Their mission is to preserve and restore. For newly formed non-profit FORCE BLUE that means uniting two very different worlds: coral reef conservation and SOF veterans.
With a structure that mirrors that of a military-style training program, FORCE BLUE teaches former Special Operations warriors how to translate their training and their teamwork into transplanting corals and rebuilding reefs.
"FORCE BLUE gives former combat divers a chance to experience and explore one of the most critically endangered ecosystems on the planet," says Executive Director Jim Ritterhoff. "And to utilize their skills to aid in that ecosystem's protection."
FORCE BLUE is the brainchild of Ritterhoff and his two co-founders, Sunset House G.M. Keith Sahm and Recon Marine Rudy Reyes who came up with the idea after a dive trip to the Cayman Islands in 2015.
Reyes, who has struggled in his own transition to civilian life after multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, sees FORCE BLUE as a way for SOF veterans like himself to find renewed purpose and a positive mission after years of war fighting.
"After all the investment, all the blood, sweat and tears, why not give these highly-skilled men and women a chance to heal themselves and heal the planet?" Asks Reyes.
"It's a redeployment of talent and training," echoes Sahm. "A win-win that benefits everyone."
FORCE BLUE received a boost last month from Earth Day Texas founder and recent Global Green Award winner Trammell S. Crow at a fundraising event on their behalf in Dallas.
"I am honored to have hosted such distinguished heroes of the United States, and to introduce a vital and worthy conservation project that can have significant positive impact to endangered reefs the world over," said Crow.
FORCE BLUE board member, internationally renowned marine scientist Dr. Ellen Prager spoke about what she sees as the organization's differentiating strength.
"Beyond what FORCE BLUE can do for our Special Operations veterans, many of whom are struggling just like our coral reefs are struggling, it gives us a chance to create a new cadre of marine conservation spokespeople who haven't been heard from before -- men and women who've served their country and are now serving the planet."
FORCE BLUE is now raising the funds necessary to put its first team of divers into the water off Grand Cayman and Little Cayman in early 2017 and is partnering with companies like TAD PGS, who will be assisting with job placement, career counseling and PTSD guidance for FORCE BLUE team members.
FORCE BLUE is currently enlisting the support of all those who see value in its mission and would like to play a part in its success. Visit www.forceblueteam.org to find out how you can get involved.
ABOUT FORCE BLUE
FORCE BLUE is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that seeks to unite the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of coral reef conservation for the betterment of both. Our mission is to assist SOF veterans in their transition back to civilian life by restoring their esprit de corps and giving them a positive outlet through which to utilize their training and teamwork to help preserve the planet.