GORUCK Expeditions and Building Better Americans

Building Better Americans…
Cadre Dan has been saying for years that GORUCK’s main goal is to build better Americans. And he’s been right for years. This means it’s the job of our Cadre to teach you what they’ve learned in training and in war, and to make sure that you “get it.”

GORUCK Expeditions (Trek, Navigator, Beached, and Ascent) are what military folks would call “gentleman’s courses” (yes, open to women, too). This means the physical challenges are secondary to the mental and academic challenges and our Cadre focus on teaching tangible skills such as mission planning, constructing survival shelters, and interrogation techniques, depending on the event. After instruction and hands-on practice, you and your small team will then face a simulated “worst-case scenario” final exercise, where you will apply what you’ve learned. There’s some healthy competition because competition encourages performance, and performance under a little bit of stress means that you walk away from your Expedition with the confidence in knowing that if you had to survive a real life worst-case scenario, you could do it. And of course it pays to be a winner.

The Longer Story and the Evolution of GORUCK (Expeditions)
Expeditions have evolved as much for our Cadre as they have for you and all things must grow and evolve because the people behind them have to grow and evolve, too. We used to call Expeditions “Capstones” and they were open only to those members of the GORUCK Tough family (GRT’s) who had successfully completed a GORUCK Challenge and earned the GORUCK Tough patch. We recently changed this policy and opened them up to the public and why would we do that? That’s the longer part of this story, of course.

We have a lot of Cadre with a lot of skill sets and a desire to teach. Leading Challenges and the Good Livin’ events is fun and rewarding; however, burnout runs rampant. They’re a grind and over time it gets hard to re-invent your Challenge in a way where you feel like you as a Cadre are staying sharp. For instance, I took a long break from The Challenge in 2013 and came back with a renewed sense of purpose and started the Peace and Love Committee aka my take on the mission based scenario of GORUCK Light, wolf in sheep’s clothing style. I did it as much for myself as for the class, even though my goals of building a team and having fun were always at the forefront. Anyway, Expeditions are a different way for us as Cadre to teach what we know. They’re less of a grind on the knees and we get to spend more time with you personally. At the core of who we are and what we love, teaching and working long days and enjoying a beer or two with friends new and old around a bonfire is a little slice of heaven.

Expeditions started with Ascent 001 in Colorado in 2011. It was a family reunion for 50 of the earliest GRT’s way back when there were only a few Challenges a month and everyone voyeured them kinda like what happens with Selection these days. At that Ascent, everyone knew everyone someway somehow, and we mostly wanted to climb as many mountains as possible and drink beer together when the days were over and no I’ll never forget how the cops came and told me my fire was real nice and that I needed to let it die down a little bit. And by little bit they meant a lot. Sure, Lou and Dan taught some classes and a small crew of GRT’s set up a forward operating base within a mission scenario they planned and executed. However, it felt like the wild-wild west compared to where we’re going. The wild-wild west is not sustainable, Special Forces is. And at the core of GORUCK, you’ll find a Special Forces mindset and Special Forces Cadre. We teach mission planning so we might as well do it ourselves kind of deal and we assume you’d rather have a lot of learning than just a glorified guided hike with some hip pocket classes. Bonfires are still fun and so is beer, but like Radiohead says, everything in its right place. We have very little time to teach you what we’ve learned along the way, so we want to make the most of it.

The specific Expeditions are Trek, Navigator, Beached, and the Ascent. I view them as a way for GORUCK to become increasingly accessible to more people. The problem to Expeditions growth in the last few years was that they were mostly an afterthought to The Challenge in terms of the resources we spent on them. People who came had fun because of the people present, both GRT’s and Cadre. But pressure has mounted from more members of GORUCK Nation to make Expeditions into world class events based on our Special Forces training.

This led to a fork in the road that Cadre Bert drove home, which is that Expeditions have to be world class events or we should not do them at all. Challenge Excellence and Do Right By People is our Mission Statement and Bert was right. Two main things happened as a result:

  1. Increased resources on Expeditions has led to price increases. While we as Special Forces soldiers are able to do more with less, we can also do even more with more. My best guess is that 2014 is a break-even year for us on the Expeditions front. And this is direct costs only; if you included overhead and salaries, we’re in the red for sure. 2015 will see additional price increases of Expeditions that mirror additional resources we are dedicating to make them the highest caliber (pun intended and yes we’re growing our Firearms Division via Cadre Tyler in massive ways, mostly behind the scenes for now) events we can put on. This does not mean 5-Star accommodations in the field or that we’ll let you hire a Sherpa to carry your ruck. We won’t. It means we have to spend more for you to be able to focus more on learning the best lessons we can teach. Lessons that you take back with you to your daily life. Back to Dan’s quote about Building Better Americans.
  2. We opened Expeditions up to the public. This is part of the evolution of GORUCK. Expeditions were not meant to be world class events at the outset. The resources we spent on them were minimal and we were happy to keep them relatively small. However, our goal is to teach what we know and let people decide in which way they want us to teach them. This is in line with our desire to build a bridge between the civilian and military worlds, and we can build a lot of different bridges based on the event and the different people who show up. I can understand old school GRT’s lamenting this evolution. The decision, though, was based on my desire to employ more Special Operations guys who teach more people what they know (jobs for war veterans), and for GORUCK to grow. To increase the quality of the event, there was no way we could justify the resources if we limited sign-ups to only the GRT population. Life has trade-offs and a part of me wants Monster to stay a puppy forever though I can’t wait for all the other stuff we can do together when he gets a little older. Like maybe climb mountains at the Ascent like I did with Java back in the day. Anyway, what’s happening before your very eyes is that we’re growing up and it’s as natural for a company as it is for a person. Or a Monster.

Trek, in particular, has seen the most evolution from its earliest classes (that never happened, of course and hush hush). Yes, Trek has a spy element to it that makes it a lot sexy. But substance and the real deal people behind the scenes and leading the event will sustain it. We have speakers and instructors such as Chris Voss, the former lead international hostage negotiator for the FBI, whose lessons coincidentally formed the backbone of all communication and customer service at GORUCK. That’s another story, though, but I owe this man all the credit I can possibly give for teaching me the lessons he learned through a lot of tough negotiations with some bad people throughout the world. Lessons that also apply to good people, I might add. I use what he taught me every single day of my life because his rules of negotiation are essentially the rules on how to better communicate with people and I don’t know many of us who can’t benefit from that. At Trek, Chris and our team teach you skills that will increase your situational awareness in any city you ever travel to or live in, which translates into safer experiences for you in both your day-to-day life and in a worst-case scenario.

Navigator, the Ascent, and Beached also all apply the worst-case scenario preparation in their respective environments: cross country, mountainous, and amphibious. We’ve brought on Cadre Joel aka Huggy Bear to run the Ascent and Navigator and Big Daddy aka Cadre John to run Beached. Joel and I go way back to 2006 when I first showed up at 10th Special Forces Group in Colorado and he later became one of our first Cadre at GORUCK. He has shifted his time away from our Good Livin’ events to focus on Expeditions. Same deal with Big Daddy and I was lucky enough to meet him in Okinawa and tour his Recon Headquarters there before I led his Challenge in 2012. He told me they really wanted me to bring the pain and they really got it with smiles and as one of the most senior Non-Commissioned Officers in the United States Marine Corps, I couldn’t help but love that Big Daddy did my Challenge with a bunch of his guys and he’s a lead from the front kind of guy that you want to follow anywhere.

The foundation for all GORUCK Events is the training and wartime experiences of our Cadre. And Expeditions have intangible value to us internally in that they let us Cadre spend more time together, face to face as God intended. Different from a random Challenge where one of us shows up on a random street corner at 1am, Expeditions let our Cadre swap stories new and old and GORUCK wins when that happens because the only way to really evolve our events is when the Cadre share best practices. And I love these guys and it reminds me of life in the team room which is just about the best place in the world to work. I’m proud to be a part of this community, which is building a bridge between the military and civilian worlds. And everyone stays happy when work isn’t work and then we execute even better events and whatever those events are, the community we’re forming is called GORUCK Nation and that means you.

We would not be where we are without the grassroots support you all have shown us since our founding. So thank you. To learn more about GORUCK Expeditions, click here.

In closing, I’d like to introduce the new President of GORUCK Nation. And his name… is Monster.



  1. Pete Wrampelmeier says:

    Thanks so much for all that you and the cadre do! Totally love this change and the reasons behind it.

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