Adventure can take on different forms. Whether it’s riding deep pow at your favorite mountain, exploring new backcountry terrain with bow in hand, or starting a business, it’s all about perspective. And for me, all of these things represent adventure.
From 2003-2005, I deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan with 2d Ranger Battalion as a Company Fire Support Officer. In 2006, with the reality of a growing family, I separated from the military and continued to support the troops through other avenues. A few years later, my work with Remote Medical International took me back to Afghanistan where I had the opportunity to tour an Afghan-owned boot manufacturing facility that was producing for the Afghan National Army. There, I saw a factory worker had punched a flip flop thong through a combat boot sole and it sparked an idea. With military drawdowns, manufacturing at this facility was bound to slow down. Why not supplement that with flip flops? Who doesn’t love flip flops?
Over the past 3 years, it’s been a wild ride. There’s no guide book for doing business in a war zone and we’ve had to do a lot of problem solving on the fly. But for all of the challenges we’ve encountered, it’s been far outweighed by the good we’ve been able to do.
Currently, we make flip flops in a facility in Bogota, Colombia, known for its high-end leathers and shoe construction (among other things); sarongs and shemaghs sewn at a women-owned factory in Kabul, Afghanistan where the purchase of one puts a woman in secondary school for a week; jewelry from unexploded ordnance (bombs) that was dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War, with each piece purchased clearing another 3 square meters of UXO; messenger bags sewn in Washington which helps keep Americans at work with the decrease in military orders; and our newest product, the Cashmagh scarf sourced from 100% Afghan cashmere, also putting woman in school with each purchase.
Because of the support we’ve received from retailers, customers and media members, the sales of Combat Flip Flops gear in 2014:
- Funded 3 years of school for Afghan girls through Aid Afghanistan for Education.
- Cleared 600 square meters of land mines in Laos through MAG International.
- Sent 1 Special Operations Forces medic on a deployment to Guatemala through Team-5, treating 250 local patients.
- Enabled us to be a major contributor to a fundraising effort for The Station Foundation to raise $50,000 for SOF Family Transition programs.
In 2015, we’ve set ambitious goals:
- Put 52 Afghan girls in school for one year.
- Clear 2000 square meters of land mines.
- Deploy medics on 3 Team-5 remote medical missions.
- Fund 1 Crossing for a Special Operations Family through The Station Foundation.
Like most people, looking back, I can now see that many of my past experiences have groomed me to take on this latest challenge. It feels good knowing that there are other ways we can help those affected by conflict. By using our dollars and making deliberate purchasing decisions, we can support economic stability and education in conflict areas, which I believe, (and I think our customers would agree), will affect change and lead to stability in these tough areas.
In 2015, we’ll be adding new flip flops styles and I’m sure manufacturing more peace through trade with new products. We couldn’t do what we’re doing without all of the support from our community of retailers and customers, so thanks.
Business, Not Bullets,
Click on the image below for more information about Combat Flip Flops.
Combat Flip Flops makes far more than just stylish footwear. Their Claymore shoulder bag is perfect for travel or daily carry.