It reinforced the need to be fit to do this job, because it can save your life or someone else’s.
I grew up on a small farm in central North Carolina, the oldest of three boys. Each day started with chores…feeding cows, horses and chickens. We spent our summers planting fence posts, stringing barbed wire, hauling hay, etc. Fall and winter were mostly spent cutting/hauling firewood and splitting it by hand. Not any of this western softwood stuff. I’m talking hardwoods—hickory, oak and maple. To say my dad was old school, from both a work and discipline standpoint, is an understatement. A splitting maul and sledgehammer were in my hands most winter nights when I got home from school and practice…but before I could eat dinner (now you know why I like to swing big hammers during Saturday workouts!)
In high school I played football, wrestled and ran track. Wrestling was what formed my love/hate relationship with fitness and food…as in I hate(d) fitness and love food. I was about the same weight in HS as I am now, until wrestling season hit. Then I would basically stop eating and do nothing but exercise and wrestle until I lost about 30-40 lbs to “make weight”. Not a healthy way to live (physically or mentally), but my “farm boy” strength helped me excel as a wrestler, because I severely lacked skill and technique.
In the 9th grade I learned about the US Navy SEALs and that is ALL I wanted to do when I graduated. My dad, a US Army Vietnam era veteran, would not allow me to join anything but the US Air Force, and fortunately for me, he stuck to that, eventually hauling me into the USAF Recruiters office.
I left for basic training in July 1992, four days after turning 18. On the flight out to basic, I learned the Air Force had special operations jobs, much like the SEALs. During basic training I tried out for their program. After passing a timed 500 swim, 1.5-mile run, pull-up, push-ups…I missed qualifying by 3 sit-ups. I could not physically make my body do another sit-up. That changed my career path but put me in the place I am today. I met Judy in 1994, who was also in the USAF, had the honor of working with the most highly trained special operations units in the world and eventually became a criminal investigator with the USAF—a 20 year career that led to becoming a civilian federal law enforcement officer in 2009, and brought us to Montana that same year.
During an 11-week “basic” law enforcement training course in 2009-2010, I had my first exposure to “CrossFit” movements using medballs, sprints, tire flips…and burpees. One training evolution involved me being teamed with another student. Let’s just say this person lacked fitness, but if I’m being honest, I was not that much better off. The goal was to do unbroken wallballs while your partner ran a lap around a track, then when they got back, I had to perform an “arrest”. After doing wallballs for what seemed like an eternity, my instructor came over and told me to slow down, then came back on told me to stop. I did and when I looked back at the track, I saw my partner walking. They were not fit enough to run 400 meters. It reinforced the need to be fit to do this job, because it can save your life or someone else’s.
Upon returning from training, I told Judy we should start working out more. It took a few more years before we made our way to FireTower in 2016, but I’m glad we did. It has changed me for the better in so many ways. I am stronger now and probably more fit than any other time in my life. I am confident that if my job required me to go toe-to-toe with someone, I’d be able to hold my own. My farm boy strength has transitioned to old man strength!
Fitness aside, CrossFit has helped me mentally. Throughout my 18-year law enforcement career I have dealt with some fairly traumatic events—from conducting criminal investigations involving violent and graphic things, to losing close friends during overseas combat operations—I’ve struggled with processing this over the last decade or so. CrossFit, and specifically being a part of the community at FireTower, has been a big part of dealing with this. It still creeps up occasionally but that hour at the gym, 3-4 times a week, helps keep it in check.
My typical day varies, but most days I am up around 5:30-6, get a cup of coffee and sit in the hot tub for 20 minutes or so. Next is getting ready for work, eating breakfast around 7 and then out the door. COVID has had me, like most of us, working from home more but my office is in Helena, so I drive in from Townsend, “do work”, then head to the gym to coach and workout.
The last thing I would like to share is my appreciation for everyone at FireTower, from Jay and Juli, to the other coaches and members, who make FireTower what it is day in and day out. Many of you have supported the fundraising events I have held in the past and memorial WODs for former teammates of mine that made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation—and for that I thank you all.