Today we’re bringing you an interview with Anthony Droz from Outdoor Initiative (https://outdoorinitiative.net/). By now you’ve probably noticed we have a fondness of the United States military and Veteran issues. This discussion fits perfectly with our culture and mission here at Knucklehead. Anthony joined our own Justin Szerletich for a quick interview to discuss the mission of Outdoor Initiative and what they’re doing differently than other organizations.
OI = Anthony Droz, Outdoor Initiative
KH = Justin Szerletich, Knucklehead Media Group
KH: Anthony, it’s great to chat again. When did we last sit down together?
OI: Justin! Yeah, awesome, it’s been a few months, right? I think we last worked together when ya’ll absolutely crushed the #ruckthevirus charity event we did for 23rd Veteran!
KH: Yeah, yeah that was it! Anyway it’s great to talk with you again and I hope all is well. I’m really intrigued with Outdoor Initiative. We’ve spoken personally about it before, but I really want our readers to know why I am so invested in the programs success, could you explain what is the organization’s mission, the why?
OI: Wellness through the wild, I suppose that would be my catch phrase or elevator pitch.
This approach to healing and transformation goes back thousands of years and can be found in just about every indigenous culture we have studied. The Natives of this land would call it a “vision quest”, without the peyote of course. It is about seeking answers in nature and surrounding yourself with stable people while doing so. Outdoor Initiative is a disconnect from the pressures, stressors and expectations of society.
KH: No peyote? Da*n. Well, who needs to know about this? Who are you trying to reach and support specifically?
OI: I have spent years leading and speaking to Veterans but right now we are focused on active duty retreats. I suppose if you know a unit commander, they really need to hear about this. We’re specifically working with the Marines CREDO Program which stands for Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operation. In the coming months we’ll will launch some weekend experiences for anyone to sign up, look for that if you want to partake in an awesome wilderness experience.
KH: We’re both Marines, for others that don’t know, Chaplains aka Chaps, are our religious advisors available to everyone in a unit. So, how has your experience been with the CREDO Program? I know the Chaps assigned to our battalion was always an awesome guy, albeit a bit preachy, ha ha.
OI: Well, I can tell you its not what you would think by the name. Nobody is out here in the woods preaching a sermon or trying to get you to convert to a specific religious denomination. The retreats were leading are for personal growth, the Chaplain and our team of instructors are just here to help make that happen.
I started Outdoor Initiative this year following many years working with and for different non-profit entities. I wanted it to be an LLC and not a 501-c3. This opens us up to working with more sponsors and military programs, like CREDO and Elements Meals who helped us with the food for this first course.
KH: That’s amazing man. How did the first event go?
OI: This 5 night retreat was in a temperate rainforest, it rained a lot and provided the right amount of adversity and discomfort needed for a group of strangers to quickly bond. The Chaplain has been working with folks in this setting for over 20 years, he was nothing short of a wizard on that mountain at getting people to feel comfortable with being vulnerable. I was accompanied by Matt Stuhler who is a retired Marine Infantry Officer, we both opened up a great deal which I think helped. We shared our struggles and really bonded with these service members in a unique way.
Noteworthy stories… Someone allowed us to cut their hair with trauma sheers to add a physical change to the mental and spiritual transformation they had experienced. You don’t really see that level of commitment or trust all the time and we had several people open the rock climbing day really push their level of fear and comforts, that was truly a humbling experience.
KH: That sounds epic and really empowering, how can people get in contact with you to support you and learn more the Outdoor Initiative?
OI: Please reach out to us on Facebook (facebook.com/outdoorinitiative1) or Instagram (@outdoorinitiative_ ) I can personally be reached by email at Droz@outdoorinitiative.net and our website is outdoorinitiative.net
KH: Anthony, it’s always a pleasure getting to spend some time with you. Don’t let it be three months next time.
OI: Ha ha, thank you brother. I appreciate the chat.
KH: Hey, appreciate you as well and I hope our readers are as motivated as I am about this.