JOB ENVY: Former SEAL And Reality TV Star Runs Charity To Support Wounded Warriors

Jared Ogden, a former Navy SEAL, freefalls during a jump. Ogden frequently does demonstration jumps to raise money for charity.
Photo courtesy of Jared Ogden

Name: Jared Ogden

Hometown: Roswell, Georgia.

Branch of Service: U.S. Navy

Employer: Asymmetric Solutions

Title: Director of Operations

Jared Ogden is a man who finishes what he starts. His natural tenacity, cultivated by his parents and tested during his nearly eight years in the Naval Special Operations community, serves him well today in his role as director of operations for Asymmetric Solutions, an 1,800-acre tactical training center in Farmington, Missouri.

Since leaving active duty two years ago, the former Navy SEAL has been on a mission to recognize and act on the right opportunities.

“You have to be able to prioritize accurately and correctly,” said Ogden. “In the military, you’re in a pipeline where you can map out the next 20 years of your life. In the private sector it’s different, and that transition is tough for people who have been in the machine for 15-20 years.”

Ogden, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, acted on the right opportunity when he joined the cast of the National Geographic Channel’s “Ultimate Survival Alaska” last year. Publicity from the television show has provided notoriety that’s served both Asymmetric Solutions and Ogden’s non-profit, the Phoenix Patriot Foundation, well.

On his time in his the military

Ogden says he wouldn’t trade his active duty time for anything.

“It was the absolute best time of my life, and sprinkles of those eight years were also --- without a doubt --- the lowest points in my life,” he said. “It all boils down to being able to work with the most amazing, talented, and kind people I’ve ever met - and those people all wore uniforms.”

On the pivotal moments in his career

Ogden’s assessment of two of the most pivotal moments in his life come quickly.

First, he says, was the death of his buddy Patrick Feeks.

“That certainly impacted me a lot --- feeling so desperate to try to fill a void you know is not possible to fill for his family and parents,” Ogden said. “We were really close --- we were in the same [basic underwater demolition/SEAL] class and we were roommates in my first house. He was buried with honors in Arlington.”

Ogden remembers Feeks as exemplifying success as a SEAL. One story in particular stands out in Odgen’s memory. After completion of BUD/s, Feeks and Ogden attended the parachute jump school in San Diego, California. During their first jump, Feeks’ primary chute malfunctioned.

“It turned out Patrick had a bag lock,” said Ogden. “But he did exactly what he was trained to do. He cut away and pulled his reserve.”

That kind of immediate competence is what Ogden likes to remember when he thinks about the day Feeks died.

“I know he followed his SOP, and did what he needed to for his brothers,” said Ogden. “Our training takes you closer to the edge than any other training in the world, and then we go to the ultimate pass/fail environment, and practice what we learned in front of the greatest audience ever --- our teammates.”

Ogden’s second pivotal moment? The day he pinned on the Trident, the Special Warfare insignia for Navy SEALS.

“You know you have a tough road ahead,” he said. “We’d been engaged in war for a long time, so you know you’re going to be met with tragedy, but in the whole roller coaster it’s not the tragedy that matters.”

On his charity work

During a deployment to Afghanistan in 2009, Ogden’s friend Dan Cnossen lost both his legs to a victim-operated improvised explosive device. When Ogden returned from Afghanistan seven months later, he spent the bulk of his leave with Cnossen at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, attending physical therapy sessions with his friend and considering the dramatic alteration in Cnossen’s life course.

“I asked myself, ‘If you were Cnossen, what would you do with the rest of your life,’” said Ogden. “I was with Dan for weeks, trying to figure out how I would get back in the fight.”

Shortly after departing Walter Reed, Ogden carried his questions to a barbeque with his buddies in San Diego.

“That evening I pulled out a white board and we started throwing down ideas,” he said. “The next morning I knew we had the skeleton of a charity. Making it happened seemed like a big task, but I knew the answer was only a phone call away.”

Five months later, the Phoenix Patriot Foundation was registered as a 501(c)(3).

Today, the foundation provides uniquely tailored programs to support severely wounded veterans on their journey to fully recover, reintegrate, and re-engage in serving America.

“It’s simple to do these tasks that seem huge, or larger than life, when you’re driven by such powerful events,” said Ogden.

His advice for transitioning veterans  

“Let your passion lead you,” said Ogden. “Attack the next chapter of your life with the same energy that was required of you during your most trying time in the military --- whether that was boot camp, the Crucible, BUD/s, or combat --- and you will be successful and fulfilled.”

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