You can still find something worthwhile to do in retirement. At least I’ve found that to be the case. When we moved to SaddleBrooke in 2014, little did I know there was to be a ‘second act’, and that it would lead me to a company where I could do something that would quite literally save lives of men, women, and children on the field of battle. Yes, since retiring I’ve worked as an interim CEO for a company in Scottsdale, and as a consultant to the University of Arizona's Incubator Group where I assisted firms in obtaining angel investors which was fulfilling. But, more recently, due to my background in defense, I was contacted by Todd Meeks, CEO of Spartan Armor Systems (body armor/tactical gear) to assist him in developing a formal strategy and long-range business plan for his firm. What started out as a three-month consulting assignment has turned into a long-term relationship with the company. And, I’ve gone from the position of consultant to Chief of Staff.
Through the end of 2021, we were cruising along well. Then, Russia invaded Ukraine. The war there has lasted far longer than anyone (except the Ukrainian people) expected. Many of us have only been able to stand by and watch on TV in horror at what’s been happening. Since this disaster started, many, including close friends with whom I play golf (when I catch a break) have all thought about sending food, money or clothes, but the firm that contacted me last fall to advise them on building their business in Tucson has had a different calling… relief groups are contacting us to send body armor to Ukraine. And, we have found ways to get the armor into the hands of those that need it most. I feel that what we’ve been providing in terms of protection to all Ukrainians has been valuable. Especially since we have armor that can also protect a child. As a result, I contacted 9 News and explained what we were sending to Ukraine, and they sent a crew out the next morning to get a first-hand look.
Now, the rest of the story.
Since the Russians invaded Ukraine, people all over America have looked for ways to try to help- but we, at Spartan Armor Systems (a Tucson company) are offering some serious protection.
This is help that can quite literally take a bullet for you. Spartan Armor Systems uses a variety of materials to make body armor for law enforcement, military, Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard, DHS, and law-abiding civilians. The most basic of our gear can stop a slug from a .44 magnum handgun or a 9mm API round.
But, since the war started, we are seeing a surge in demand for some of the toughest vests we make— the vests with ricochet resistant steel plates (and proprietary coating) able to stop a bullet from a Russian AK-47/AK-74M military rifle (designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov)— including the 5.45X39mm rounds the Russian troops use.
Much of the tactical gear and body armor we produce goes to U.S. residents reacting to events and the uncertainty of the world at-large but a large number of orders we are fulfilling are now headed to Ukraine.
As Todd Meeks President of Spartan Armor Systems stated on the news report, “A lot of these people contacting us are concerned citizens and they partnered with Ukrainian relief organizations." There are laws and regulations that need to be adhered to when shipping body armor overseas, so these groups are working with international relief organizations as well as the UN to comply with export and import laws.”
We also are aware that a lot of Ukrainians fighting right now are not trained soldiers. In Ukraine, we know they're handing out AK-47s to civilians that haven't had any firearms training. At least with the body armor we’re providing, it's protection that they’re putting on when cinching up the vest. It’s going to be helpful no matter how they wear it.
We also ship the armor to relief groups in the U.S. and they handle the tricky business of export regulations, getting the vests into Europe and on to Ukrainian fighters. Much of the body armor is being delivered by private charter aircraft.
In the end, we believe that we're helping the right side of what's going on in Ukraine. And so, we're helping out civilians and protecting them. Body armor for men, women, and children is the one thing that people are calling out for as a lot of Ukrainian Americans have friends and family in the thick of the fight. As a result, body armor has become one of the hot topics. They also need ammunition. A Phoenix firm recently donated 1M rounds of 7.62 NATO rounds to Ukraine. It’s apparent that Arizona is doing its part!
In the end, we know that some of the armor made here in Tucson will save the life of a Ukrainian who was a civilian a few weeks ago before Russian troops invaded and forced them into the line of fire. As for me, I’ve enjoyed helping grow a company again, and save a few lives in the process. We wish the people of Ukraine what they really need, and ask for most… and that is PEACE
As for me, I’m ready to hang up the armor and head back to the course!