of races and mud runs. So over time it became less challenging for myself. Then I got into cross fit and loved it all- So I knew I wanted more with my life- I enlisted active duty Army. I had a few months after I enlisted before basic training. This time period was when I found out about GORUCK- my first challenge was December 2011 in DC – a few people dropped out during the event, even my friend dropped out the night before because he was too scared. I stopped being scared years ago of anything- if something hurts I tell myself the pain won’t last forever. Currently I am deployed, I did another GORUCK in November NYC 2012 right before I deployed. There I met amazing people just like I did the first time. The first one though truly changed my life- made me think how much more I can challenge myself and my friends every day. I had the honor of meeting Jason at my very first challenge and my respect for him has continued to grow everyday. I talk about GORUCK like it is going out of business, people usually get sick of hearing about it from me. A goal of mine while being deployed was to get fellow battles to sign up with me this summer to do one. I have been successful – so far I have two guys that are going to do one in VA Beach with me- they are scared but ready. I also am going to challenge myself to Selection – yes I follow it and know the fail rate but I will never know how far I will get if I don’t try. GORUCK and Jason seriously thank you for changing my life.

  2. Uri says:

    ” I surrounded myself with the best, a standard I grew to expect, and I trusted my teammates, my instincts, and my equipment. We never knew what we might find, so we always came prepared for anything. Through it all, we worked hard and played hard, sometimes in that order, and I learned an honest way of life that will always be my core and the core of GORUCK.”

    That is what first brought me to GORUCK. Back in late 2010 and the site back then with the C17 in the background. I bought my GR1 and a few days after receiving it my Echo. Followed the next month by the GR2.
    That page with your signature at the end somewhat convinced me that this was (and is) a company to trust, to follow and to help.

    Bravo for GORUCK and the fantastic people working in the company. Keep on doing what you do, people like will keep on spreading the word.

  3. Josh says:

    I had never heard of the GoRuck challenge until one of my Lieutenants mentioned it to me. It sounded like something that would be up my alley and I committed to completing it with him prior to our current deployment. I was envious of the patch Chris sported as he hinted at the experience, hosted several practice events for us and the motley crew he assembled. We completed our GoRuck Custom (Class 284) on 20 October 2013 along with Bennett, Todd (another LT and SSG) and a whole assortment of new friends on a cool evening in northwest Arkansas. Despite having a hip injury, I learned once again the camraderie I had experienced during my initial military training and throughout my career. We bonded as a unit, as a team, and afterwards as a family. The ability of humans to endure adversity, to persevere, and overcome together was overpowering. I was so proud at the end to not only receive my patch from Cadre Michael, but to see my new family receive theirs. It was a moving experience. I continue to follow GORUCK despite being so far away and I’m looking forward to taking it to the next level with Chris by completing a GoRuck Heavy and maybe, just maybe surviving Selection. GORUCK is more than another company selling a series of equipment. The stories, the brotherhood/sisterhood, all combine to make this an organization that will endure. Their outreach and support of GBF and servicemembers has been outstanding. Chris has organized on 26 May during a 10MI run/10MI Heavy Ruck that GORUCK is donating prizes for and that means a lot to us. We will representing our GRT family that day and proceeds going to be split to GBF and the USO. My multicam GR-1, TACHAT, and GRT patch will proudly making their way around Afghanistan until we meet again. Jason – thanks for the experience, the great products, and solid business ethos. GORUCK!

  4. Billy says:

    Hey Jason, I’d like to thank you for all you’ve done and congratulate you on the success of GORUCK. I’ve purchased a GR2 in Black which I have and carry with me every day here in Afghanistan. I love it and dare not take any other bag with me where ever I may go. I’ve also become the proud owner of a Limited Edition Java GR1 which is waiting for me to get home in a few months. I originally heard about GORUCK back in 2010 from ITS Tactical who did a blog about the challenge and their effort to raise $2000 (At the time) for the Green Beret Foundation before they could attend the GORUCK Ascent. While I haven’t brought myself to do a Challenge just yet, I will next time it comes around close to Savannah or where ever I may be. I’m actually applying for a Special Duty with USSOCOM before I get back and God willing will be joining the ranks of the Special Operations Community. I look forward to taking the leap and pushing myself further. I’ll always be a supporter of GORUCK and will always come back for more. Even talked my Girlfriend into wanting to buy a GR1 for her. 😀

    Josh, stay safe where ever you are deployed to man. Hooah!

  5. Andrew R says:

    When a friend convinced me to sign up for the 9/11/12 NYC challenge to honor some fallen friends, I never could have predicted how this community would become such an important part of my life.

    Jason – Bridging the lessons you learned in the Army to the commitment your company has made to quality, honesty, and doing business the “right” way is amazing. Many companies should take notice from GoRuck’s example. The GRT community is a direct reflection of these ideals. A sincere thanks for everything.

    If you could give one piece of advice to people starting their own business, what would it be?

  6. jason says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Andrew. My one piece of advice is to never forget that your job is to inspire people. People will do a ton for something they really believe in.

  7. Jarret says:

    Just finished my dissertation. Wore a GORUCK lid the entire time. My wife asks how I want to celebrate…with a GR1 and a Challenge I respond. I’m no SF professional. 5 years as a 13F. I honor your leadership, exemplary.

  8. Andy says:

    Jason, have you received any negative feedback from the SOF community for opening up in this limited way or have they all readily supported GORUCK?

  9. Tyler Johnson says:

    Jason, it’s guys like you that helped me to decide to enlist after I get me degree in December. I’ve joined the Navy, shipping out in April with a BUDs contract. I’ve always desired to truly test my body/mind/spirit and Special Operations fits that bill. Maybe one day down the road, I’ll see you at cadre selection and be able to experience the true meaning of GORUCK. Thanks for all you did for our country and what you continue to do now through your company.

  10. jason says:

    Andy – I think people were probably skeptical at first of another Special Forces guy starting a company and saying he was in the Special Forces. But the truth was that nobody really found out about us at all and if they did it was probably via word of mouth from my buddies who were field testing our gear. So hopefully that was a positive introduction. And the other way SOF people found out about us was because of our association with the Green Beret Foundation. To directly answer your question, I never got any real push-back and I got a ton of support. The most push-back I ever got was some guys who didn’t love our reverse flag logo, but that story and what we were trying to do with it won them over I hope. It’s another story why we’ve moved (almost) exclusively to the Spearhead logo, which also means a ton to me because of its roots in the First Special Service Force.

    Tyler – good luck man. It’s an honorable and noble career you’re pursuing. So don’t quit and have fun!

  11. Jason A says:

    I have carried a backpack with me just about every day for as long as I can remember. I live out of my backpack. Recently, though I was fed up with what was out there so much so, that I had started asking around my group of friends to find someone who I could work with to build a new backpack that would meet my needs of being stylish, comfortable, and practical. Something I could travel with, hike, and bring to a business meeting without feeling like a kid. Then, a new coworker came into the office one day and I saw the GR1. I asked to try it on, and then asked him, “Hey, do you have bricks in here or something?” When he said yes, I was intrigued to say the least.

    I have lots of passion for the brands I do like, but there are few. Between the story, the fact that Goruck is so active in giving back to those who sacrifice everything and the quality, Goruck is at the top of that list.

    My buddy and I are doing our first GRC this weekend in NYC. Nerves of excitement are amped right now. Thanks, Goruck!

  12. Derrick says:

    Jason, you have literally created the most bitching company I have ever come across. God bless. That is all.

  13. Brian says:

    Hah, I remember that thread on some random blog where people would just not stop complaining about the reverse flag logo with a dedication I rarely see. I am glad to hear you finally got through to them! The only reason I know this is because it was around the time I did my first challenge and they were showing up in Google searches since there really wasn’t much out there about GORUCK. Thanks for building such a great company.

  14. Dibo says:

    Jason, I know you said you tried to stay in the shadows but remember your Johari window and what you throw into the Arena.

  15. Russell Brewton says:

    Just received my GoRuck Civi kit bag in the mail- of course it’s sweet! Comparing it side by side with an issued Aviator’s Kit bag, it’s more functional, with a more manageable size and pockets! Can’t wait to take a trip with it! My wife is pretty tired of being seen with OD green duffle bags for my luggage.

  16. Brandon says:

    Jason, thanks for sharing more background into the thought process/morals of this great company.

    I had never been a brand whore of any kind prior to discovering GR and my beloved GR1 but now I pimp the GR brand to everyone whether they want to hear about it or not.

    Thanks again to you, everyone at GRHQ, and all the craftsmen/women that make GR what it is.

  17. Mike Petrizzo says:

    023, Philly . . . haven’t been the same since, and that’s a good thing.

    Thank you, Jason.

    Keep on keepin’ on.

  18. Frank says:


    I’d like to comment on the “GoRuck Colorado Springs Memorial” and class 493. I wasn’t there, and know so few details, but this (to me) shows a potential opportunity for GoRuck to continue giving back to the cities and communities that the Challenge descends upon. The idea of formulating Challenge ‘missions’ to have GRC candidates retrieve components of a memorial to be built on location seems like it may hold a lot of promise. It could really be a wonderful way to cement a message of “working as a team to accomplish something larger than yourself” while leaving behind something permanent and positive in our wake. Just a thought.

    Keep up the good work! Like many here, I’d like to tell you that what you and your dedicated staff have built here at GoRuck has changed my life. You have built something TRULY special. I thank all of you. I’m exceptionally proud to be a small part of this amazing community.

  19. Cam S says:

    It’s hard to put into words what being a part of the GoRuck community and family has taught me and given me. My father served in the Gulf War, my brother and I were both born on base, but our upbringing wasn’t exactly military-centric. My father relied on the Army to become a better and educated member of society. He relied on it to help raise a family. My brother and I both grew up military-centric despite not being encouraged to. I think it’s safe to say that we both take a lot of pride in that my father served and hoped to honor his sacrifice to us by enlisting as well. My brother was turned down from the Marines and I was turned down from the Army, each for our own reasons, but we were both left feeling lacking. My brother has gone on to to become a good man, a good husband, and a productive member of society. But he would have been a great Marine.

    I’ve gone through life being treated as a victim, someone only strong enough to pull their own weight, and even then only maybe. It took me years of growing to realize that I was the only one who could know my limits, the only person who could tell me I was or wasn’t good enough. Somewhere in the last few years I found GoRuck and knew I found a piece of myself. When the time came, or more like the funds were there, I signed up for my challenge. Class of 477.

    I’ve struggled my whole life trying to learn how to be a man worth being, to be a person worth being, and somehow GoRuck has helped me. It has helped me in the way that I never expected or imagined but needed.

    A few months ago, when I was still in training for my challenge I was able to sit down with my dad and brother over beers and hear my dad’s war stories. It was an incredible bonding experience for all of us, something that we had never done before in my 22 years of life–the bonding, I mean. Then, weeks later, after a few too many beers at a pre-challenge ruck off I had enough liquid confidence to tell my dad how proud I was that he served, for his family, his country, and for himself.

    GoRuck has some great gear, but it should never be about the gear. I’m living proof that GoRuck is about a lot more than gear.

    Thanks, Jason.

  20. John says:

    Jason, I found out about GORUCK while i was in Afghanistan through some poking around at the ITS website. I really liked what you guys were about so i went ahead and bought a GR1. Now, coming from someone who owns a ton of backpacks and rucks the GR1 is by far my favorite, not only because its awesome, but because it makes sense, its made in the USA, and it sure as hell takes a beating. I came home with every intention to do a GORUCK challenge, unfortunately i was deployed just 2 months after i came home, and thats where i am now. I use my GR1 everyday, and literally take GORUCK with me everywhere. Thank you for such an awesome company, you should be proud of your dedicationa and success to such an outstanding company, and how you`ve changed a lot of peoples lives. Im sure youll see me at a GORUCK challenge (or 2) upon my coming home.

    – John

  21. patrick burroughs says:

    Jason. Any luck the selection in florida date will change?
    either way im going to get involved where i can. thanks for what you do.

  22. MIKE says:

    I’m only 13 my mom has done GORUCK and is a police officer but she has inspired me. when i am of age i will train and do one of the challenges. my mom has inspired me to be the best i can be and so have the men and women who do these. thank you

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