Episode 119 – Team RWB Legend Eric Engelhardt

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Eric Engelhardt is a former Green Beret who was wounded in combat, and found his way to being one of Team RWB’s original employees.  He’s as interesting a guy as they come, and is one of the reasons for Team RWB’s success.

He’s an incredible person, and is a great spokesman for using community and physical fitness for recovery.  

In this week’s podcast, we discuss:

• His injury and recovery

• His experiences working at Team RWB

• His pending international move

 

 

 

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Transcription:

J.J. Pinter: 00:00:01 This is the Eagle Nation podcast where we talk about building richer lives and stronger communities. We have inspiring guests to have real conversations about things that you care about.

J.J. Pinter: 00:00:14 All right everyone. Welcome back to the Eagle Nation podcast. I am super excited for our first ever video podcast and this episode is going to be exciting for a whole host of reasons. One, we’re doing it live. We’ve got video here, so I’d like to take a second to welcome my friend Eric Engelhardt to the podcast today. So Eric. Hello.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:00:37 Hey Jj. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. I like we’re walking into uncharted territory here. Is this kind of the norm with Rwb, but we got the video and we’re. We’re testing new waters. I like it.

J.J. Pinter: 00:00:51 This is a Friday afternoon and Eric and I’ve been talking about doing this podcast for a while and there’s some. There’s some interesting reasons why we’re doing it now, but one of the reasons that we decided we’re going to do the video is that we’re not able to be physically in person, but Eric’s getting ready to leave the country and to move internationally for a while. So we decided we were going to have a virtual beer together, so because I don’t have a refrigerator in my office. So you’re going to have to check out what’s going on here. I have sitting outside because it’s cold. This crap here right now. They are sitting outside and so I’m going to grab one real fast so eric and I can have a beer together while we’re recording this podcast. So I’ll be right back.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:01:33 I don’t have my beer outside, I haven’t. Here’s my beer

J.J. Pinter: 00:01:42 so thanks to our partners at Yeungling here. So cheers Eric Cheers.

J.J. Pinter: 00:01:49 So let’s get started. I, I think it would be pertinent to do a little bit of background information just so everyone knows, kind of Eric and what he’s done in the past and then kind of what he’s getting ready to do. So Eric is a lot of things and he’s one of the most interesting people that I know, but why don’t you start with, with the pertinent stuff, you’re, you’re a kid from Minnesota and decided at some point to join the army and I’m just, I don’t want to dive into the end of your army career, but just about tell me a little bit about how that happened and what you ended up doing when you were in the military.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:02:21 Oh, well I guess ever since I was a little boy, I guess I wanted to join the military and I went to the recruiter’s office and went to meps and did all that. And I said I wanted to be a ranger. Um, and as you can imagine, that didn’t exactly work out how I wanted. They said all the rangers slots were full, but hey, would you like to try this other thing? I was like, uh, what is it? They’re like, well, you can go be a green baret. And I’m like, I have no idea what that is. Is that, can I be a ranger with that or is that cool? Do you kick in doors? I don’t know what this is. And they’re like, yeah, yeah, yeah, you can do all. It’s awesome. I’m like, cool. So I sign up for it and did some research after the fact and I joined the military like, like you said, right out of high school I did cross country and cross country skiing.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:03:11 I’m in high school and from Minnesota, so I’m used to that kind of harsh, a lifestyle associated there and you don’t kind of just wake up and do things. You have to plan out your life a little bit. It’s not, it’s not like Campo what I was where I was that for the last four years, but I joined the military and after, uh, about two years of pretty intense training, I can earn this little one inch by two inch little tab and it was just him as a measure of mount and measurable amounts of suffering to receive that. And I was assigned a third special forces group and when I was there I was on the same team as the former executive director, Blayne Smith. And that’s how I ended up kind of finding Rwb uh, yes. That’s the short story of how it of happened.

J.J. Pinter: 00:04:09 So Blaine, for those of you who might not be listening to the podcast, Blaine and I have known each other for years. We were roommates at West Point. We served together as, as lieutenants. We worked together a team art or it could be for five years. I know blamed for a long time. And that was how we came across. Eric. So Eric is, I, I want to go back on this a little bit because he’s, there’s a couple important things that he’s not bringing up here. One, I think you hold this distinction of being. I think I heard this. I want to make sure I get it right. Are you the youngest person ever earned three tabs in the army? So when we, if not, he’s got to be super close.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:04:46 I’m sure somebody listening that probably has the know somebody might have the record I guess fight. So as soon as I got my Green Beret, which, so I joined that, I’m 18, get my grandpa raid two years later, I’m 20. I show up to the team, I’m not even old enough to buy beer, which by the way, as a terrible thing that happened to you because obviously the first thing when you show up to a new unit is you have to buy beer and I wasn’t allowed to. So they were like, well, here’s your first challenge. Go find us beer young kid. And then they said I was an engineer and on the Special Forces team. And they’re like, well, they just got back from a deployment. They’re like, well, why don’t you go to sapper school? So I would go to sapper school to combat engineering school a, completed that.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:05:36 And as soon as I get back my team sergeants, like, Hey, congratulations on successfully completing sapper school. Did you also know that that qualifies as prearranged? So you’re going to go to ranger school as soon as you’re done with Christmas. So after three years in army, uh, had, had the special forces tab, the ranger tab and the tab. I didn’t, that was not my goal. I did not join the military to earn all those tabs. I guess I joined the military initially to get the ranger tab followed by the Special Forces Tab, but those kind of reversed and I’ve. But yeah, that was not my goal up front. I was not trying to get all the merit badges. I could. It just happened.

J.J. Pinter: 00:06:28 So I think now’s a good time to talk about how I met Eric in, in the early days of team rwb before we had any facilities and we had a lot less employees, you know, Blaine and uh, he lived in Tampa and I live in Louisville, Kentucky. I still live in Louisville, Kentucky. We would kind of travel back and forth to each other’s houses a lot and that’s how we would plan. So I would go down and sleep on his couch for a week and work or he would come up here and sleep on my couch for a few days and work. And that was, that was what we did. And the organization was growing and Blaine was in Tampa and he had had this idea of wanting to start a facility in Tampa and he had this idea of, he called it a firebase, but having some physical location, we are talking about this.

J.J. Pinter: 00:07:11 And we were also talking about like just hiring and people to bring on the team. And he had, there’s this, if you know Tampa, there’s this place called Davis Island. We were playing, used to live and we’re sitting at this, he had this little Dicky House on Davis Island and we were sitting there one night having a beer and talking about this. And he said, you know what, I know someone who might be a really good fit sky who was on my team, his name’s Eric Engelhart. Uh, you know, he might be a really good fit because we were looking to hire someone. And he just said, I think eric just got just maybe just graduated from college at the time. So like the timing might be right. And I’ll never forget. He said, I want to send them a text and just see what he has to say. So I was sitting next to them and Blaine sent Eric a text and I’ll never forget his response was, you have my attention and that was how the whole thing started or something along those lines.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:08:00 Actually I graduated maybe like two or three months before I was doing some contracting stuff and I was actually had a little break and I was at an October fest and Asheville and Blaine shoots me that message. I’m like, are you serious right now? Like, exactly, you have my attention.

J.J. Pinter: 00:08:20 And that was how it started. And, and uh, so eric, you know, ended up coming to work for us and has, I don’t know if you were like maybe the fifth employee or something. He was a very early employee of team rwb and we’ll talk about all the stuff he did a lot and is one of the team are to be, would not be what it is today without Eric Engelhart. There’s not a doubt in my mind. He did a lot and we’ll talk about all of that in a second. But I think eric has a, has a really important story of kind of how his time in the military ended and I and I, and I feel like we need to dive into that because I think that sets the stage for lot of the rest of what we’re going to talk about here, which is important.

J.J. Pinter: 00:08:59 And I will also say that one of the reasons I connected with Eric early on for a couple reasons. One, we’re both from northern states that start with M, right? So we’re both from, he’s from Minnesota, I’m from Michigan, so we had a very rural parts of those states. We had a very similar kind of upbringing of ice fishing and old snowmobiles and that kind of stuff. And then Eric is also like one of the quietest and most sarcastic and funny people that you’ll ever met ever meet, which is another thing that I really appreciate. His sense of humor, humor travels across the military spectrum, I think. Yeah, it does. Um, so yeah, I mean I think it’s important to Eric, if you don’t mind to, to dive into, to the extent that you’re comfortable talking about some of how your time in the, in the military ended, so, so you’re at, you’re at, just to set the stage, your, your, uh, your third special forces group. Um, you’re, you know, you’re deployed, you’re still, you hadn’t been in the army that long, if I recall, right?

Eric Engelhardt: 00:10:00 I guess I probably would have been in the army at like three, three and a half years at the time and our team deploys to Afghanistan

J.J. Pinter: 00:10:12 where at in Afghanistan

Eric Engelhardt: 00:10:14 it’s a firebase Anaconda, so it’s completely in the middle of nowhere. You would have no reason to ever know where it is, but it’s like a three day drive from the nearest firebase or helicopter, like a couple hours from any of the major bases in Afghanistan. So for all intensive purposes we are completely by ourselves. The 12 guys on my team, we also had some check guys with us too, like maybe another 20 checks off people there and then maybe two or three kind of just general contract worker, so I don’t know who they were employed by, but they maintain the generators and things like this. But yeah, so I’m deployed, deployed for maybe maybe three weeks and that’s when, I guess for lack of better terms, that’s when shit hits the fan. So our medic on our team who I went to sniper school with, he was my sniper buddy. We were, he gets shot in the neck and he gets killed more small. Um, so he dies and that’s just a huge shock to our team. I’m very early on into our deployment. Like you, no one expects that, especially on such a small, like the community on a special forces. A team is so tight, like it’s your best friends, you do everything together and to have that like shock to the system. So early on was just, it was, it was really hard for me. But like, I guess the military mantra of like,

Eric Engelhardt: 00:11:57 you Kinda just bury it and you continue the mission because that’s all you can do. Like you can’t worry about what’s happening there.

J.J. Pinter: 00:12:05 Well, one of the things, not to like interrupt the story, but one of the things that I think is cool, you know, I obviously have never, never met mark, but very early on I, you know, I’ve stayed in touch with Blaine forever and he would always, um, it’s sometime in the fall, I don’t remember exactly what it was, but there was a memorial event that, uh, in honor of mark that he would always. It was like dead on his calendar. Like I’m going to Philadelphia for this thing. And I think last year was like the 10th year anniversary or something. Right. I want to make sure that I have this right. I, I just, I think the way that you guys have kept his spirit alive has been really cool.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:12:39 Yeah. It is a beyonce, a started a nonprofit called small steps and whose last name is Mark Small are small. And so what she does is she helps kids with speech impediments and gets grants for them so they can correct those kind of issues that they’re dealing with, but it’s a super cool deal. And you’re right, you’d go down there, it’d be like a family reunion basically every year we’d all go down and see each other and here’s a five k associated with it, which we, which is like one of the events, but obviously we meet up the night before so we have at least one or two beers the night before. And so you have to try to maintain the night before and couple that in with your five k time the next day because everyone’s trying to win. Yeah. All of us are a little bit competitive with the, the athletic events or just like see who can try and see you can fit into their old team shirts and who can, uh, still, uh, beat each other out there on the race course.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:13:42 But yeah. So after, after markets killed, then, you know, we, we continue kind of doing our missions and things, but it’s only about a, it’s about a week later and you know, I’m in the Turret on one of our, uh, gmbs and all of a sudden it’s just boom, just this ied goes off. I’m directly under my truck and like the good airborne soldier that I was, I got ejected into the air and I do like two or three cartwheels, about 20 or 30 feet in the air, but a land, feet ass head Elf Elf got knocked out but might come to, you know, I’m, I’m looking around and I’m,

Eric Engelhardt: 00:14:35 yeah, just everything around me is kind of just a haze and blurt out. But I would eventually ends up happening is that I get evacuated back to Landstuhl Germany for a while. I have a surgery in Afghanistan. I had broken my legs, my back and my tailbone, but a couple burns but nothing serious. And then I go to Landstuhl and I get another surgery and then at Walter Reed. But I’m the kind of hardest part of the story is that like I’m the only one who survived in our vehicle, so my team sergeant died, one of our combo guys died and gt tack who was attached to our team and air force guy. He died in our interpreter. So like of the five people when there I’m the only one who who survived and so I spent the better part of, Oh God, probably I would say at least eight years kind of recovering like the physical part was easy to recover from for me, like easier.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:15:46 But like the kind of mental anguish I guess. Like I never really dealt with things properly and that took a long time, says better part of a decade before I can figure it out what I needed to figure out. And I, I tell the story sometimes different people and it’s, I tell a shorter version but I don’t tell it to people to depress them and be like, Oh man, that’s a really shitty story. Like of course it’s a shitty story. But I guess the thing I want people to take away from it and I know we’re going to get to this is like, you know, something really bad happened to me and I could have very easily like felt sorry for myself and not went on, but I’m more proud of the things that I do today and what I’m going to do tomorrow. Then kind of what I did in the past, like, like you say it from time to time so that you know, you can’t let the five years you’re in the military, be the best years of your life.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:16:52 Like I’m super proud that I earned my green baret but I don’t have a, like A. I love my room at my house with my green baret framed in like my college diploma and I just hang it up and like I just sit there and watch netflix the rest of my life. Right? Like I’m still hungry. I still want to give back. And I think that’s the most important part of the story is, you know, even though this terrible, terrible, shitty thing happened to me and my team, if you look at everyone else on the team, they’re still giving back whether they’re still in the military or they’ve moved on. We’ve all tried to take something terrible and kind of make it a positive. And that’s, that’s kind of what I try to take away from my military service.

J.J. Pinter: 00:17:41 Well, I guess a thanks for telling that story. I mean I’m sure it’s, even though it’s a decade removed and you probably have told it a bunch, I know it probably get any easier to tell. It’s, you know, and here’s the thing that’s even.

J.J. Pinter: 00:17:58 I want to be very careful to not put myself in that position because I’ve never been in any position like that. But like I’ve been, I’ve, I’ve rode around and lots of trucks like that. And you were the gunner, which is the most exposed person, you know, when you’re in one of these, like the person who’s in the, in the, in the, in the, the, whatever you want to call it. The Turret gunner sat or whatever, like that’s the most and you’re generally the people who are inside the truck or are more secure. So the person who was like up in the hole is the most exposed person and so like it generally think when something goes bad that you know, if you’re up in the whole like you’re the one that’s going to get hit first. And so I don’t know, I just always thought that that might be a dynamic that would make it even more difficult to deal with or whatever. I don’t know,

Eric Engelhardt: 00:18:47 these gun on restraint systems that they were giving people for rollovers and that when you’re in the gunner position, but like had I had anything like that and I think if I remember correctly, I was sitting kind of on like there’s like the whole and then you can sit on the top of it.

J.J. Pinter: 00:19:07 Name Tag, like a good. It was supposed to be.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:19:11 Yeah. I’m trying to look around, keep my eyes and years where they need to be, but that didn’t quite work out, but no I didn’t. I wasn’t, I wasn’t hiding in there. I guess that goes sitting on a little foam pad on the top, which was probably why I broke my tailbone from brick in that blast. Going straight through that.

J.J. Pinter: 00:19:33 So you spent, did you know you went to Walter Reed and so eric is kind of glazing over his physical recovery, but he had serious physical wounds. Um, and he’s uh, he’s a physical specimen now, but he, uh, I mean you have like a titanium leg bone and like he had very serious physical wounds that he had to, to, to recover from. So I wasn’t around for that point in his life, but I’ve seen some pictures and so I wouldn’t say easy. It would be the word that I would use. But you had a, you had a physical recovery that you had to deal with first.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:20:07 Yeah, you’re right. I mean it sucked but I guess the thing about it is you can put your finger on it, so to speak. Right? Like I know my leg is shattered into a million pieces and like I know my back hurts but like it’s harder to point to like, you know, like I think my like I think I didn’t deal with this. Right. Maybe I should go talk to someone or something like that. Like that’s harder to do where it’s like with your leg, you know, like, okay, today I can do two reps of this tomorrow I’ll try to do three or whatever it is. But yeah, that took. I’d say it took me a solid six months to recover the physical injuries for the most part. Like it took a year and a half, two years in total. But like the most intense stuff was the first six months and then wheel chairs and all that good stuff.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:21:00 But after this was all at Walter Reed for six months and then I went back to Fort Bragg and then when I got back there they said I could go back to a team, but it, I ended up, ended up not working out for a couple of, like for the physical reasons, they just said like, hey, you got retained hardware, like you’re in trouble, you can’t do some things. And I was just like, well, I joined the army to be a be a door kicker or whatever it was for. Right. And so I said, all right, well I’ll see you later. I had, did. My Dad ended up at six years. I left the military and by kind of pure, good luck with this lady I had met at, um, I met this lady at a Walter to read. Her name is Heather Bernard, and I’m sure she’s not listening to this podcast, but she, uh, she ended up knowing like the dean at UNC Chapel Hill.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:22:06 And she was like, she kept pestering me. She’s like, you need to apply for school. I’m like, schools for losers. Like, I’m not going to go. I don’t know what my plan was, but I ended up, she ended up giving me an interview there and I ended up getting into school at UNC Chapel Hill and I graduated there four years later and that’s kind of where my story started with rwb is a think maybe my second year in college. I came and did a a couple month internship at rbv with Blaine. I stayed at his beautiful house on Davis Island, as you alluded to and Kinda did some work back in the very, very early days of already be think you guys have maybe like three or four employees. I think it was Zach, you, Blaine and a whole bunch of volunteers.

J.J. Pinter: 00:23:04 Maybe. Maybe laken. I don’t even know,

Eric Engelhardt: 00:23:09 but that’s my. That’s when I first kind of got a taste of rwb full time. I guess.

J.J. Pinter: 00:23:16 I feel like this may be a good opportunity for me to kind of. I’m going to throw you like an underhanded softball pitch here. Like you’re a, you know, you have, you have, uh, a beautiful smart wife that you live with that I think was a pretty important part of that recovery process and the end of your time in the military, right?

Eric Engelhardt: 00:23:35 Yeah. I think obviously I don’t want to take credit for any of this by myself. My family support network is unbelievable. I have a very close family at home. My parents, my step parents and then my now wife, girlfriend at the time, Vanessa, like in her kids like there, there’s no doubt in my mind without that strong friends and family support network that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. And I think that just kind of the other softball pitch, I’ll throw it to you. It’s like obviously that’s kind of what we’re trying to build here at or to be is like maybe not to the extent of wives, although it does happen, but like those wrong friend referral relationships is like that’s what we’re trying to do and that’s why I was so drawn to the mission of rwb in the first place because I knew how much it helped me to have these really close interpersonal relationships.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:24:38 The people, the people you can call, not just like your facebook friends. Like I have a bunch of facebook friends, but those aren’t really like I can’t hold them when I, my blow a tire at three in the morning on the interstate. Like there’s very few people I think you could say are like your real real friends and I think those are the relationships and you know, try to build in your life because I don’t care how many instagram or facebook followers I have. Like, well, I guess that’s not my job to try and get that many, but my goal is to have five to 10 really good friends that I can count on it anytime to just, hey, I’m in a bad spot, can you help me out and that going to help me. And vice versa.

J.J. Pinter: 00:25:23 Ones that would tell you that you should have eye protection when you’re splitting firewood. Even Erica air posted an instagram video of splitting firewood today. Something that I have. I grew up in a house that had all we heated with wood and so I’m intimately familiar splitting firewood. So the safety minded person in me doesn’t want him to lose an eyeball. So where you at

Eric Engelhardt: 00:25:48 safety precaution on that one. But I was also wearing soft shoot nike shoes as well. So we’ll work on. I’ll work on all aspects.

J.J. Pinter: 00:25:58 So when I first met, here’s the thing, I didn’t really, when I first met Eric in person, I didn’t really know what to. I didn’t really know what to think of him honestly because uh, so Erica is just to kind of describe him to you. He’s tall and skinny. He’s in, he looks like he’s in good shape. Um, he always, he doesn’t anymore and we can tell the story, but he has a service dog or you had a service dog named Bo that was with him all the time and when I first met him, uh, you know, his disposition was a little bit less flowery than it is right now. I think it would be a good way to, a good way to put it. And I, and I didn’t really know what to make of him. Um, and I was kind of, you know, I had known the story of what had happened generally from blame, but I didn’t know all of the details.

J.J. Pinter: 00:26:45 I was just like, well, I don’t know. I don’t really know. It was kind of this weird spot because in one sense we’re hiring an employee and I’m like, okay, we don’t want to squeeze as much work as we can out of this guy. But another sense I was like, well, I think Eric probably is the prototypical veteran who could use team rwb. So, um, you know, I guess I don’t really know what, you know, what to make of him, but what I do know is that I think it would be good if we put them in, put them in front of people because he’s a kind of an introverted guy, like put them in front of people and, and get him uncomfortable a little bit because he can connect with other people and that’s something that we did very early on. Um, and it, it turned out to be fantastic, but I mean, it, it took a little while, um, because I didn’t really know, took a little while for us to, I don’t want to say bond because I’m just too, for me to get to know you a little bit more I guess would be the way I would put it.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:27:39 Yeah. Was also a little bit terrified. Don’t forget the fact that you’re my boss for the last four years. So like I’m like, uh, I don’t want to like say something that’s gonna make me look like an idiot in the first month of working here. Yeah. I’m definitely, I’m a harder exterior person. Like once you break through the kind of exterior shell, like I’m a pretty open book to all my friends and family and things like that. But yeah, I don’t have the greatest disposition if you walk by me on the street and be like, why is that guy still pissed off? I’m not really pissed off. I just kind of have that. You’ll still have that face. I just looked like a mad

J.J. Pinter: 00:28:23 and you listen to the angriest music. Anyone that I’ve ever come across that it doesn’t help much either.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:28:29 Everything except for country and western. But yes, heavy metal is up there on the list.

J.J. Pinter: 00:28:35 So I’ve got some, some stories that I want to tell about Eric in a second here, but I want to talk about what you’re doing right now, which I think is really special. So Eric has has been with us. The team are to be for work. He worked with us for four or five years, however long it was a and just recently quit. Had his last day. And normally that’s not something that we celebrate. But in this case, this is something that we are celebrating and we’re super excited about because he’s getting ready to do some pretty cool stuff. So tell us what’s, what’s in your future? What are you getting ready to do?

Eric Engelhardt: 00:29:07 Yes. I went, well, I’m about to go move abroad, like you said it earlier, I’m going to move to Chiang Mai, Thailand. So that’s in Southeast Asia. It’s in one of the northern most cities in Thailand, so it’s not on the beach or anything like that. And I went there when I was 12 and then I went there again I think two years ago over like Christmas break or something like this, something like that. My, so my uncle lives there, worked with UNESCO world heritage restoration projects, um, for the last 40 or 50 years. And when we went through this last time with my wife and I and my son went and we’re like, he’s like, why don’t you guys just stay? And like, we’re like, yeah, that’s ridiculous that we can’t do that. And then we came back and maybe like a year later, uh, Vanessa, my wife, she comes up to me, she’s like, you’re just like, you know, maybe we should go.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:30:14 I’m like, I can’t believe this is coming from you because she is very, she loves like she’s a home body. She likes to go out and explore and things. But she likes to have that steady base to come back to. I was like, are you serious right now? She’s like, yes. So we kind of been conniving our way of how we can actually make this happen. And over the last year and I ended up getting a job as it’s the head of camps for a, uh, kids between the ages of eight and 16. And then instead of just doing summer camps, it’s just all year round. So we’ll be doing those and that teaching English as a second language, which English is also my second language. I’m not very good at it. So we’ll see how this works out. But that’s what I’m going to be doing.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:31:07 And we’re, we are visas are approved. I got work visas and I, we got our tickets and we’re leaving February six, so watch out world. We’ll see how it goes. It’s uh, it’s very terrifying. Um, everyone kind of, when you hear it right out of the bath or like, oh, that’s fun. That’ll be exciting. Like, yeah, it’s going to be fun and exciting. But we sold all of our, we sold our house, all of our cars, about 90 percent of all of our furniture and personal belongings and put the rest in like a 15 foot pod, which is not very big if any. Have you ever gotten a pod? Like fairly small and sent the pod to storage and we have two suitcases right now. I’m currently at my mom and Stepdad’s house here in little falls, Minnesota and we’re hanging out until we leave. But you know, we, we talked about it for a long time.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:32:13 We put it down on paper. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. We’re just like, there’s things that you have to do in your life that own the doors only open for a very small amount of time. So like joining the military, your door for that is probably four years if we’re being realistic because once you get a job out of college you’re probably not going to go back to join the military for 30 grand a year. And my opportunity for this is very small as well as like, you know, if I continue and end up with a job, I’m kind of like in the U, s I, I’m afraid to leave because you’re worried you have like this retirement plan and kids and everything like this. And it all kind of worked out that we were able to make this happen. But we are about, oh, I don’t want to speak for her, but it varies for me from day to day I’ll go from like 50 percent excited to 50 percent scared to some days I’ll be like 80 percent scared, 20 percent excited and it’s just like going back and forth.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:33:23 But you know, I, I don’t foresee a reason unless I end up in like a Thai prison. This would be something I look back on when I’m 70 years old and be like, you know, I, I really wish I wouldn’t have taken that one to five years to go to Thailand and experience another culture for like, I don’t see any reason why this wouldn’t be something I’d look back on. I’m like, you know what? That was awesome.

J.J. Pinter: 00:33:56 Yeah. I think part of what’s cool about this is that, yeah, it sounds like big and crazy to move to Thailand to like up and sell yourself in Thailand, but the way you’ve done it is not rash. It’s been deliberate. Like you decided you wanted to do it, you had a plan, you went through it and you’ve got kind of exhale plans on the backside. And the thing I think is so cool is that people talk about this kind of stuff, like it’s completely unattainable and like it’s completely attainable if you really want to do it. I guess that’s the thing. I mean without going into details, Eric has a sound that they had to like get off to college and so he had some time to kind of work through this and I’m

J.J. Pinter: 00:34:38 but like anyone can do this if you wanted to, like if you want, if someone wants to go live overseas, they could find a way to do it or if you want to move to a new like these things are. I wrote an article years ago about it was using this economic term called the sunk cost fallacy and it was just about how people feel like they’re so invested in what they’re doing, they can’t do anything else. And it’s like, no, that’s, you absolutely can. It takes sometimes some hard work and elbow grease like anything else and like maybe a little bit more exposure to risk but yeah. But like really at the end of the day, what, what is that? I mean could you get bit by a Cobra? Yeah, maybe. But you could also get hit by a drunk driver here. So

Eric Engelhardt: 00:35:17 to leave their position if they have like a really good job working for some fortune 500 company or something, but like how many of those have gone down like recently? Like you know, it’s like, like you said, yeah, you’re assuming some risk that you take measures to kind of minimize the risk. It’s like we put our stuff in a pod, like if we ended up going over there for six months and we absolutely hate it. All of our stuff is in a pod. So whether we end up back in Tampa or in Portland, Maine, Portland, like whatever. It’s just like we’ll ship our stuff and we’ll start over again. It’s just, it’s not, it’s not impossible to do is just. I think it’s the reality of like packing all your stuff. Like the difference in impacting is very interesting because they’re like, you know, what paperwork do we need?

Eric Engelhardt: 00:36:13 Because we have two suitcases and it’s like holy shit, we need to scan a bunch of stuff in. We had to put things in safety deposit boxes so our parents can get to it and you’re not packing for like a month where you won’t see your stuff or like a week where you’re just like, oh, put it in a box. We’ll unpack it when we get there. It’s like I’m not seeing this stuff. Or we’ve committed to doing this for a year so we can see like the full circle of like a whole year in another country I guess, but like minimum of a year. So that’s a long time to not see your stuff. But I guess.

J.J. Pinter: 00:36:52 Yeah. So I want to tell a couple, uh, a couple of stories about things that out. I’m going to remember Eric, by first I have to go back to Davis island talking about Eric. I was thinking if I ever met this guy before and he said, let me bring up this facebook page. And so I only, I’ve only ever seen one picture of him in the military and there’s this picture of Eric and he’s like, he’s taken a 50 cal range or something and he looks like he’s 11 years old. Literally like, he’s like the youngest looking person that you’ve ever seen in a pair of Acu. I was like, no, I don’t think that guy looks familiar. Blamed like cliques, do a couple more pictures. Fast forward to him in college and he looks like a combination between a homeless man and it’s combination between a homeless man and maybe a, a Hippie, I don’t know. Huge beard. Huge. Like tons of hair

Eric Engelhardt: 00:37:47 that my hair was like down to at least three inches past my shoulder, like ponytail if I wanted it. No, no man bonds. Let’s clarify that. Like I did not start that trend or was not. Part of it is just, it was just a mess.

J.J. Pinter: 00:38:06 Well he might have to get a haircut when he comes to work here and he said he’s already taken care of. So I want to tell a couple stories here. So, um, this is one that I won’t, I think I’ll never forget. So we for a few years did have rock climbing camp out in Estes Park, Colorado.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:38:24 And um, so

J.J. Pinter: 00:38:27 we went out there and Eric was there. He went one year as a attendee. And then came back, I think you were working for us at the time, came back and was there as like a alumni, if you want to call it that. So we went through the camp experience and Eric likes to climb and I like to climb as well and we decided we were gonna stay in climb a couple days after the camp and the camp got done on a Sunday morning I think, and I flew my oldest son out and I drove down to the Denver airport to get him and then drove back up to estes park and we decided that we were going to go climbing kind of where the camp ended. And so Tommy Caldwell, who was this famous climber, who was the guy who put the cap on and where we were climbing was.

J.J. Pinter: 00:39:08 It was, it was several miles was miles away from the road. It was, it took a while to walk back into that. And one of the things I’ll never forget is I was. So I’ve got my son and he’s young. He’s maybe six or something at the time, five or six. He’s pretty young and we’re walking back there and I’m like trying to make, he’s never been in the mountains before, so I’m trying to make sure he doesn’t fall in kill himself and there was this one part of the trail where I thought he was gonna fall, so I went to, like kind of get in front of him to like jumped over a boulder. It’s like, get in front of him to help him and guess who falls. I fell and I like went to catch myself and it’s never happened before. I dislocated my finger, like pointing back the other direction.

J.J. Pinter: 00:39:47 I was like, well, that’s unfortunate. And uh, it’s, it’s like I’m holding it up. I’m like, Huh, it’s pointing backwards. That’s not right. And I’m Brendan Malanie who used to work for us, you know, popped it back in, in like put it back in. And we ended up climbing for the rest of the day, but we went back and it’s my most viewed video of all time. Tommy and his friend Adam set up this crazy rope swing out over a gorge in Rocky Mountain National Park is the most insane thing ever. Um, I’ve learned that his, uh, you learn when you learn all these like safety procedures when you’re being taught how to rock climb and you climb with pro climbers and you find that they’re, their ideas of what’s safe is very different than what you’re taught. But there’s a, there’s a video of my son doing this when he’s really young and I. So it’s one of my favorite videos and Eric, isn’t it? He’s one of the people that’s on the end of the rope. So I think I will, uh, I will never forget that because I’ll always see eric in that video.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:40:48 That was so much fun when your finger got dislocated and pops it back into place. And I, I can’t remember who, it was. One of Tommy’s friends who’s out there with us. I think it might’ve been like Adam Stack.

J.J. Pinter: 00:41:05 Yeah. Adam stack. Yep.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:41:07 It’s like he like how, how did you guys know to do that? All your military training really paid off where and Brendan’s like, I have no idea what to do. I just knew his finger was pointed in the wrong way, so I try to point it in the right direction. They’re just like dumbfounded and we’re just like, uh, it’s just like good, have fueled trauma medicine, like something doesn’t look right, make it look better

J.J. Pinter: 00:41:31 and then you tape it and continue. Continue today. So that’s what we ended up doing. So I will to ask you to tell a story really quickly. I’ve heard other people tell this story and I think it’d be interesting. Uh, it’s one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard, but we do something called the old glory relay every year. And it’s this without going into a ton of details. It’s this event where we move a single American flag across the country. Um, so this year it was 4,300 miles and 62 days and there’s a lot of like nice clean, fancy pictures that are on social media, but there’s 50 to 60 days of work that happens every day and there’s so much stuff that goes wrong. And like there’s so many moving pieces and there’s so many funny stories. So it was the first year, maybe, maybe the second year, I don’t exactly remember, but there’s a story of, of Eric and a couple other of our employees being in the middle of nowhere in Nevada. That’s like one of my favorite old glory stories. I was hoping you would tell. Tell that story.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:42:33 I assume it’s the dinner for. Yes.

J.J. Pinter: 00:42:38 Yeah. And then also when you ended up going back to like the, uh, the, the preppers camp or whatever, right. On a four wheeler,

Eric Engelhardt: 00:42:49 sorry. There’s like so many good things that happened on this little portion because it was on highway 50 in between Brennan Garrett and I were in charge of from Reno, Nevada to Salt Lake City basically. And there is nothing in between.

J.J. Pinter: 00:43:09 Highway 50 is known as, they call it the loneliest highway in America just for reference

Eric Engelhardt: 00:43:14 lived up to that. And so we stayed in this little small town of maybe like 20 people and it was Eureka and we stayed in this hotel which had like all different satin sheets from like different genres and different style beds. I think Garrett was in like this little like twin bed on the side is like, it was really grody. They give us like one, one towel for all three of us. I’m like thanks. And so we’d go eat in the tent down here, Garrett. No, it’s great. They got these. If you ever met Garret yourself, he’s so excited all the time. It’s hard not to be excited around them. He’s like, no, it’s going to be awesome. They have these great chefs and it’s like they do this family style meal like once a week and it’s tonight guys. We got to go. I’m like, all right.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:44:03 All right. So he convinces Brendan and I. Well It’s also the only show in town, so it didn’t take much convincing. So we’d go there and it’s the three of us and like four other people at the table and Brennan and I sit on one end next to this other guy. He’s a but middle aged guys, gonna, bolding, as wire rim glasses. He’s got overalls and a pretty solid keg growing around the middle and Garrett goes and sits kind of on the other end next to this family and Garrett’s talking to these guys and he’s loving it and they’re like geologists. They move here and like we were studying the mountain and meanwhile Brennan and I are on the other end, just kind of polar opposites to this. We were talking to this guy who embodied so many different things I didn’t even think existed in real life.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:45:01 He believed in every single conspiracy theory known to man. He was a draft dodger. He was a hippie. He currently who wasn’t at dinner, but he currently did take psychedelics, a, some sort of like shock rug guru person who moved out there because of the feeling of the mountain and like all these crazy things he’s eating off of Brendan’s plate, like drinking our wine is just like the craziest thing and we just. Brendan and I couldn’t believe it is. I don’t really know how to describe it more than that other than if you’ve seen the movie dinner for schmucks. This guy just embodied like every single thing that you would like you said the most audacious things like you know, you’re sitting down across from two vets who are running the flag across the country. It’s just like bringing up how nine slash 11 and all this. All these conspiracy theories. It’s like why? Why are you doing this?

J.J. Pinter: 00:46:03 Nine slash 11 is faked. The moon landing was faked. Jfk was assassinated by, you know,

Eric Engelhardt: 00:46:10 u of m is personal. My personal mailing address. So you could send me these tapes that you listened to that play like these sounds that like make you like, it was like 20 sets of tapes. You have to listen to and it just like helps realign your brainwaves. I’m like, Nah, I’m good. And then he couldn’t believe it at the end when he asked us to all go back to his house and go into his hot tub that we politely declined and kind of walk the other way very quickly. But yeah, that was the, that was, that was Eureka. The food was great company. Little strange.

J.J. Pinter: 00:46:49 So Eric, I want to talk a little bit about kind of your, your personal experience both here, your experience at t Dot v, but your experience in what you talked about earlier. That’s this whole idea of like having something difficult happen and like pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and like kind of, you know, people throw this word around loosely but like kind of like your recovery process, right? Because like, even when I first met you, the Eric that I met five years ago and the Eric and I’m sitting here talking to right now, or are in some senses you’re the same person, but in some senses you’re different. Very different, right? Um, I’d love to, and a lot of that came from a lot of hard work on your end, but a lot of that came, I think from you putting yourself in the position, you deliberately putting yourself in positions to make changes in your life. I’d love, you know, so I just, here’s what I think is interesting. So I’m sitting on the phone talking to this big tough green baret right? Uh, but you went through this same kind of traumatic recovery process that, that probably a lot of people who are listening to this, you know, might need to go through. So I’d love to talk a little bit about kind of

J.J. Pinter: 00:48:00 how you realized that you needed to make some changes in your life and what are some of the things that you did? Let me start with the first to be specific. Like wow, like how did you realize that you needed to make some changes in your life?

Eric Engelhardt: 00:48:19 It was in college, so I went to college at UNC and like usually people love college and I hated every minute of it and I hated everyone around me. It wasn’t very, it was very hard for me to go from an environment where you’re kind of big boys and girls in the army and the special forces, special forces community and to go and hang around with like kind of Frat boy and girls and their salmon colored pants and things. I was just like, what the hell? Like I can’t complain about all this shit. I’m like, these are not real world problems and you know, maybe they aren’t real world problems, but they’re problems that they’re dealing with. Like everyone has a different kind of a set of where their issues are I guess of how traumatic they are to them. I guess traumatic isn’t the right word, but how important they are.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:49:15 And I was just pissed off at everyone. So eventually, you know, I went and I went to the va and I, I went and got mental health counseling and it sucked ass. Like I’m not going to church it up to anybody who’s listening. If they think they’re going to go there and sit down for an hour and like life is going to be good. Like hell. No. Like it was terrible, like you have to relive some really bad events and you got to work through them with you and your family and you’re just like, it’s, it takes months of hard, hard work. Like uh, Kinda the same hard work it took for me to get healthy from Walter Reed. It was just harder to put your finger on it and you know, I did that and I got a lot better and while I was at be I could feel myself kind of slipping again.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:50:09 So like two years ago I went, I did the same thing again and it sucked again. It’s terrible. But that made a big difference. And then I think the other part that made a big difference other than obviously the standard, like the healthy environment I was putting myself in, I wasn’t, I had the good support network and was exercising and doing things like this, but putting myself out there to try and be friends with other people like I would before I went to kind of counseling the first time and figured some things out, I would’ve been happy just to be the man on the mountain by myself. Like I’ll sit up here and I’ll just hunt and fish and be by myself and ride out the rest of my ears. But I think after all of that I realized how much I needed other people in my life.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:51:08 And that’s, that was a huge, huge step for me. And just reaching out to other people and realizing that, you know, everyone’s going through things whether it’s like you’re trying to find a job or this person got in trouble because whatever reason, like everyone’s working through things on their, in their life and like needed help each other because it’s not. It’s too damn hard to go through by yourself and if you can’t, you can’t be successful. I think in life if you don’t have that support network around you. So that’s what I tried to do.

J.J. Pinter: 00:51:45 You know, I see that on the opposite end so many times with people who retire and they get, they’ve been working their whole life and they’re like, we’re going to move out to the country, we’re going to buy a farm, we’re gonna, you know? And then they get out there and it’s so it’s isolating because we’re like, we’re humans are social creatures. We need to be around other people and you can exceed their mental health. I’ve seen this happen over and over and over again. It’s crazy. So speaking of support structure, I want to ask you about one person, particular.

J.J. Pinter: 00:52:16 So there’s a, there’s, there’s a pretty special lady who eric and I both know who. I’ll be honest, when we first put the two of them together, I did not know if it was going to work out and her name is Nita Pen art and I’m sure she’s listening to this right now and she’s one of the most incredible ladies that I know. She’s a, she’s, she’s just awesome. She’s, she’s badass in every regard. She’s a retired executive from some and just wanted to serve and be around some younger people and so she applied for a gratitude and accounts receivable job when we first early on and she was outside of Tampa so she ended up working in the fire base with Eric and I’m so like eric is super sarcastic in a good way, but he’s super sarcastic and like when they first.

J.J. Pinter: 00:53:11 So they were sharing. I’m trying to describe the scenario. The offices were in one big room and there are two desks like right next to each other. So there’s no separation. And early on I was like, Oh man, this is not gonna work out because Eric has got to like teasing her picking on and pick it out or a lot. And I don’t know, I don’t want to steal the story, but what I, what I think happened was it was a pretty cool, unconventional friendship, uh, over a couple of years. So I just wanted to ask you about Nita really quickly.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:53:42 I mean, what can you say about Nita that’s positive? I mean, like you said, she’s used to race motorcycles. Sail has motorcycles now. Like has used to be an offsshore fisherman. You’re like, what in which you first came in there. She applied for the job and like read a resume and we took her out for lunch. I think Blaine and I do like in person interview and I was like, I was like, Blaine, she’s gotta be like some, she’s got to be hokey or something because like she’s too nice. No one can be this nice bowl. She is that Nice. But it was just like, it was like, this can’t be real. But like we got give her a shot. Like if she’s got all these credentials, like she’s definitely the right person for the job and she comes on board and I think we have, I’ve grown so much just by being around her and learning from her because she is one of the most calm, cool and collected like voices of reason I think in my life and she’s helped out tremendously both personally and professionally.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:54:51 She’s, she was just awesome. I think of her as like a big sister. She’s just amazing, but you’re right. Like at first I was like, ha. It took a long time to really like, I don’t know, a long time, but it took a couple of months for sure for me to just like, I was like, is she a serial killer or something? Understand how issues. Like what is she trying to do is she’s trying to trap me. She’s like, you want to go get coffee? Or like all these nice things. I’m like, this can’t be right, that no one is like this. She is.

J.J. Pinter: 00:55:24 Well Eric, it’s crazy. We’ve been talking for an hour here. I want to maybe turn it over to you a little bit if you know it’s been, it’s been awhile the last five years and I didn’t know if there was any, any specific memories that you wanted to call out or, or anything stands out in your mind as things that she’ll remember, you know, as you move on in this phase of your life. Pass Team RWB.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:55:48 I think just one of the craziest memories that are when I was just, uh, just uh, well I was a volunteer before I got employed and did the first rock climbing camp and it was Andrew Hutchinson who is our director of camps at the time. And he had, that camp was like Colorado had gotten flooded. It was like doomsday there and seeing him kind of how he reacted and overcame the challenges there. I’m like, this guy’s pretty ass. Like this is a cool organization. They can kind of roll with the punches and kind of figure things out. And so that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be involved, just be a part of this kind of adaptable group. Like because this organization is growing and there’s all kinds of crazy things going on and I, I enjoy that part of the job for sure. Um, let’s see. I think,

J.J. Pinter: 00:56:51 yeah, I should say Eric’s been a, a super utility player for because we initially hired him to be a firebase manager to run the space in, in Tampa, but he did many thing essentially what’s fantastic about Eric is that he did everything, any everything and anything that we asked him to do, he just did it and he did it really, really well and it never, never once complained. I mean there was always like the requisite amount of sarcasm that you expect to get, but there was never any complaining. Right. And everything from running our store which turned any grew that thing into a really big ecommerce business. You know, the firebase, he ended up moving into a program manager role and you know, leading volunteers. And I think if you’d asked me four years prior, if that ever would have worked out, I would have said, hey, I don’t know that, that would rather live in the job for Eric at that point in time.

J.J. Pinter: 00:57:45 Um, but he ended up crushing it and doing a fantastic job with it. So he’s at a really wild ride and you know, when I think back to when I think back to how much the organization has changed, and I’m not saying this because I’m talking to him, like I really think that it wouldn’t be what it is today without Eric because there’s just, anytime we had a need he just stepped in and took care of it. And like if he tells you he’s going to do something like you don’t have to follow up on it, he’s going to do it. And that’s one of the things that’s fantastic about him. He just very quietly makes stuff happen and gets stuff done.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:58:19 That goes back to Kinda the upbringing and the midwest followed by like the special forces kind of training. Just like, you know, just like do your job like your best. Like always try to improve your little user military term fighting position. Like what did I do to help out today? Like can I, what? Can I go home and be proud of what I’ve done or did I just kind of spin the hamster wheel of nothingness and just like answer, I guess answering emails isn’t nothing but it doesn’t necessarily move the ball forward. Most of the time

J.J. Pinter: 00:58:56 goes back to this idea of busy versus effective, right? Like I see a lot of people who, you can be busy all day, you can answer emails all day. You can be at facebook messenger all day like you could, but you don’t actually do anything or you don’t. Nothing. You’re not closer to accomplishing any of your goals. But Eric is one of those people who’s really good at figuring out what he needs to do to be effective. Right? Um, and making sure that the things he’s doing are effectively moving towards a goal. And not everyone has that skill. I see a lot of people who, they were their business as a badge of honor. They show everyone how busy they are, but it’s like, well, you’re not actually doing a very good job at getting your job done.

Eric Engelhardt: 00:59:35 It goes back to because I know how important this work is. Like it’s helped me a lot when I needed it. So I want to find those tattooed like Marine Corps events out there who need some help and like running them to a CrossFit workout and watch them get crushed and then talk about it afterwards. Go get a beer and like next thing you know, or we’re best buds and I think that’s how it works. Like I don’t think it can work any other way and it’s just, that’s the secret sauce. Crushed and CrossFit workout.

J.J. Pinter: 01:00:12 Yeah, that’s, you know, you alluded to it at the beginning, but that team already be in some senses, it’s really simple. It’s genuine relationships to quote, to quote Joe Quinn, like there’s, if, if we could just build genuine relationships with people, the other physical healing and the mental healing and all of these other things will happen. Like it all starts and ends with relationships and how we can facilitate that. Um, where Eric, man, it’s been, it’s been a wild ride the last couple of years. Anything before we wrap it up here, anything that you want to say?

Eric Engelhardt: 01:00:43 Just want to drive home the point, you know, like be proud if you’re a veteran out there, what you did in the military, but be more proud of what you’re going to do today and tomorrow. Like, don’t hang it up. You got a lot more you can contribute to society and society needs you and to the civilian people out there like veterans need your help to like, we’d want to be part of the community with you. So join RWB. Obviously, if you’re listening to this, you’re a part of it, but get out there and be involved. That’s the most important thing. That’s the best thing you can do, I think for our community right now at large has just be involved with your community.

J.J. Pinter: 01:01:26 Well, Eric, what do you think? So, so fast forward six months in a year, what do you think you’re going to have experienced? What are you most excited about experiencing in Thailand? What do you, what? What’s Your Life gonna be like there?

Eric Engelhardt: 01:01:39 Oh Man. That is the fear of the unknown. Jj greatest fear there is. I don’t know. I think I’m excited actually to learn another language. My Tie is absolutely terrible right now is almost nonexistent, so I’m excited to try and learn that to the best of my abilities and I’m excited to continue to help people continue to be part of the overarching theme of helping the globe be better than when I found it. And that’s exciting to me.

J.J. Pinter: 01:02:14 And have some speakers. People speak English a little bit later. What’s your, did you have to learn Arabic? Is that your other language or. No, I learned French and I took it in college and now I’m pretty much worthless attic because I don’t practice it at all. Sorry. That happens. Uh, I think you almost universally with every language, so use it, use it or lose it. Well Eric, man, it’s been a, it’s been a pleasure. So let’s do a quick virtual cheers here. Cheers man. It’s been good. Good luck and thanks for everything and I’ll see you around!

Comments on Episode 119 – Team RWB Legend Eric Engelhardt