BTU #275 - Rowing 3k miles for Veterans mental health (Bryant Knight)

The Talisker Whiskey Rowing Challenge is a 3,000 mile ocean rowing race. Me and my team - all military veterans - were the first group of veterans to row across an ocean. Our boat was 28 feet long and we spent 54 days, 9 hours and 8 minutes crossing the ocean.
— Bryant Knight

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Why Listen:
In this interview we talk about the Oil & Gas industry - the different aspects of this massive field, and why Veterans may like the mission-focused approach of this industry. We also talk about Bryant’s participation in a 3,000 mile rowing race, as the first military veteran team to row an ocean as part of the Fight Oar Die team.

About Bryant:
Bryant Knight is a Senior Account Manager Rocky Mountains for LEAM Drilling Systems. He served in the Army for nearly 24 years, starting out as a flight medic, becoming an Artillery Officer, and then serving as ODA Special Forces Commander for the 20th Special Forces Group.

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Transcript & Time Stamps:


Joining me today from Castle Rock, Colorado is Bryant Knight. Bryant Knight is a Senior Account Manager Rocky Mountains for LEAM Drilling Systems. He served in the Army for nearly 24 years, starting out as a flight medic, becoming an Artillery Officer, and then serving as ODA Special Forces Commander for the 20th Special Forces Group.


What was your transition out of the military like?

The transition into the oil and gas industry was very easy for me. This industry is very mission focused so that’s a good fit for many veterans. I’m on the drilling side of oil and gas. We have a mission of drilling oil wells.


How did you approach the job search?

I was pretty lucky. I was in Northern Iraq and my brother was working for LEAM Drilling Systems. I came in after a mission and I was talking to him on Skype. I remember him telling me I should leave the military and go into the oil industry. After three deployments, I wasn’t home a lot and I was ready to see more of my family.

I did my interview via Skype during my deployment and got hired. So I left the military and went right into the oil and gas industry. I worked for about a year and a half in an oil field in North Dakota. When I left Baghdad, it was well over 100 degrees most days and then it was the complete opposite in North Dakota. After a while, I ended up working with one of the company executives. He offered me my current role as Senior Account Manager.

It’s an exciting industry. There’s a lot of different aspects to get involved in whether it’s drilling, finishing, or land management.


What do you do as a Senior Account Manager?

I cover all the sales in the Rocky Mountains area. Once you acquire these accounts, you put personnel out on location and ensure that all the logistics are in order. During the job, there’s a constant maintenance process.


Are you out visiting drilling sites pretty frequently?

I sit both on the corporate side and on the field side. So it’s a mix between office work and being out in the field. It’s a lot of maintaining and growing relationships - making sure our guys are doing work for the client and that our workers are taken care of as well.


Could you explain a little bit more about the different opportunities available in this industry?

There’s land management which is going out and working with land owners for property where we are interested in drilling. People working in land management secure the rights to that land.

There’s also a variety of engineering jobs - especially in petroleum engineering. We have everything from entry level engineering positions all the way to up Drilling Manager and Vice President levels.

What we do as a company is horizontal drilling. We work with the customer to design the well bore. Then we go out to the drilling rig and drill that section of the well. So there are various positions available in that area as well.


What kinds of people are well suited for this industry?

In this industry there can be long periods of boredom and then short periods of very intense activity. There are very specific goals and missions set for you in this industry. If that appeals to you, this could be a good fit for you. This is a great industry to be in. It’s worked very well for me and my family.


Could you share more about the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge?

The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge is a 3,000 mile ocean rowing race. Me and my team - all military veterans - were the first group of veterans to row across an ocean. We rowed for the organization Fight Oar Die. Our boat was 28 feet long and we spent 54 days crossing the ocean.

We’re now working on building our team for 2019. We’re also looking to build our first female veteran team as well as an adaptive athlete team.

The reason we did this was because we had all lost a veteran friend to suicide. We partnered with the University of Denver’s Sturm Specialty in Military Psychology to work on addressing this issue. We tried to raise money for veterans that may not have access to VA funding or other resources. We’ve also recently partnered with the Marcus Institute for Brain Health.


What was training for that like?

It was tough for everyone on the team. We all knew what was required so we held each other to staying in shape and keeping up with our rowing. To qualify for the race, you’re required to take various seamanship and sea navigation courses.

There’s a company called D-Day Response Group. We partnered with them and they helped train us for a few days.

We were all working during this time so we had to be really wise about our training and time management. There was a lot of time spent on the rower. I watched every Game of Thrones episode while on the rower.

I lost 30 pounds at sea. I knew that would happen so beforehand I was very careful about making sure I was eating enough and staying in good shape.

It seems impossible but with plan, it’s possible. It’s a lot of being flexible with your schedule in order to make sure you get your training done.

We had a three week period where we had very focused training leading up to the event. The team goes down with the boat to Mobile, Alabama. We partnered with the Buccaneer Yacht Club. We trained there before the race to make sure we were ready.


What was the most challenging part of all of that?

When we finally showed up at the race with our boat, we were super excited. There was so much build-up to that moment. We weren’t used to going through all that media hype before the race. I can’t even remember the first 24 hours of the race because there was just so much adrenaline.

The most challenging part was the boredom. The water was so calm with no wind. When you’re rowing in that kind of water, it’s like being in liquid concrete. So we stayed there for five days and then later for a few more days. It was horrible. You just try to keep everyone’s moral up. So that was challenging but for the rest of the week we were in high seas and making really good ground. It was everything we thought it would be. There were other great moments as well. The night sky full of stars and having pods of dolphins swimming alongside us.


What impact do you want to have on veteran suicide?

Before we raced, there were only 19 Americans that had ever rowed across an ocean. When you say you’re going to row an ocean, people are taken aback. But when we started telling people that we were doing it to bring awareness to veteran mental health, that was powerful. On our social media sites, we went really quickly from 0 to over 4,000 people as word got out about what we were doing.


Do you have any advice for veterans on promoting themselves or a cause they believe in?

Social media is a necessity. If you’re going to start an organization like this, you need to really dive into social media. That was a learning experience for me. It’s not my favorite thing to do for Fight Oar Die but it’s a necessity. We just brought on our first marketing person which I’m really excited about.


Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

If you’re interested in learning more about Fight Oar Die, please go to

On the oil and gas side, look out for oil and gas companies that come to your military base or area. A lot of these companies actively recruit military veterans. It’s been an excellent fit for me and my family.

Continue to grow and evolve as a person. Don’t stop learning. If you had asked me two years ago if I would be the head of a non-profit, I would have thought you were crazy. But I’m so happy to be where I am today.