The Tactical Athlete
An interview with our friend and mentor Art Miranda- Green Beret, Teacher, Warrior, Father, and Brother.
Warcloud Brewing Company: Art what’s up man? Let us just say this you’re a huge inspiration to the team! You’re local for us here in SoCal. How’s life?
Art Miranda: Thanks for having me. I am definitely doing great. Life is really great right now. Dealing with the quarantine like everyone else but trying to make the most of it. I've been gone a lot throughout my career so this is giving me time to catch up with my kids and really focus on being a father.
WBC: How’d you come up thru the ranks? People aren’t instantly successful. How did it happen for you? Talk to us about your career bro.
Art: So I actually dep-ed into the Air Force, I wanted to be a CCT or PJ. So my Junior year in high school I took the pretest and passed, went, and swore in. During my senior year, I had a change of heart and decided I wanted to go the Army route. All I really knew was I wanted an Airborne contract. I ended up going in as a Parachute Rigger (had a PHAT bonus). Got assigned to the 82nd and just moved up the ranks real quick. I was a PT stud and I wasn't afraid of the board so that helped. I pinned on E-5 in just over 2 years. 9/11 kicked off and I decided I needed to step up and do more. I showed up to the SF recruiter and told him I was ready, when can I go. He said, April class is full, May is full so I'd have to go in June. I was like what! That's when he said well I have 2 slots for this Sunday (February Class, I said yeah, I'm down, let's do it! I ended up going through Selection with the first 18X's. The rest was just one foot in front of another.
WBC: When did you know you were successful or are you still on that journey? You spent time with 82nd Airborne then went to Selection, and then 7th special forces group. What happened during your time in the Army?
Art: I joined a peacetime army, everyone was joining for "the college money". For me, it was always more about pushing myself. I think I felt successful every step of the way. I always pushed to be the best so I knew I was leaving it all out there. I felt like I was a squared away squad leader in the 82nd. I enjoyed being in charge of troops. The military suited me. Once 9/11 kicked off I knew I needed to get in the fight and that wasn't going to happen as a parachute rigger. I made it through the Q-Course, first time go'ed all phases, and got to 7th SFG and had my first deployment a month after getting on the team. Straight over to Afghanistan, Paktika Province, Shkin A-Camp in 2004 before it became FOB Lily. That was an interesting trip on the Paki border when we had intel Geronimo, Osama Bin Laden was in Pakistan. We ran into a lot of IED's (not literally) but being the only 18C on the team that fell on me as a fresh 18C just out of the course. Good thing I paid attention during Mine's Phase. That first deployment we ended up running that whole region with 9 SF guys. We had 2 ODA's on our Camp but the other team pushed out to start up another A-Camp. We were very medic heavy which helped us out a lot. We did have a ton of TIC's (Troops In Contact). Since we were such a small team it was easy to take care of the man to our left and right so we all came home. Came back home and did some interesting trips down to South America (Colombia), then right back to Afghanistan, this time we ended up at FOB Price (Gereshk). Our last rotation we got into a lot of firefights but this one was over the top. It was 2007 in Helmond Province and we were getting into TIC's every single day we went out and some days we'd get into multiple TIC's. Our longest TIC was just over 9 hours, we had to pull back and get an airdrop resupply of ammo and went back in but during that lull, the enemy decided they'd had enough and we were able to take control. This rotation we ended up attached to another company and they had 3-4 ODA's working together on one side of the Helmond River and we were running solo on the other side of the River so they stacked our team and we had 14-15 guys this rotation. Our last mission in country I ended up taking shrapnel from an RPG on Day 1 of a 3 day Op. We were pushing about 100+ enemy back and they were retreating. A 2 man team got stuck behind the group and as we pushed closer, they popped up and just launched an RPG our way. Came in so quick, there were 3 of us nearby and we all dove. I knew I got hit because I felt it instantly as soon as the RPG exploded but I wasn't sure if it was just Debry from it hitting a compound wall or if it was actually shrapnel. I had my 18B take a look since it was my back where I felt it hit (scapula just below my shoulder bone near my armpit just inside the body armor). He grabbed me and ended up finding the entry wound, called over our Medic, he was concerned with a lung collapsing so he had me do some forced breathing drills. There was already a medivac bird inbound for another guy from another team who got him and an ANA soldier who had been hit. I told them I wasn't getting on that bird and I was fine, my medic agreed that if I wasn't in pain and I didn't have issues breathing there was no reason for me to leave. I ended up staying for the whole op. Once it was done they flew me to KAF for X-rays. Shrapnel is still there to this day. I ended my SF career at SWCS not by choice. My ODA was going right back to Afghanistan. I had already dropped a packet for another unit but at that time they decided they wanted guys who had combat experience and were top of their career to go in and instruct at SWCS since prior to that it was where they sent a lot of guys who were broken but since everyone graduating was going to end up going to war, they wanted to give them squared away instructors. I fought it but it was a losing battle. I got assigned to 18C Committee so just like everything else I wanted to be the best instructor these guys had seen. So I made sure I gave them my all. I was the Primary instructor for IED/UXO. I also ran the combative program. I made the most of my time at SWCS.
WBC: How was selection and qualification? Inquiring minds want to know...
Art: I mentioned earlier I went with very little prep time but at my unit prior I was always prepping. I would do a 10 mile run on the weekend, I would do a 20 mile ruck, sometimes it was a ruck, swim, run so I was already in shape. I showed up to selection and on day 3 I ended up rolling my ankle really bad, it swelled up like crazy during the night compass confidence course, I tightened my boot up and took another step and rolled it a 2nd time on a tree root. It was one of those pains where your whole body immediately starts to sweat. I grabbed my boot laces and tighten them up even tighter, walked gingerly to my last point and got into formation. I was still one of the first ones done but I kind of pushed myself up to the front of the formation because I knew they were going to make us run back to the barracks and I was worried about falling out. I made it back to the barracks falling out to the very end of that 400 man formation. I asked the cadre when we'd have sickcall and they told me first thing in the morning. In the morning, the fireguard woke us up and my ankle had swollen up bigger than my calve. It wasn't even purple, it had turned black. They told us that we were to be in BDU's, running number and running shoes. I knew I was fucked so I went to the cadre hut and asked about sick-call, they told me it would be after the first event. I made my way back to my hut and started to rat fuck the supply locker. I found some engineer tape and 100 mph tape. I ended up wrapping my ankle with them and figured I'd see how this goes. My ankle held up and when I crossed the finish line I was probably in the last 1/3 but I was just happy I made it. From there it was a struggle but by the time Selection was wrapping up my ankle was getting better and I was back up in the top 10%. Ended up getting my go without having to go to the board. I'm sure on paper it looked like I went weak and just got stronger and better and ended up having a good enough score to not get boarded. It was physically tough but I think it was equally mentally tough ... having to dig deep when no ones watching.
WBC: Weren’t you an Army Combatives / MMA champ or something? Tell us about it...
Art: So I had a background in wrestling and some Judo, then some BJJ prior to going into the military. I kept that up when I was in. I looked for the best high school wrestling team in the area and asked the coach if he needed anyone to workout with his heavy weights and the coach was all about it. So I stepped in and started running drills with those guys but I'm the type of instructor that I will do everything I'm asking them to do as well. Ft. Bragg used to run a wrestling tournament every year so I entered those and there were some tough guys who'd show up. Some surgeon who was a D1 wrestling, some guys who wrestled at some of the military universities. Some guys from UGA, Penn State and the list goes on. I ended placing 2nd freestyle and 1st in Greco Roman, so I was pretty proud of that but all training was done on your own which made it real tough. I just used to show up at the gym every day that it was reserved for wrestling and hope guys somewhere near my weight class would show up, I put in the work and it paid off. One year I heard that Ft Bragg is going to host a Combatives Tournament... This was before MACP and I was all about it. I showed up and cut weight, I weighed in at 205 and just crushed it. There was no program for soldiers at the time and BJJ wasn't as big as it is now. We weren't even sure what the rules were going to be or how scoring would go. They talked about having no time limit but decided against that. We were in uniform and I remember some guy tried to grab me and rough me up. I knew I was way stronger so I grabbed and under hook and launched the guy off the mat and into the bleachers. After that he didn't want to tie up anymore. Royce Gracie showed up to that and ended up putting the medals on us which was awesome. Once I got into the Q-Course and graduated it was back to back deployments or schools so I didn't do much competing, I did still continue to train with my ODA and one of the schools near Ft Bragg.
WBC: Combatives! You and UFC’s Tim Kennedy trained the Army’s toughest soldiers. Tell us about instruction. What does it take to be great at martial artist, wrestling, etc.?
Art: You know to be elite at anything it takes mental toughness, it takes discipline. If you want to be better than everyone else you have to do what the average person isn't willing to do. It takes training on your own, it takes pushing when everyone else would quit. I am a believer that you can train yourself to become tougher and get to that point but you have to want it enough to not quit. It's not about killing yourself every workout, it's not about training until you puke but it is about balance. You have to have those days where you kill yourself but you also have to have some rest in there and mental balance otherwise you'll just make yourself sick. It's all about training smarter.
Tell us about your time in Special Forces you were in South America and Iraq/Afghanistan? I was with 7th Special Forces Group (A) and I did have several trips to Central and South America as well as Afghanistan. I never made it to Iraq but they did keep me busy. I loved my time on an ODA. You just know at all times you're among some of the best soldiers in the world and build a camaraderie that has an unspoken rule that you know you're willing to put your life down for them and they're willing to do the same for you. Even when I linked up with other ODA's you'd feel that brotherhood. There's a lot of shit talking but you dish it back and win that respect. I was fortunate to be on an amazing ODA with some great dudes and some great leadership. We always went in with the task of leaving the AO better than how we found it. We always say, "Earn your seat at the table everyday". Essentially we were just telling ourselves to keep busy, even if we didn't have work to do, we'd find work, we'd be planning the next mission, the next project, the next event. That mindset kept us busy, pushed us to always be the best ODA around (every ODA will say that) but I really do believe at the time we had one of the best ODA's in Group and in SF.
WBC: What was your MOS or expertise while on an A-Team?
Art: I was an 18C Special Forces Engineer and later became an 18C instructor. It was my first choice and I was happy I got the MOS I wanted. I was strong with math and liked the idea of setting up booby traps, making and learning about IED's and Breaching doors. Just like every MOS there's a lot more into it then what is in the recruiting brochure. I did some other pretty cool secret squirrel schools between deployments which is something every operator should take advantage of while they're with an ODA.
WBC: Life after the grind? What keeps you on your toes nowadays?
Art: Life after the grind has been interesting. I have done a lot of instructing and advising for the military, for law enforcement, and with some fortune 500 companies. I spent a couple of years as a contractor doing a lot of work in Afghanistan and some in central and South America. I consider myself to be more of an instructor than anything else at this point but I do like to take a contract out of country here and there just to stay proficient and you can't teach something you've never done or haven't done in years. One of my favorite classes to teach is Abduction Management where we go over some Counter Surveillance Stuff, Go-Bags, Planning, and Defeating Personal restraints like getting out of handcuffs, zip ties, tape, rope, etc. This class is generally for civilians who work in high risk areas/countries. I still run-gun any chance I get and every year we do some pretty big events where we have some pistols, rifles, long guns, foreign weapons, and belt fed stuff. That stuff is always a good time. Now I do a lot of stuff with a virtual system which before I wasn't too into but now that I've played on the system and have really taken a dive into it. It is actually pretty amazing. Not just for the shooting stuff on there but for a number of other reasons. I can put a ccw (concealed carry weapon) holder on there and have them shoot things they can't train on the range. I can put a Law Enforcement Offer on there and have them work de-escalation into a life or death shoot/no-shoot situation. I can have someone get really fast on the trigger, then take them out to the live fire range and watch them kill it because we've polished on those fundamentals and worked on their issues and turn them into a better shooter. I can throw civilians in the room and have them run to the student and beg for help while they're attempting to shoot at a target. I take my 2 year old all the time and have him in my arms as we run the system and I will have to draw from concealment with him in my arms and move him to safety. That's something I'd never get to do on a live fire range. There's just so many different things we can run and we get creative with. I'm just fortunate to work with some other really great instructors. I also try to do a lot of stuff with my boys. We've been on a hiking kick lately hitting all of the waterfalls and unique hikes we can find all over SoCAL.
WBC: Tell us about your favorite beers man? Anything over seas?
Art: So I went to a course out in the UK and this was my first time out there. We were working long days and we'd all go out for beers afterwards. I remember hitting the bar and trying everything. I ended up deciding my favorite beer at the time over there was Stella. Well I'm standing at the bar in jeans, a t-shirt and baseball cap and 2 british girls come up to me saying, "Are you a Chaz, Are you a Chaz?" I responded "What the fuck is a Chaz?" They're like "Oh shit you're American, sorry" and went on to explain a Chaz is a guy who shows up to the bar in just a t-shirt and baseball cap, gets drunk and loves to get into fights. I could see how they'd think I was a "Chaz". I ended up talking to them some more and they told me how there was an urban legend that people who drink Stella beat their wives. I found that hilarious and they said Stella was a cheap beer and so a lot of "trailer trash" drink it and end up beating their wives when they're drunk. That's how I found out Stella was to the Brits who Micky's or PBR is to Americans. As for my favorite beers now, I really like Orange Wheat or Betty IPA from Hangar 24 out of Redland's CA. Lost Abbey The Angels Share is another favorite of mine, from Port Brewing Company out of San Marco, CA. Internationally I like St Bernardus Abt 12 it's a Belgium Beer.
WBC: If you can impart wisdom on citizens of America? What would you say?
Art: Wow, so much I want to say to the American people. Let me impart some wisdom...