Starting a company is an emotional, intellectual, financial, and ego-maniacal bludgeoning. It is like trying to kick a dozen soccer balls over a hill. The military teaches, directly and indirectly, endurance and grit early in the formative years of career development that are foundational to surviving the apathetic realities of start-ups.
U.S. Navy veteran Brad Halsey is CEO of Building Momentum—a service-disabled veteran-owned small business providing world-class professional high-tech education through project and challenge-driven instruction. Throughout his post-military career, Brad has personally trained over 60 Ph.D. engineers, 100’s of kids/teachers/librarians/professionals and nearly 1,000 Marine Corps/Army/Air Force/SOCOM operators in customized hands-on and immersive training programs to include the extremely challenging week-long workshop he invented in 2011 called Innovation Boot Camp.
What was your experience in the military?
I served as an Officer LT in the Navy and was honorably and medically discharged due to a shoulder injury and faulty surgery in August 2001.
The background: I decided to pursue my dream career in the military as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer for the Navy at the end of my college career.
However, it did not go as planned. Halfway through Dive School, I came to surface with unexplained migraines and was medically instructed to quit Special Operations, possibly to return later in his Navy career if symptoms remained absent.
I then became a Surface Warfare Officer with the primary duties of the Combat Information Center/Combat Systems/Electronics Warfare Officer. In an unfortunate series of events, I ended up hurting my shoulder in the middle east and underwent surgery. During surgery, the doctor accidentally cut a nerve, which instantly ended my military career and paralyzed my right arm for nearly a year. I was honorably discharged in August 2001 and with the help of aggressive medical treatment the partial use of his arm returned.
Tell us about your transition from military to civilian life?
My transition to civilian life was especially difficult because I was severely injured. I lost all feeling in my right arm and was diagnosed as paralyzed because of an incident during surgery for a routine capsular shift and ligament reconstruction. This not only ruined my career and shattered my dreams of potentially returning to Special Operations, but presented me with major career challenges due to the unexpected circumstances.
After months of aggressive electro-stimulation and physical therapy while transitioning out of the military, I began my civilian career as a Scientist at SRI International. It was there I began to reconnect with my old colleagues in the military and was inspired to go back to the battlefield as a consultant to help those on the ground with solutions to problems that industry and academia were taking way too long to solve. The supply chain to the Middle East has always been a challenge for the U.S. Military and I realized, after nearly a year in Iraq, that if I could train these troops to come up with on-the-ground solutions themselves and actually fabricate those solutions (using a 3D printer for example) it would cut out the long wait times they were experiencing.
What is your business and what do you do?
Building Momentum is a world-class problem-solving organization. Problems are solved either directly, as staff quickly deploy to disasters and war zones to create solutions, or indirectly, through hands-on immersive technology instruction teaching people how to identify problems and develop solutions. Training clients include the DOD, active duty service members, and industry that use these new tech skills and techniques on the battlefield or in the boardroom. Building Momentum uses disaster response and battlefield experiences to create DOD and corporate training curricula and frequently refines and updates training based on emerging technology, changing techniques, and dynamic environments. For example, a Building Momentum team traveled to the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian and immediately began using their high-tech problem-solving skills (drone technology, solar power, 3D printing, etc.) to help Bahamians and the lessons learned from that experience is now incorporated into Innovation Boot Camp, Building Momentum’s flagship immersive hands-on technology problem solving workshop.
Lately, my team of engineers and scientists have come up with several solutions to help with the fight against COVID-19. I am leading the team that has developed face makes via rapid vacuum forming process in 4 days, UV-sanitizing grills and conveyor belts to sanitize items and even a germ-killing robots using UV light – all models built in under a week.
What are 3 things you learned in the military that you have applied to your business?
Pragmatism: No one cares how much effort you have put into your ‘great’ idea, if it doesn’t work or is suboptimal then – as we say at Building Momentum – ‘pivot without remorse.’ Quickly detaching from a venerated idea is only achieved through practice…and the Navy was my coach.
Endurance: Starting a company is an emotional, intellectual, financial, and ego-maniacal bludgeoning. It is like trying to kick a dozen soccer balls over a hill. The military teaches, directly and indirectly, endurance and grit early in the formative years of career development that are foundational to surviving the apathetic realities of start-ups.
Confidence: The Navy afforded me responsibilities that have are unparalleled in the corporate world at a very young age. The vessels, equipment, and lives dependent on my competence in extremely stressful and resource-deprived (sleep) scenarios was genuinely astonishing.
How have you used your success to send the ladder back down? (pay it forward)
Supporting veterans is the very essence of everything I do and hope to do in the future. Before opening The Garden and Building Momentum, I hosted welding-art classes where veterans would come together as a community and have a safe space to weld, create art, talk about their lives and support one another.
In The Garden, there are 6 offices that I rent to veteran-owned businesses and the Department of the Navy. These businesses have access to a workshop, tools, 3D printers and more to develop their work and bring ideas to both the government and private sectors.
Prior to COVID-19, I received funding to develop a new program: Friend or Foe Drone Workforce Development Bootcamp. Participating veterans will strategize and execute solutions to solve a current problem active military are dealing with today – knowing whether or not a drone belongs to them, or their enemy. This program commences after the COVID-19 crisis subsides and Building Momentum-trained veterans will be scouted by HR professionals from Verizon, Amazon and Capital One for open roles in the engineering and problem-solving fields. This program will comprehensively serve all parties involved: the military – that will be provided with a solution to the Friend of Foe Drone issue, the participating veterans – who will be scouted by HR professionals and be considered for career opportunities, and the corporations – that will be provided with a pool of qualified and innovative potential employees.
I am also the Founder of Athena Response, a (501(c)3) that has been innovating solutions in the fight against COVID-19.
Where can readers find you on social media?