Blog written by: Garrett Cathcart, Team RWB Southeast Regional Director
A few months after being hired by Team RWB a couple of years ago, I found myself in South Beach, Miami to talk to potential donors about Team RWB. I had no idea what I was doing.
I pull up to a luxury hotel in my rented Chevy Sonic. I park behind a Ferrari, throw the valet the keys and tell him, “don’t scratch it—it’s a rental. I’ll tip you later. I don’t carry cash.” I walk into the palace of hotel–marble, fountains and high-end artwork covering the walls. I’m wearing a shirt I bought at Target, jeans and some worn out New Balance 574s with a ketchup stain on the toe that I can’t get out (not that I tried). At the appointed time I go to the hotel restaurant bar—another bastion of opulence. I grab a gin and tonic that costs more than most dates I go on and nervously dove in to work the room. It’s a “get to know you” mixer so everyone is asking, “what do you do?” as soon as they meet you.
At this point to be honest…I’m not quite sure what I do yet. It was a little awkward. I used to be defined by what I did when I was in the Army—it was who I was, and I was still navigating who I was without it.
I’m only one of two non-profit representatives, and to say that everyone else there is extremely accomplished is an understatement. A lot of these folks’ net worth’s are more than some small countries. It was going ok. I met a few folks, but didn’t really engage meaningfully. They knew I was there as a guest. I was an outsider, and I felt it. It was a snapshot in time that reminded me when I left the Army to work in private industry in LA. I felt disconnected, not part of a community and adrift.
Then I noticed a guy across the room and immediately knew he was an Army officer. He was in civilian clothes, but I could tell. Close cropped hair, ramrod posture and the government issue Blackberry dutifully holstered on his hip. I knew we would at least have the Army in common, so I went up to him and introduced myself. He shook my hand firmly and said, “Hi, I’m Tim.” We did have a lot in common. We connected and I could feel myself relaxing.
In our conversation, I got the vibe he was a “sir”, so I asked, “Sir, what do you do in the Army?” He told me he was getting ready to take command. Command is a huge deal. You are only a commander a few times in your entire Army career. It took me five years to get a company command. Battalion command usually takes around 15 years and Brigade command is over 20. I assumed he was taking a Brigade, so I asked him what unit he was about to take over.
“I’m taking the ISS next month.”
I stared at him blankly and tried to think what the ISS was. I thought it might be some signal or other technical unit. Tim could tell I was having trouble placing it, so he offered, “the International Space Station”.
I continued to stare at him blankly. “You mean the one in actual space? You’re a real astronaut or something?” Yes. Tim was taking command of the International Space Station. I couldn’t help but laugh. I mean I knew somebody had to command it, but I never expected to be talking to him or her in my ketchup stained running shoes. I also just realized I had the ultimate wingman and icebreaker. He introduced me to everyone around the room. Sometimes I would introduce him to people who weren’t even in our group, “Have you met my friend, Tim? He’s about to take command of space!”, and the night got a whole lot better. Tim also taught me an important lesson very early in my time at RWB of what exactly we do here. We build community, we build authentic relationships, we help when we can and ask nothing in return, we lead and we embower others.
Tim asked for an RWB shirt to take up with him where he recorded this message wearing it while on the Space Station–effectively establishing our first extraterrestrial chapter. The Eagle is in space!
Its been a while since then and COL Kopra was kind enough to host a leadership development event for the Team RWB DC chapter at the NASA building, and send me a note on how much he believes in what RWB is doing to develop leaders across the country and build a community of communities.
Now when people ask me what I do now, I know the answer and I’m incredibly proud of it. Team RWB is changing the lives of over 120,000 people and changing hundreds of communities here on Earth and outside of it.
It all began for me with a handshake from an astronaut who commanded space.
I’m a leader for Team RWB…let me tell you about it.