Chapter: North West Region / Fairbanks Chapter

Member Since: 2013

Motto: “Never Give Up and live every day to its fullest!”

Why Did You Join Team RWB?

“I joined Team RWB because I wanted to help make a difference in veterans lives. As a military spouse I see the struggles that soldiers face when they come home from war, and I wanted to help make an impact to them.”

What has Been Your Favorite Event or Experience with Team RWB?

“My favorite event so far with Team RWB is my chapters Thursday night run and social at our local brewery. It’s amazing to me to see so many Eagles who just come out and support each other on the run. We have this amazing cheer squad for the runners as they finish running, and the cheer squad will stay there cheering till the very last member crosses the finish line. Then comes on the social aspect of the evening. We have members who don’t run (aka our cheer squad) and will help other veterans out of their comfort zone and be more open. Plus let them know that we are here for them if they ever need anything at all. I just love that our local community supports our veterans and active duty members.”


How Do You Serve Your Community?

“I currently serve as my Chapters Social Coordinator and Membership Coordinator. I love planning events for my chapter, and making them the best events that I can possibly plan. And I love telling everyone about how amazing Team RWB is

What Inspires You?

“Team RWB inspires me to be the best that I can be, no matter what. When I’m working out and start to struggle. I just think of our armed men & women overseas and how much they struggle and realize that it’s nothing compared to what my work out is. Knowing that is what pushes me to push harder on my workouts and run.”

How Has Team RWB Impacted Your Life?

“Team RWB has impacted my life in such a huge way! I have met so many people through this amazing organization, whom many I consider to be some of my best friends. I love knowing that my leadership team will always have my back and support me when I need it the most. It is through the Eagle Ethos that I strive to be the best that I can be in my life and in my chapter as well.

What Would You Say to Someone Who is Thinking of Joining Team RWB?

“That this is the most badass organization out there!”

Blog written by: Caitlin Pollard

I first learned about the Eagle Leader Fellowship while attending the 2016 Northeast Yoga Camp. Attending the camp changed my life in a period of just two days; it made me want to delve deeper into what type of leader I was and become the leader I knew I could be. I was in a rut prior to the camp, constantly upset and frustrated, but not doing anything to change the situation. Attending camp was a turning point for me–while I had been a member of Team RWB for over two years at that point, and on the leadership team for the Oswego, NY chapter for almost a year, I hadn’t been as involved as I could be or wanted to be. I kept myself at the edge of fully committing to the team, unsure if I was willing to be vulnerable, put myself out there, and show my authentic self. One weekend with other Eagle Leaders and I found myself all in! I was voluntarily opening up in our discussions and wanted more of that experience. I felt at home with the team and realized that I was holding back with my chapter and outside of Team RWB. I knew that the fellowship was one way to develop myself as a better leader and to continue working on being more open and authentic. I also didn’t think I had any chance at being selected. As I submitted the application, I was already preparing myself for the disappointment of rejection. I had created a backup plan for when I wasn’t selected; I was so sure that I would have to pursue leadership opportunities on my own that I began creating a plan for my own ‘mini-fellowship’.

When I received the email from Joe Quinn saying I was chosen, I was floored. I didn’t feel I deserved to be selected. I’m a civilian and I had only just started the Eagle Leader journey. I was experiencing major imposter syndrome. But I was honored that I was selected and determined to prove that I was the right choice, both to Team RWB and to myself. I knew that if I wanted to do the things I said I wanted to do in my application, I needed to work on myself. A lot. So I decided to use this fellowship to do just that. I’ve spent 2017 working on improving myself and building my confidence as a leader both through the fellowship and on my own. I’ve done this through yoga teacher training, a non-fiction writing class through Stanford, the Brene Brown Daring Leadership course, a class on character strengths through VIA, and more. I’ve pushed myself well outside of my comfort zone and I look forward to finishing out the year with Peer Support Training, Midwest Storytelling Camp, and Mike Erwin’s Character and Leadership Center seminar. Each training, camp, and class I’ve chosen to do had a specific reason behind it; I didn’t want to sign up for something that wouldn’t have a direct purpose to me. I didn’t want to waste the funds or go into something half-hearted. I wanted to make sure that I was giving it my all in every single component of my fellowship.

As I started planning out my year as an ELF, I was sure the yoga teacher training would be the highlight of my fellowship. I would be certified in yoga and come full circle from that camp experience. While the training was certainly a highlight, it wasn’t just because I received my certification to teach. It was because of much, much more than just the physical yoga practice. I did my training through an intensive program with Grace and Glory Yoga in Northfield, NJ and found that the physical practice was just a start. While the training is in Baptiste Power Yoga, owner Allie Nunzi focuses on leadership and the whole self throughout the program. It’s not just about the yoga! There were videos from Brene Brown and exercises meant to help us work on the ‘tough shit’ – the things that hold us back in life. It felt like I was back at an RWB camp and I felt right at home. I committed myself fully to the experience and realized that I was holding myself back quite a bit; to move into the person I needed to become I needed to own my experiences and the role I played in them. The Yoga Teacher Leader Development Program was easily the toughest experience I’ve had, both physically and mentally, but I was so proud of myself and my new family when we finished that first intensive week. One of my classmates said at the end that she was surprised how quickly everyone had bonded, and that she didn’t think she’d feel this close to people she had known for such a short time. I remember thinking how lucky I was to have these experiences over and over again with Team RWB.

Another highlight of my fellowship was helping plan and execute our Eagle Leader Academies. In both academies I was given a chance to step up and do something that pushed me. In Lake George, I led an optional, early-morning hike. For something I was so familiar doing, I was incredibly nervous. I wasn’t sure if anyone would wake up early after such a full previous day. To my surprise, every single attendee came on the hike, including one leader who had never hiked before. Seeing him push himself showed me the impact that we as leaders can have on others. At our Philadelphia academy I was given the opportunity to share my story. I’ve always been comfortable presenting, but I’ve never had to present about myself! I expected to be terrified, but found instead that I was confident. I never would have expected to feel that way; if I had had to share this time last year, I likely would have walked out. Being an ELF has pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but also has given me the tools to succeed and the support to know that if I did fail, it would be okay.IMG_20170520_073158

What I’ve loved most about this fellowship is the flexibility; you get out of it what you put into it, but you also can choose your own path throughout. We had guidance from our regional directors and program managers, but really it was about what we wanted to do in the end. Some of the things that I’ve seen the others in my cohort do have been absolutely amazing, and so different than my path. I found myself committing to a lot with the fellowship, both in educational opportunities and with helping with regional projects, like data management and planning regional leadership experiences, but I was able to work it around commitments in my personal and professional life. I work for a college and travel a good amount during the academic year, so for me it meant doing a lot for my fellowship over the summer. At one point in July I found myself on an overseas work trip while in two online classes, starting my yoga teacher training program, and helping prep for our Philadelphia Eagle Leader Academy. It was definitely hectic, but I thrive under pressure and found that I’ve been able to accomplish everything I had hoped for this year and more, thanks to the support of the other fellows and RWB staff.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from the classes, trainings, and ELAs is to lean into the uncertainty of trying new things. Sign up for yoga training in a different state, reach out to a chapter when traveling and see if you can join them, agree to a Trail Ragnar 36 hours before it starts (ok, that one may not have been my brightest idea). If it’s going to make you happy, stop doubting and overthinking and just do it! I’ve always been more cautious and an over planner, but I’m learning to give things a try and not let the story in my mind of how things should or might go get in the way of truly experiencing life.

As I head into the final few months of my fellowship, I’m sad that the year is coming to an end, but excited to start bringing some more of what I learned back to my chapter and continue to support my region. I encourage everyone to apply for next year’s Fellow class — the education and travel are amazing, but beyond the funds you’ll get a unique experience to see how much goes into keeping the organization moving forward. For those of you who are chosen for the 004 Class: Take advantage of it. Explore all the different opportunities and do what you need to do to get the most out of this program. There will be challenging days, but you won’t get this experience again.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a 003 ELF. The fellowship has completely changed my life path and I can’t wait to continue my personal development beyond this year.

Matt Kress spent 22 years in the Marine Corps – enlisted and officer, active duty and reserve.  After a special operations deployment to Iraq in 2004, he left active duty to be a firefighter in Southern California. During that time, he used the Post 9/11 GI Bill to earn a master’s degree from the University of Washington and an MBA from UCLA.  He’s now the Senior Manager of Veteran and Military Affairs at Starbucks.  

In this episode we discuss:

• Coffee and it’s connection to the military

• The tremendous work that Starbucks is doing to support Veterans and their families.

• What it’s like to be in position to really move the needle on veterans issues in our country in a big way.

• The connection between first responders and veterans and how they share some challenges.



Chapter: Lynchburg, VA

Member Since: October 2015

Motto: “Believe you can and you are halfway there.”

Why Did You Join Team RWB?

“I saw my first red Eagle Shirt September 2015 at 9/11 Memorial race in Lynchburg. I asked gentleman what it was all about and he shared Team RWB with me. I googled it when I got home, read about it, and found that Lynchburg didn’t have a team. I contacted Team RWB online and soon received a response from Brennan from corporate office in DC. That is where the journey began. I signed up for the Marine Corp 10K in DC that October. I met Brennan at Starbucks in DC the day before the race to talk with him, and discuss starting a team in Lynchburg. I was all in! I ran the race the next morning with thousands of other people. It was truly an honor to be there running that race. It was the first race I ran without stopping. One of the truest statements you will hear me say over and over again is, that I didn’t find Team RWB. Team RWB found me. I needed this team so much and still do. I have always had the heart for the military. Many in my family and my friends have served, and continue to serve, and I was a military spouse for 20 years.”

What has Been Your Favorite Event or Experience with Team RWB?

“The friendships I have made. My EagleFamily. I have met some amazing people, ran races I never thought I could accomplish, do things I never thought possible This team has taught me everything is possible, and never give up! Team RWB found me September 11, 2015 when I needed it the most. I was in a place where I needed to stay busy, have purpose, and support veterans. I never want a single veteran to feel alone, or without purpose. I want to reach the unreachable especially those with PTSD who need someone to be there and just listen. I want to help military spouses that are going through tough times while their soldier is deployed, or those suffering from the effects of PTSD. There is hope, there is a way, and there are people who do care just like myself.”

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How Do You Serve Your Community?

“I just try to meet the needs of my community when through being a devoted leader on Team RWB, volunteering when I can at either Salem VA hospital or other local organizations. I also make myself available to any civilian or veteran who needs to talk. I always try to put myself in their shoes, and sincerely listen.

What Inspires You?

“I find inspiration in the everyday. Even days I feel weak, and having a bad day, it usually turns around by a smile or kind gesture of a stranger. I’m inspired by those who push through difficulties, and always have a positive attitude. It’s contagious.”

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How Has Team RWB Impacted Your Life?

“It has taught me to believe in myself, and my capabilities are endless if I push through my fears. And it’s never about me. It’s about being a team.

What Would You Say to Someone Who is Thinking of Joining Team RWB?

“Why not? It’s a wonderful opportunity to give back and meet some of the most amazing people on Earth!”

Chapter: Northeast/Boston

Member Since: 2015

Motto: “Be who you are and say what you feel. Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind are jerks.”

Why Did You Join Team RWB?

“Because someone invited me. It’s really that simple. At the time I had recently begun running and was doing well at it, but lost my motivation when I lost my running partner. So I was looking for a run club to keep that personal health going. More inwardly, I was also looking for a social circle to replace one which had proved… unhealthy. An old friend suggested that I look up my local Team RWB chapter. Never heard of it, but it looked like fun. So I went to a weekly run, was greeted with a friendly smile by someone who remembered my name, and the rest is history.”

What has Been Your Favorite Event or Experience with Team RWB?

“ELA Philly is easily at the top of that list. Though completing my first marathon (MCM 2016) is probably a close second, as well as my first Spartan Race (West Point Sprint). In a more general sense, with RWB I consistently find myself pushing personal boundaries and achieving things I never before thought I could. That’s truly my favorite experience.”

How Do You Serve Your Community?

“Not well enough, if I’m being honest. As an Eagle, we have occasional community service events, such as serving food at a local veterans’ shelter. And as an RWB leader I like to think that we are an example for our community and that there is some intangible benefit for the world as a result of that. But I always feel that we can do more. I just don’t know what.

What Inspires You?

“The people I’ve met through Team RWB inspire me. Every once in a while someone in another circle in my life will come across an article or something and talk about how inspiring that person is. I’ll look over and say, “Oh, I know them!” And by knowing people like that personally, I find that it only exemplifies how inspiring our more unsung friends are as well. We’re all here, we’re all doing this. Some get a photo in the paper, and we just sort of laugh it off as a team. Because we know that this is a team effort and that we’re all here for and because of each other.”

How Has Team RWB Impacted Your Life?

“It’s impossible to overstate the positive influence Team RWB has had on my life. I’ll spare you the story of the place I was in when I found Team RWB, but suffice it to say it terrifies me to think of what would have happened without this group. The friends I’ve made, the support I’ve received (most of you don’t even realize how much you’ve done for me just by being there), not to mention the significant improvements to my physical health. I mean, who would have ever thought I could run a marathon? Three years ago I couldn’t run to the mailbox. I owe so much to the people I’ve met here.

What Would You Say to Someone Who is Thinking of Joining Team RWB?

“Welcome! We’d love to see you at our next event.”