The State of GORUCK, Edition 2: Mission Statement

State of GORUCK_Edition 2_11
Where the Wild Things Are was fiction until it wasn’t and a huge thanks to Maurice Sendak for writing the definitive biography of GORUCK’s earliest years. Some details are missing, of course, but only the unimportant ones. We’re lucky to be alive, monsters are everywhere, wolf suits are a staple, and we’re still so young that failure is a way of life. But we know who we are and we know where we’re going and each day’s end greets us with cold beers I mean hot supper. And the next adventure comes fast as long as the sun rises in the east and thank you for the beers. And for the hot supper and all the stuff in between. Namely everything.

State of GORUCK_Edition 2_05
But chaos can’t run amok forever. You have to know who you are before you get too busy being yourself kind of deal. As there are more of us, communication is harder and more important and in the summer of 2011 I found myself on a flight back to HQ needing to explain the vision that lived in my head. Enter the barf bag sketch. If you have no time to say something, cut to the chase. People are our core and we are USA manufacturing and the military and all GORUCK is local. We communicate what we stand for at our events like The Challenge and via posts like this on GORUCK News. The delivery falls primarily on me and our 50+ Cadre who travel the country every week of the year. Who’s listening? Black, white, purple, pink, polka-dotted, young, old, male, female, civilian, military, NYC, Baghdad, GQ, who knows. Rule #1 is Always Look Cool and who can’t support that so we’ll keep doing our thing. This is, of course, a poor attempt to say that we don’t really know who you are unless we’ve met and I’m not talking about Facebook I’m talking about the old fashioned way, face to face. My assumption is that you find us somehow and you tell your friends. And so on. You’ve built GORUCK, not us. Somehow being the key word.

Service. Those to whom much is given much is expected and nobody on their death bed ever regretted doing more for others. Especially when you have been given so much like the opportunity to serve our country. Our commitment to the Green Beret Foundation and other service organizations is what we do because it’s who we are and life has taught us the hard way to remain humble till your dying breath because it could come any second.

Doing well is not life’s important goal, doing good is. And whatever platform we have, doing good is success and I want us to do more of it. You’ll find ‘Voice for Good’ circled at the top of the barf bag sketch, where it belongs.

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So where’s the talk of bottom lines and money and profits and all that stuff. My initial reaction is to think in terms of people and the brand, not the financial metrics of GORUCK. Our preference is to throw a party or two and say come one come all. And beers and tuxedos go perfectly well together thank you very much, especially when they make you wear a tux at a wedding or something and these are my grandfather’s roots that made their way from him to me to us.

GORUCK Mission Statement_Challenge Excellence and Do Right By People
Bottling the lessons of a lifetime into a mission statement has been my goal, one unsuccessful day at a time, for the last year. All I could come up with was do right by people. It’s great and it’s us but not standalone because we like really fast cars and we can still do right said every Special Forces guy ever. Challenge excellence is a pursuit that never ends. Yesterday’s perfection is tomorrow’s nightmare kind of deal so find a better way and it never stops. If you like this kind of approach, GORUCK is the place for you.

We have two grades, A and F and A- rounds down. Excellence is the standard and please hold us to it. So while mission statements are typically internal, I want you all to know what we stand for: excellence and people. I’m grateful to everyone who works so hard because they believe in who we are and my take is that if you challenge excellence and do right by people good things will happen. Build it and they’ll come style. And as always, thank you all for the opportunity to have the time of my life running GORUCK.

The State of GORUCK is an ongoing series that aims to increase transparency between us and you. If you have questions, any questions, please post them in the comments section.


  1. Cam says:

    So, I commented about this on GORUCK facebook post today, but I wanna bring the conversation over here because I think that this is where it belongs.

    The new shirts you released today are printed on shirts made by Gildan in Nicaragua.

    This baffles me. One of the core principles, as outlined in this post, is to support American manufacturing. Gildan isn’t even an American company (it’s Canadian) and manufactures in Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, and the USA. At least, they say that they manufacture in the USA (though I’ve never personally seen anything from Gildan with a “made in the USA” tag).

    I get that goals and rules change. We adapt to survive. I just wanna know why. I want to know why this decision was made.

    I have to admit though, I appreciate that you didn’t hide it. The product page for the shirts isn’t making the manufacturing information hard to find and there’s even a close up shot of the product tag.

    I’m not interested in the shirt’s design, so it’s not that I’m complaining about the design not being on the shirt that I want. I have plenty of GORUCK gear, so I’m not missing out on any chances to be a poster-boy.

    What I am interested in is holding GORUCK to the standard that I expect from a company that I am so quick to recommend and vehemently evangelize.

  2. jason says:

    Happy to take this one, Cam. We sell a lot of third party things on the site that are not made in the USA. Petzl headlamps are made in France. We used to sell Surefire (made in USA) but nobody bought them and they cost twice as much and they they weren’t as good for our events because they required two hands to turn on and off. People were bringing the Petzl’s anyway. We sell Source bladders made in Israel because they’re the best on the market. We sell Mechanix Gloves that are made in Vietnam. And in the future, we’ll sell a lot more 3rd party stuff that is not made in the USA. You will likely see it up next to our own stuff, which we will proudly build in the USA and ours will cost more. And you get to choose which you want to buy. Price matters after all, and you do get what you pay for.

    I’m making a distinction between the gear we build and the 3rd party gear we carry, and I want us to be transparent about those differences. Everything we design in house, we build in the States with, on average ~99% US-made materials. If you’ll notice, this costs a lot more and takes a lot more time. I’m of the opinion that Made in USA is not meant to add a halo to indistinguishable work so that it costs more. I believe Made in USA should mean that the product is superior, and that’s our goal and that’s what we do.

    So, specifically with the t-shirts. Made in USA American Apparel shirts are borderline cost prohibitive across the board, and I hate that the tri-blends cost $25 on our site. We could charge less but our margins are already really thin and they ship for free. I really like the AA tri-blend (the grey one) and I’m glad they’re made in the States, but there are imported versions that I have found to be of similar quality to the extent that I can’t tell the difference. We still carry the AA one, though. I’ve seen plenty of the imported ones floating around the GORUCK Tough community because they are a couple bucks cheaper per unit.

    Growing up, my dad refused to pay $20 for a t-shirt unless it said Harley Davidson on it. And the HD ones he complained about being a rip-off (even though he still bought them). I don’t want to take the GORUCK brand, which people align with, and assume we can always charge everyone more for everything and carry only absolute premium products. At a price of $18 per t-shirt that makes for a $7/unit cost savings. And that $7 matters more to some than to others. We’re happy to charge less for something that costs us less. It’s a fine line between promoting only USA manufacturing and accepting that $25 is a lot of cash for a lot of our people to spend on a t-shirt.

    Thanks for your support and please let me know if you have any follow ups.

  3. Cam says:

    Thanks, Jason!

    As always, I appreciate and respect your transparency, even more-so because I can understand where GORUCK stands and that the decisions make sense.

    I too really like the tri-blend… to the point that I do laundry quite often so I can go full-ruck at least once a week.


  4. David Olson says:

    Great post and explanation. I don’t work for GORUCK, but I’d add that the decision to provide products not made in the USA falls squarely within GORUCK’s mission statement to “do right by people.” Whether it’s shirts, hydration bladders, lights, rucks, kit bags, gym bags, whatever, doing right by people is more than incredibly responsive customer service and the SCARS program. Doing right by people is also allowing more people to access and enjoy everything GORUCK by providing and/or manufacturing products that cost the customers less or that do the best job for what is intended (like the Source bladder and the Petzl light). Keep up the great work.

  5. Dave Lip says:

    Jason, I like and appreciate your explanation, as im sure a bunch of other GRTs do as well. I think my only issue is that petzl is branded petzl, and source is branded source… I always expected things which are branded “GORUCK” to be made in the USA. That is your call though.

  6. Dave Lip says:

    Add on:

    I realize that the brand on the “tag” isnt goruck.. When I say “branded”, I mean the word GORUCK being printed, stitched, or burned into a product.

  7. Todd Boulay says:

    Jason, while we appreciate the response and your point about selling other products is a valid one, but I agree with Dave above. Unless I’m mistaken outside of the original hooded sweatshirt this is the first product sold by GORUCK with GORUCK brand displayed on it that has been made outside of the US. I think we were all just surprised to see it that’s all.

  8. John Lubeck says:

    How about giving the customer the option of what kind of material they want? If they want a Tri-Blend they pay a little more. Just like selecting a size.

  9. Frank says:

    Well, it’s pretty clear that we want this, at whatever price, to be made in the US. Too much money and too many jobs have gone overseas, which has hurt the US economy in so many ways it’s even not funny. That being said, I appreciate your efforts to find the best gear, no matter where it comes from. And I hope to see you systematically replace every foreign made item with a GORUCK superior that’s made from domestic resources by American men and women.

    Getting started is hard, I’m sure. Doing it as well as you have, Jason, is nearly impossible. Thanks to you, your staff, the cadre and all the friends and family who’ve put in an effort, we get to support one hell of a company that supports some of the greatest people who have ever lived. GORUCK seems to be more than just American made, it’s an American evolution. It’s putting back the pride that American’s once had in themselves and the products they made, one ruck and one push-up at a time. GORUCK has clearly set the new standard for manufacturing and physical fitness.

    So, you keep doing what you’ve got to do, Jason. And we’ll keep supporting you and your efforts, because it’s fucking worth it!

  10. jason says:

    Thanks, Frank. When in doubt, buy American. That’s what I do anyway, but perfection is impossible. With GORUCK built gear, what I want to do is show the value of buying American. I’m finding that on much of the manufacturing front, we have to do this ourselves. And since there’s a latent question in all of this which is why don’t you just do it yourselves in the USA then and strengthen your brand and hire Americans, I’ll address that question in a later post. The short answer is that it takes forever and it’s really, really cash intensive. And we don’t have the cash right now and we don’t have our own sew shop, yet. And when we do, $50 will still be too much for a sweatshirt for so many. So we’ll offer both and in my heart of hearts I’ll try to figure out how to make better stuff in America under the Built in the USA GORUCK brand.

  11. Bryan H. says:

    Jason- “Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all things we do” These are the Air Force core values and 3 things I have lived by since 2005 when I received that coin in my hand by my cadre, and have applied them to my life ever since. Thank you for valuing all of us and continually challenging us to the next level!

  12. Anil A says:

    Jason, as you know I’ve had some ups and downs with yourselves. I’m waiting to order my fourth replacement GR1 after my third broke. My first two had quality control issues (misaligned stitching/no padding in handle).

    Between my friend and I we’ve had to use SCARS way more than I’d have expected (4 various replacements for me, once for him. It would have been 3/2 but he sold me his GR2).

    There’s been times when your customer service has been great. Beyond great in fact, the best. There’s been times when it’s sucked. If I had to grade my experience it’s B-.

    I’ve stuck with your brand and continue to spend on your products because I think you’ve got good designs. Especially the GR1. It’s shame having witnessed how much trouble I’ve had my friends are put off buying your products. So please, keep focused on quality control more than anything.

    Your customer service did finally offer me something to make amends for the amount of trouble I’ve had, but it’s a shame I had to ask so much, and it was my persistence that got me somewhere.

    Your company’s growth has been amazing and well deserved. Just please keep aiming for that A grade.

  13. Nikki says:

    Summarizing everything you’re about and what you stand for in a single statement is damn hard. A good one is easy to remember and lights the way when things get muddy and there are tough decisions to make. Nice work boiling it down.

  14. Andrew says:

    “Doing well is not life’s important goal, doing good is.”

    I know I’m a little late on this post, but I wanted to express my deepest gratitude to this company. Jason, on more than one occasion I have been humbled and inspired by the words you’ve written here. You often say that GoRuck was built by us, the people. While this may be true to some extent, please don’t downplay the huge impact that your own drive and dedication, along with that of the rest of HQ, has on all of us…and the brand. You may be trained to be lead by example, but it’s an entirely different thing to live it.

    I sincerely thank you and all of yours for everything that you have done and will continue to do. Liberty is the freedom to take responsibility for one’s actions and it speaks to a willingness to build something better…a better ruck, a better person, a better world. I truly believe that GoRuck will become an even greater part of the solution in the years to come. Here’s to force multiplication in the pursuit of life and liberty.

    Again, thank you.

  15. Mark says:

    I’ve not had a problem with any of the kit I’ve purchased from GORUCK and I’m very focused on quality. I’ve beaten the shit out of my GR1 and it still looks great. I’d prefer that anything with a GORUCK logo on it, especially as GORUCK releases more apparel, be Made in the USA but I also understand how hard it is to bootstrap a company and provide price points that are within the reach of your customers. Love the transparency on the decisions and the willingness to engage.

  16. Stephen says:

    Another way to look at the issue of what you put your logo on is in light of the “old world” use of family/house shields aka “heraldry.” This of course isn’t Old England and good for it, but it’s my understanding that usually when someone put their “shield” on an item it meant that they actually made it by their own hand or at least the details and creation were directed by them. So, by that standard, unless these Honduran shirts were designed by you, they would not carry(and potentially weaken your mark) as they would not be consistent with your self-created items that did. Of course we live in a different world now and you can’t make everything by hand yourself, so in that great grey area between old world and new lay our opportunities and choices. Just my two cents. I think you have a premium brand identity and value so I for one suggest you not dilute it at all. I haven’t bought any of your gear yet though(will shortly) so weigh my opinion accordingly. But I’ve been thinking a lot about these issues of late and I appreciate you providing a platform for their discussion.

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