Tyr Symank  | Episode 3 Transcript:

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Intro (00:07):

Welcome to Strength in Numbers, the podcast where we show you that together we can overcome any obstacle. Join us as we bring on world renowned experts in the field of grit, determination and perseverance. Lean on us for a prosperous future together. Here's your hosts, Colonel Tim Nye and Neil Keohane.

Tim Nye (00:31):

Hey Spartans, welcome to strength in numbers brought to you by just Neal Keohane and Tim Nye, just two guys out looking to meet exceptional people and bring them to you. And today that exceptional person that I'm really excited to talk to is Tyr Symank. Tyr Symank is a program manager with Black Rifle Coffee Company. You may know these guys from the coffee. You may know them from the T-shirts, one that, if you can see, Tyr I believe is modeling one right now. Very nice. Great color. Or maybe some of their extraordinarily popular videos they've got out there. That might be one of the ways you've noticed these guys. They've only been around for, I think, about five or six years. But they have hit the atmosphere, I guess, with a bang. They are all over the place and they're making some statements. We're going to talk to them a little bit about that. Tyr, I want to also ask you about, I see your pseudonym or your AKA is Charlie Marcel.

Tyr Symank (01:36):


Tim Nye (01:36):

I'm wondering, is that Charlie the Hammer from History from France?

Tyr Symank (01:40):

Sure is. Charlie, the Hammer, Martel. Yep.

Tim Nye (01:42):

All right. I'm wondering how many people would actually know that.

Tyr Symank (01:45):

Just a handful.

Tim Nye (01:46):

Yeah. Well, luckily my wife said, "Oh my God, that's ..." She knew it right away. I'll admit to having to go look it up a little bit. Just a little bit.

Tyr Symank (01:55):

Yeah. It's a funny story how that came about.

Tim Nye (01:58):

All right. Why don't you lead off with that quick?

Tyr Symank (02:01):

Well, I was an SF guy, still am an SF guy, in the guard but I was still pretty operational. I had a few evolutions of social media names through the years.

Tim Nye (02:13):


Tyr Symank (02:15):

I was Conan the Deployer for a long time. Facebook started cracking down on, you got to have a first and last name so I became Thor McGriddle. I've got some Nordic heritage and some Irish heritage. It seems appropriate, Tyr and Thor are brothers in North mythology, so I went with that one. And then Facebook got likes to that one and said that, "Nah, that's not your real name." I just went without Facebook for a little bit and then I've got a dope sign, turns out that's the only way we communicate. So I had to get back on the face page.

Tim Nye (02:50):

One way or another.

Tyr Symank (02:51):

Yeah. So I tried to give them my real name and they didn't believe me. It was just on the spot. I just read about Charles Martel, The History. I was in my cubicle at the state department. Just came out that I was fine. Then I started writing so it became my pen name and now I'm stuck with it. Guess I could switch to my real name now out in the open. Yeah. [crosstalk 00:03:24]

Tim Nye (03:24):

It's funny you would say they didn't believe you because I looked at the two names and I thought, which one of these is real? Sure. Charlie Martell sounds a lot more real. I mean I've never heard of Tyr Symank before.

Tyr Symank (03:36):


Tim Nye (03:36):

I mean it's a fascinating name. So anyway, I was going right along with them.

Tyr Symank (03:43):

Traveling under actual pseudo before, the pseudos I've been assigned by the government had been about as believable as my actual name. I don't know what kind of intelligence cell they have put those things together.

Tim Nye (04:01):

I think they just spin two random names.

Tyr Symank (04:04):

Yeah, it's pretty bad. It's not a lot of planning that goes into it.

Tim Nye (04:09):

Well listen, I have a habit of just talking the talk but we are limited to 30 minutes and I think hopefully expand that here in the future, but right now, so we want to really get into this. So we'll ask Neal to ask a real question and get this going maybe about how you're associated with Black Rifle and all the stuff you guys are doing.

Neal Keohane (04:31):

Yeah, that's great Colonel. Thank you. And Tyr thanks again for coming on. Tyr, you and I have been going back and forth probably for six months through LinkedIn and some email stuff about a non-profit that I'm helping in the background called Special Ops Survivors. And Evan was kind enough to put me on to you and you were kind enough to speak with me, so thank you. I think what we try to do with people who know our two shows so far is, we're going through incredible difficult times right now. I know Black Rifle Coffee has changed some way, what they're doing just to get coffee put out, but we're trying to get strong, gritty perseverance type people on our shows and talk about how they're getting through this and advice on how other people can get through.

Neal Keohane (05:20):

And if you could maybe pull some tough things from your background that you went through, whether it was before army special forces or during or after. And then let's let that lead into your role at Black Rifle Coffee and you continue to serve with the Green Berets and the Guard, but you're also continuing to give back through this program manager of the non-profits for Black Rifle Coffee. So if you could just free fall there for a little bit, that'd be great.

Tyr Symank (05:46):

Sure. Let's talk about some executable. I like to deal in things, an action item, one or two things that people can grab hold of and actually do rather than some abstract or conceptual concepts of resiliency. I don't think it says strange to anybody. This corn seed has been going on for a bit and people all over are stir crazy. I assume you guys have been to some level of a SERE training, Survival, Escape, Resistance, Evasion. [crosstalk 00:00:06:23].

Neal Keohane (06:23):

[Kirkland 00:06:24].

Tyr Symank (06:24):


Tim Nye (06:25):

I went to the high risk.

Tyr Symank (06:27):

Yep. Camp Slappy. Yeah, so I've been to that and a couple others. And the one thing that is common in captivity is the advice for keeping your mind and wits about you in captivity is having a routine and keeping track of time. And I think that translates really well, although nobody's interrogating ... Hopefully nobody's being interrogated while they're in quarantine.

Tyr Symank (06:59):

And I think that, that strategy actually translates directly across to the people that aren't accustomed to working remote or sitting in their living room every day. Because we are captive to our environment right now.

Neal Keohane (07:13):


Tyr Symank (07:13):

So the executable there, the action item that people really can grab a hold of is, keep a routine and keep track of the calendar. It's really easy to do because nobody's confiscating your calendar. You don't have to develop a tap code or anything else to talk to people. We've got the Zoom meeting right here. We've got plenty of outreach. Plenty ways to talk to people, but it's really easy to slip into, I have no idea what day it is.

Neal Keohane (07:39):


Tyr Symank (07:39):

If you don't go to work every day.

Neal Keohane (07:39):


Tyr Symank (07:39):

You have to have some routine, get up, make your bed, do some PT, whatever, cook some eggs, whatever it is that you can do on a regular basis to keep some semblance of routine. It will really go a long way in keeping your wits about you and keep you from going stir crazy while in quarantine.

Neal Keohane (07:59):

Great man. Thank you. That's some good advice. Appreciate that. I think, the days of the week are just streaming together and I got to be careful recognizing what day it actually is. Routines are great as you know. But I think the biggest thing is we're not trying to tell people to go run a marathon here. We're just trying to say basic things that you need to do every day is just to stay sane I think and that's a great point here. Let's just talk about maybe something that you might struggle with at some point in your life, you came out stronger on the other side and I'd love to dive into Black Rifle Coffee. Are you here, Tyr?

Tyr Symank (08:45):

Oh geez. Yeah, I'm here. I'm sorry.

Neal Keohane (08:48):

That's okay. But [crosstalk 00:08:50].

Tim Nye (08:51):

Don't hit that button.

Neal Keohane (08:52):

Yeah. Don't hit that button man.

Tim Nye (08:54):

The red one. It says eject. Don't touch it.

Neal Keohane (08:56):

If you could just tell us about a tough story you coming out the other side. Maybe it was the selection, maybe it was something deployed, I don't know. And then let's really dig deep into the Black Rifle Coffee non-profit that you're doing for first responders.

Tyr Symank (09:13):

I spent a lot of time down range, probably more, well it's starting to even out a little bit now, but for a long time I'd spent more time in other countries since graduating in due course, more time in other countries than I have in the States. I graduated, I finished SERE. I graduated the very last part of the pipeline in April level three and I went to Afghanistan for a year shortly thereafter and I was in and outs. Caught the bug I guess. Felt it was my duty to serve and even when I didn't have to, I kept going back to other countries. I finally took a knee in 2010 and I did that for my family because my family was falling apart.

Neal Keohane (10:01):


Tyr Symank (10:03):

Mainly it was, I was separating from my family and vice versa and we never had enough time to fully meld back together because I was always leaving. Prior to 2010 between that years, 2003 and 2010, I hadn't been home longer than four consecutive months.

Neal Keohane (10:27):

Wow. Yeah. A lot of people out here listening to that have no idea the cycle you guys were on and probably still are on, but just saying that, thank you for what you did and I'm sorry you had to go through that with your family.

Tyr Symank (10:41):

Yeah. Well, I mean some of it was self-induced. I got addicted to deploying, it's not like they kept calling me up. I kept calling myself up.

Neal Keohane (10:53):


Tim Nye (10:54):


Neal Keohane (10:55):

I deployed with SF and I deployed with the state department on a few different programs. So I kept going. In 2010 in a hail Mary attempt to be a family man again, I was teaching ROTC at university of Washington.

Tim Nye (11:14):

Oh, nice.

Tyr Symank (11:15):

It was a great experience both for myself, for my military career. And I still run into some of my cadets today, a couple of them are on their second company command. Some have moved on to other things, but all, no, I mean, great experience. But that first year was really rough both for my cadets and for me because I was running in yellow constantly when I came back, this tells all the same, right. Seeing threats everywhere. I'm constantly looking over my shoulder. Somebody passes me wrong on the interstate, I'm maneuvering to fit them out.

Tim Nye (12:01):


Tyr Symank (12:02):

I never did any of these things.

Tim Nye (12:03):


Neal Keohane (12:03):


Tyr Symank (12:05):

But the thoughts in my mind, I'm running in a high threat scenario and I really didn't like civilians. I didn't like them. We didn't have shared experiences. We didn't. I couldn't relate to them. They couldn't relate to me. And I was running really tight. I was a high tension wire ready to snap and it took ... I can't say that there was some cataclysmic moment or anything, but it took almost that entire first school year. Somewhere towards the end I realized it just had an epiphany that I was the one that was different. The rest of the world did not need to change to fit my experiences.

Tyr Symank (12:52):

I needed to change myself. And I think part of that was actually the whole Robin Sage experience. Robin Sage. So the culminating exercise for the special forces, qualification course, [inaudible 00:13:06] conventional warfare exercise where you get dropped in behind enemy lines and you have to make friends with people that may or may not be totally friendly to you or understand your culture and it's up to you to adapt to their culture.

Neal Keohane (13:19):


Tyr Symank (13:19):

And so I saw my real life as a Robin Sage exercise where I needed to assimilate to the culture that I had abandoned rather than crap all over everybody for not assimilating to my own experiences.

Neal Keohane (13:33):

That's huge.

Tyr Symank (13:35):

It is.

Tim Nye (13:36):

I was thinking if you can't get calm, at the university of Washington's campus, there's probably no place you could. That's a beautiful campus.

Tyr Symank (13:46):

It is a beautiful campus and I love those cherry trees, being military uniform, [crosstalk 00:13:57].

Tim Nye (13:59):

Specific North West?

Tyr Symank (13:59):

That can be a little trying at times. I was also the force protection officer for the entire military science department on New DUP. I had to put myself between my cadets and some mal-adjusted people that-

Tim Nye (14:19):


Tyr Symank (14:19):

Are the target every once in a while.

Tim Nye (14:22):


Neal Keohane (14:22):


Tim Nye (14:23):

It was interesting.

Neal Keohane (14:24):


Tim Nye (14:25):

I had a great team though. I had another 82 of them.

Neal Keohane (14:27):

You had another what, Tyr?

Tyr Symank (14:31):

82, another special forces VA. I had a platoon Sergeant that came from two 75, he was one of the first. We had a great team.

Neal Keohane (14:40):


Tyr Symank (14:41):

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:14:43].

Neal Keohane (14:41):

What was your biggest challenge?

Tyr Symank (14:45):

Our biggest challenge in teaching up there was convincing cadets to be officers because they wanted to drop out and enlist and go SF or go to rage of anxiety.

Neal Keohane (14:55):

Oh. Excellent. [crosstalk 00:14:56].

Tyr Symank (14:57):

May our hearts sort of cry. We're the salty [inaudible 00:15:00] you got to [crosstalk 00:15:02].

Neal Keohane (15:04):

Stay the course.

Tim Nye (15:07):

Yeah. That's the hardest thing. Because you're the role model.

Tyr Symank (15:10):


Tim Nye (15:10):

Because they want to be you and you're trying to teach them to be somebody else.

Tyr Symank (15:14):


Tim Nye (15:15):

Yeah. That's a tight line to walk there a little bit. So how did you reach out? How did you and Black Rifle Coffee come together then?

Tyr Symank (15:25):

Devon Heifer, the founder and co-CEO and I started the special forces in the same unit. About the same time. Yep. So we've known each other almost 20 years I think.

Tim Nye (15:41):

And what unit were you in on active duty?

Tyr Symank (15:45):

I was in the first CAV.

Tim Nye (15:49):

Okay. So you weren't one of the active duty groups?

Tyr Symank (15:51):

I did not go to an active duty group. I went to selection while I was active with the intent of getting out and going in active. I went to selection in October, November of 1999 which was still peace time. The only thing that was really going on anywhere was Bosnia.

Tim Nye (16:06):


Tyr Symank (16:09):

Being a native from the Northwest, I was definitely afraid of having to spend the rest of my career at Fort Bragg or Fort Campbell. [crosstalk 00:00:16:18].

Neal Keohane (16:18):

They got destined now, so that would have been an option.

Tyr Symank (16:20):

Yeah. Right. That's actually the only reason I got out is I wanted to be able to choose my duty station. So I'm originally from Oregon. There's no SF in Oregon, but there's SF in Washington state. I knew as a good SF candidate, they're not going to guarantee me first group or Fort Carson which is really what I wanted.

Tyr Symank (16:44):

So when I found out there was National Guard at the base of Mount Rainier, I called him up and I said, "Hey, this is Sergeant Symank, I'm thinking about going to selection. I'm in the first cavalry division right now and I'm just wondering, if I would make it and if you would accept me?" And they're, "Yeah, whatever." So kind of blew me off. And I called back a day after I got back from selection. "This is Sergeant Symank again. I talked to you guys a few months ago. Passed selection yesterday. I was selected. I was just wondering if you're still interested?" "Oh yeah." Got my active duty commander really upset because they were really proud of me and I was the first tanker there, I was an armor crewman at the time and a not a lot of tankers that got through selection and even less that passed. We don't do a lot of walking.

Tim Nye (17:33):

I saw that on your bio and I don't know if you can see up over my right shoulder. That's an Eagle globe and anchor for my enlisted Marine Corps days, but it's inside a tank sprocket.

Tyr Symank (17:44):


Tim Nye (17:46):

Tanker for four years in the Marine Corps.

Tyr Symank (17:49):

Oh no kidding. Well definitely Fort Dismount, sir.

Tim Nye (17:55):

Good old days. It's great.

Tyr Symank (17:56):

Yeah. Oh man.

Neal Keohane (17:58):

So, Tyr, you know Evan, you guys have a conversation. You find a role that create a role for you at Black Rifle Coffee. Right.

Tyr Symank (18:11):

I came off a deployment last year as a Company Sergeant Major in special forces and my contract, I've been training some federal agents on Virginia and my contract had been cut in my absence. So I was technically a homeless, unemployed veteran. I wasn't on the streets or anything. I had plenty of friends to stay with and I could have taken a job overseas in heartbeat if I'd wanted to, but I was really trying to stay home, and be a present father to my daughter so I wasn't putting that as an option for myself. I was hired by Homeland security to be a law enforcement officer. But again, I wanted to be in Seattle. I would only do the job if I was in Seattle. So I had to wait over a year for a slot to open up with Homeland and those TDY savings I had from my previous deployment where dwindling very quickly, especially once I stopped being homeless and started paying rent in Seattle which is astronomical.

Neal Keohane (19:22):

Yeah. Right.

Tyr Symank (19:24):

So, Evan called me up one day and asked if I was still going to go work for Homeland and we have friends there as well from special forces. I'd never really seen myself in law enforcement, but I could see myself working for some of the guys I knew from special forces that were in the office. But I said, "Yeah, but I've got to wait till March to go." This is last fall.

Neal Keohane (19:54):

Oh. Okay.

Tyr Symank (19:54):

And I said, "Well, why don't you come out and work for me for a little bit? I have some projects I need you to manage. And you've got Tri-Care, so let's just 10 99 till you got a front seat. And hopefully, decide not to go to front seat. So he had a need and I had a need and of course we have a great friendship and working relationship from a lot of years in different places. And he brought me on board and then convinced me to not be a federal law enforcement officer and give away his money full time instead.

Neal Keohane (20:37):

That's awesome. You know what great friendships, great bonds and now you're giving back in the spirit of helping other people, which Tyr you can explain what Green Berets do, but from me, you guys are politicians, you're plumbers, you're carpenters that just happen to carry a gun and do that all over the world setting up villages and cities. And it's amazing what you guys can do and it's just awesome. So I'm blown away by what you just told us here on this channel. And so that sets us up right into what you're doing for Black Rifles or how you've given back to other people in need?

Tyr Symank (21:20):

So one of my principal duties at Black Rifle Coffee is, I'm the manager of charitable giving. So anytime somebody hits the, Donate button on the website or Request Donation, it goes to either myself or my donations coordinator that works for me or both depending on exactly what it is. We donate tons of coffee to deployed troops every year. She handles most of that for me because I don't need to go in there and approve every word for that, but mostly what I do is I do that.

Tyr Symank (21:58):

If somebody needs cash or a specific sponsorship is happening or we've got a big campaign going, then I will manage that and got a pretty sizable budget to do this. The last couple of cash donations we did were actually for ... We had one that, I won't put their names out here, but they didn't reach out to me directly. Friends had reached out or I'd seen it on social media. There was a nurse who was working countless hours in the ER, COVID 19 response and while she was on shift, her house was completely demolished by a tornado. So we were proud to help out with that one.

Tyr Symank (23:00):

We had another one where a deployed soldier, a just PCS and it was Christmas time, their house burnt down. So we helped that family out as well. And we sent a bunch of coffee to the volunteer fire departments that put the blaze out.

Neal Keohane (23:18):

That's awesome.

Tyr Symank (23:18):

Which is incredible.

Neal Keohane (23:21):


Tyr Symank (23:24):

And then we donate a lot of coffee. Last month we cut off everything else to focus on COVID 19 response and we gave I think, 19,000 units of coffee. I say units because most of the coffee is one pound bags, but we also had five pound bags in there that went to some of the units in New York. The Mercy and the other hospital ship. I don't know the name now.

Neal Keohane (23:51):


Tyr Symank (23:53):

Comfort. Yeah. Thank you. So the Mercy of the Comfort got five pound bags for their galleys and the fighting 69 CAV got a bunch of coffee, I think also came in five pound bags.

Tim Nye (24:03):

Have you seen an uptick since we've all been requested or bewildered, locked down or is the request coming to you about the same number?

Tyr Symank (24:17):

The request for support and donations has actually gone down because a lot of the requests that we have, are centered around events and events are getting canceled against push. So we've seen a drop-off in that, which frees up my day to do some other stuff because that's a lot to go through. Every event. I try to give everybody some time a day, even if I know there's some chance we're going to support it. So I want to hear people out and as you said, we're only a five year old company and we've had a lot of success and we want to share some of that success. We are veteran owned and veteran based and it is very important to the culture of this company to give back to the community. So entertaining even unlikely or small requests is important and that's part of why I exist is to do that.

Tyr Symank (25:24):

One thing we were supposed to execute a few days ago was, we were doing a Veteran Adaptive Athlete shoot in conjunction with the Total Archery Challenge, which is a nationwide archery target shooting tour, golf style that our ... The mission for that was twofold. One was to through our own content, because we have a really good content video and marketing team-

Tim Nye (25:50):

Yes. You did.

Tyr Symank (25:51):


Tim Nye (25:51):


Tyr Symank (25:52):

Some really talented people.

Tim Nye (25:55):

Yeah. Top tier. Yeah.

Tyr Symank (25:56):


Tim Nye (25:56):

Top shelf. [crosstalk 00:25:58].

Tyr Symank (25:58):

Saying, well you mean like tier one? I'm like, now I'm just a regular.

Neal Keohane (26:03):

Oh that's funny.

Tyr Symank (26:09):

So we wanted to showcase that on multiple media platforms for people out there that have been injured or disabled in some way or another to show they can get up off the couch and they can do something. And there's a lot of us that have really latched onto archery as a centering activity. Meditation without the ohm or mystics factor. You know what I mean?

Neal Keohane (26:33):


Tyr Symank (26:34):

So we wanted to give back to these athletes and spread that to people that could see it on YouTube or [Knot 00:26:47] TV or our own media channels or whatever. Unfortunately because of the COVID, we've had to postpone that. It's still on. Probably going to do it in Park City. Hopefully, Inshallah but we've had some great sponsors for that. YET is behind it. PSE Bows donated compound bows to our athletes that are shooting.

Neal Keohane (27:11):


Tyr Symank (27:12):

Yeah. Sitka provided clothing. Leopold donated some range-finders and optics for each of the shooters.

Neal Keohane (27:20):


Tyr Symank (27:21):

It's a really cool thing. And then the second half of that is we are trying to raise $250,000 in cash for the special operations care fund, which is a lesser known Special Operations Charity, but highly vetted. The reason we like this particular charity, and it's not so much, we like it over other charities. We just really liked this charity because they are not service specific, so you'd be MARSOC or Green Berets or a seal or whatever. [crosstalk 00:27:56] They'll help you out.

Tyr Symank (27:58):

They do not have an extremely narrow focus. For example, Warrior foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation is education centric.

Neal Keohane (28:08):


Tyr Symank (28:08):

And I love that organization. I love that organization. But what we were seeing with some of our friends that were contractors in the special operations community doing special operations work, but as contractors, we're getting swept to the side. They weren't getting all the care they needed because it's a big loophole. It's a big loophole for the government in our kinetic operations and our intelligence operations. Contractors that you're taking a big chance when you sign that contract. You may have job satisfaction, but it's not like you're going to get VA disability on the backside of it if anything happens.

Neal Keohane (28:54):


Tyr Symank (28:54):

It's disability insurance. But it is all on the private side and it's [inaudible 00:28:57]. And so SOC-F does not make that delineation. They recognize they've got friends everywhere and they recognized that a fight's a fight and the patriots a patriot, take care of every one.

Neal Keohane (29:10):

That's incredible. So do me a favor, we do got to wrap up Tyr. I apologize, but what's the name of that organization again?

Tyr Symank (29:17):

SOC-F. Special Operations Care Fund.

Neal Keohane (29:20):

Great. And I want everyone to go check that out. It's great that they do all four branches of special operations and Tyr, thank you man. Every SF guy I know, every ranger like Colonel Nye, all the guys I know at Third Group and Fifth Group they give, they just keep giving whether they're in or out, they're always giving, and it's amazing to be around people like you. So thank you for everything you've done.

Tyr Symank (29:46):


Neal Keohane (29:47):

Yeah. And then I just want to mention two companies that we work with to help non-profits specifically is FMT productions and another group is called Inbloom Consulting. Anything that you need done for a non-profit, from a startup to a very mature non-profit, those companies can help you. So Tyr, thank you, Colonel Nye, it's always great to see you. Thanks everyone. We'll see you next Monday.

Tim Nye (30:15):

Thank you very much.

Neal Keohane (30:16):

Take care guys.

Tim Nye (30:17):

All right. Out of here.

Outro (30:18):

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