12. Thomas Schueman on Becoming a Lifelong Learner

February 16, 2022

12. Thomas Schueman on Becoming a Lifelong Learner
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In this episode, Tim and Brock talk with Thomas Schueman.

Get a weekly episode breakdown, sneak peak of the next episode, and other resources in your inbox for free at https://scuttlebutt.substack.com/.

Tom is our first active duty guest, currently a Major in the Marine Corps studying strategy at the Naval War College. We talk through Tom’s approach to being a lifelong learner and how humility unlocks personal and professional growth. Tom dives into the struggles of mental health challenges within the military and its impacts on the organization as a whole. We also cover the company Tom founded, PB Abbate, a veterans service organization that brings veterans with shared interests together in honor of Sergeant Matthew Abbate.

You can follow Tom on Instagram.
Can learn more about PB Abbate and how to get involved on the website


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Whether you’re in the service for four years or twenty, you have learned skills, led teams, and learned what it takes to execute under pressure. While those past successes are valuable, they don’t always translate to a life or career when you get your DD214.

Join Tim and Brock as they break down the skills and strategies current and former military members are using to build a successful careers on the outside the service.

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Brock Briggs  0:19  

Hello and welcome to the Scuttlebutt podcast. Our guest today is Tom Schueman. Tom is our very special guest. He's actually currently still active duty, our first active duty guest, our person we've convinced to come on the show. Tom is currently at the Naval War College studying strategy, and the founder of PB Abbate. Tom, welcome to the show.

Tom Schueman  0:41  

Hey, thanks for having me, appreciate it. 

Tim McCarthy

Yeah, thank you!

Brock Briggs  0:44  

Absolutely. You were somebody that I think at least three or four of our prior guests have recommended that we talk to you, so it's good to finally have you on. Big expectations, big shoes to fill for you today. So..

Tom Schueman  0:59  

I would say I’m highly recommended, forget all that. I am a big, you know, under promise over deliver. So let's just say, I suck. Let's start with that I suck and then go from me sucking.

Tim McCarthy  1:17  

We'll set the bar super low.

Tom Schueman  1:19  


Tim McCarthy

There you go. I like it. I like it.

Brock Briggs  1:23  

Give us the story about how you got here. What possessed you to join the Marine Corps? And lead us up till now in the short and sweet version.

Tom Schueman  1:33  

Yeah, the shortest and sweetest version, the shorter, the sweeter, I think. And so I think my story is definitely pretty, a boring story, but one that has had interesting characters along the way. And so I think it's much more interesting to talk about the folks that I've encountered, and because they're what really makes my story have any value. But 9/11 is the down and dirty. I was in high school. And then I never desired to serve. I didn't know probably that the Marine Corps was a branch of service, didn't have family that served, wasn't watching GI Joe, didn't have, you know, so. But that happened. I was in high school, I said, “Okay, I'm gonna do something about that.”

 And I think there's the additional layers that my mom, who came from very hard background, she didn't graduate high school. She had me when she was 19, worked her ass Chicago cop, and she afforded me opportunities that she could have never had for herself or dreamed of even for herself. And I felt like there's something about America that may be that a single woman can do that. And I wanna pay into that. So probably a little bit of civic duty. And then definitely a little bit of, “Hey, I guess there's bad guys out in the world. And, there's bad guys on the world. Somebody's got to do something about that.” 

And so that's probably what led me in my service. I'm an infantry officer. I went to Afghanistan, as platoon commander, and killed three, five. I went back with first recon as a JTAG and advisor to tours that accompany command, went to Australia. And while I was in Australia, I read a book. I read Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, and I said, “Oh, I like books.” And then at the same time, the Marine Corps said, “We need somebody to come teach Literature at the Naval Academy.” I didn't know where the Naval Academy was. I'm not an academy guy. But I said, Well, I liked this one book. And if they're gonna let me go read books and talk about books, I can be down with that.” 

And I wanted to get out of my comfort zone a little bit. I wanted a new challenge. I had been in the infantry for 10 years. And so through my application, next thing I knew I was in the graduate program at Georgetown. It was nothing like I had assumed graduate school would be like, or an English program was like, I wasn't an English major. So I thought we would just, you read the book that you like, you write a little three, five page book report about it, negative. That was not the case. I was immediately getting my ass kicked. And I would say it was like I showed up in the MLB All-Star Game and Randy Johnson was doing 100 mile power meters and I was like, “I should be in the Football League.” That's what grad school felt like. I taught a couple years at the Naval Academy, and from there I was selected to come attend the Naval War College. So that's the career, that's how I got here. And, yeah.

Brock Briggs  4:34  

A couple of things I wanna touch on there. I'm sure that you’re cut from steel if your mom is a Chicago police officer, talk about some big shoes to fill, that certainly is something. And more of a question, is the only requirement to teach Marines English like having read an actual book?

Tom Schueman  4:59  

Yeah, I think, you know, I don't know what the Marine Corps is thinking, truly picking me to go teach English. I failed English in college, not for a lack of aptitude, but a lack of effort. It's not something I'm proud of. Wasn't a great undergrad college students. I can't tell you how I ended up in that program. I'm glad I went, but you know, one thing I don't love is the Marine crayon joke, a little overplayed, overused, I think. 

And I think that the Marine Corps, actually, Marines in general, and especially in the infantry, I find a lot of people who enjoy learning and education and studying and so yeah, I don't know. I ended up there. Random, pretty random but really, really happy that I had the opportunity. I was a hammer, you know, and the whole world was a nail. And then I got to go study Humanities. And when you study the Humanities, you start to get different lenses to see the world and you start to understand, you know, how humans and these different experiences all work. And so really, it opened my aperture to different ways of thinking and led me to be much more critical thinker. And I'm super thankful that I had that opportunity.

Brock Briggs  6:31  

Now, that's good. I appreciate you being patient. I had to kind of test the waters a little bit and see where you're at on that. I mean, that 100%, playfully. I think you're right, though. I think that my experience in college was exactly that. It was being able to read and do all these other things kind of exposes you to different ways of thinking and allows you to kind of think deeper. And that's a good thing. That is a very good thing. I think the military encourages that. But maybe not as much as they should, at least on the enlisted side. I don't know if that was your experience on the officer side, though.

Tom Schueman  7:11  

So, when did you go to college? How old were you?

Brock Briggs  7:16  

So we exited in 2018. And I was, I don't know, what was that a couple years ago?

Tim McCarthy  7:22  

25, 26? Yeah.

Brock Briggs  7:25  

25 to 26 years old, so a little bit older. 

Tom Schueman  7:27  

Yeah, yeah I think that's the key, you know, a lot of 18 year old dudes probably aren't ready to be serious about their, you know, education. And I think that immaturity is really kind of the key ingredients. Some definitely are, there are plenty of dudes who get to college and take their studies seriously and do well. For some of us, I think, at least in my case, that's not where I was at 18 when I started college. I was just told, bro, idiot. 

So I think going back to college at 33 was a much different experience. I actually said, “Oh, man, someone is paying me to put something into my brain right now. What an awesome opportunity. I should take advantage of this.” And so you know, you started at 25, 26, I think the maturity part is probably pretty key to a much more worthwhile and successful endeavor there when you get to the university.

Tim McCarthy  8:29  

Well, that's such like a common thing to like most of the people that we've interviewed on the show, it was like this, a lot of them have very similar story like, “Oh, I tried to go to college, hated college at 18,19. So I figured out, joined the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, whatever. And then later in life ended up going back.” Did you join the Marine Corps as straight as an officer? Or did you start out enlisted?

Tom Schueman  8:56  

I commissioned as an officer. I was in ROTC while I was in college, and even some of the 25, 26 year olds who kind of get out after the first or second enlistment, they go to college. I think the ones that have a particularly, that still have a tough time. This don't have the humility going in, you know, they think like, “Oh, I've seen some shit. You know, I've been to Iraq.” I know. It's like, okay, like, well, how? 

Everybody would tell me when I was getting my ass kicked in grad school, it's like, “You've got all this experience. You need to tell them about what the world is really like. Tell these 22 year old grad students.” I’m like, “We're studying Hamlet, like, what am I gonna say? Well, in Afghanistan..” It's like, who gives a shit? We're talking about Hamlet. Like, it's not a time for me to start trying to tell people about what attacking an enemy machine gun position like. 

It's time for me to learn about Literature and writing. You know, and so, I think veterans who even after their service still find it, had that a challenge, I think it's, you got to take off the ball cap. Don't go to school with a coyote desert tan backpack, you know. Take off the Punisher t shirt, you know, and go there as a place like, “Hey, this person is a doctor in this subject, they prompt and what an awesome opportunity to listen and to learn.”

And so I think you, that's probably the other thing when you're 18, you think you know everything, you know. And as I get older, I realize I know less and less. And so I think that's probably the other thing is that you gotta go in there with enough humility that it makes that experience, I think much, much better.

Brock Briggs  10:51  

Why do you think and I don't think that people going back into, let me start over. I agree with what you're saying, 100%? Why do you think it is that people get out, and then come back to whatever it is that they're doing, whether that be school, whether that be a job, and have that chip on their shoulder, thinking that they know everything, you know. And maybe at a certain age, it will come about where they'll kind of graduate out of that. But regardless of age, I think that people still experience that. Where does that chip come from? And why do people have that?

Tom Schueman  11:27  

Yeah, I would say two things. One insecurity, you know, when you aren't comfortable or confident in a new environment, you kind of revert back to what you know. And so rather than kind of saying, “I'm a boot again.” You have to say “I'm a boot, like I've never been in a college environment. I'd never been in a graduate program, you know, I'm a boot.” And so returning back to boot status, people don't like that, to me, I understand that in life. I'm a perennial boot. You know, I was never a dad. 

And then I was a dad. And guess what, I was never a dad to a kid at three years old. I've never been a dad to a teenager, right? So, I'm continually a boot and as a husband, as it doesn't matter where I'm going back to the fleet here after the War College. I'm gonna be probably behind executive officer. How many times have I been an executive officer for an organization of 1200 people? Zero times. So even though I've got 15 years in Marine Corps experience, I'm a boot when it comes to being at the time that. So you know, and so it takes an ounce of humility and understanding and rather than overcompensating with that, through that insecurity and being like, “Ah, I'm too good for this or I know,” it's like, nope. 

And then, the other thing is this over attachment, an overattachment to an identity as a veteran, you know, that you allow your uniform, your rank, your identity as a soldier or Marine. You can't let that go. And so you bring that into the classroom, you bring that to your job, you bring that it's like, okay, that is not that is part of who you are. But it's not your eternal identity, you know. It's a chapter and rather than starting to write those next pages, it's uncomfortable, because those pages are blank, you know. And it's like, well, I now have, and so, but it's an over attachment to an identity. 

And that's why, you know, transition, there's an identity crisis going on. And rather than, it's gonna be uncomfortable, no matter what. Transition is always uncomfortable. You know, it doesn't matter if you did a study abroad in high school or in college, and you went to Rome, or London for a semester. You come back and you feel a little bit different, you know. There's always transitions. If you go on a long vacation, and you come back from your long vacation, there's a, it's so, transitioning is hard. 

And, but to be successful, you have to kind of let go of some of those things in your past. That's scary. It's scary. I'm not saying it's easy. It's hard. But if you wanna grow, evolve, progress, then you've gotta go through some of those growing pains of where, you know, these new experiences.

Brock Briggs  14:20  

Yeah, I think that that's very true. And especially, I feel for those people who joined the service at 18. Because I think that they face a unique challenge when they get out because they haven't had the time in their adult life to kind of establish, maybe who they are while you're gonna be a lot different. When you've spent your entire adult life serving the military. And then you get out and then it's like, oh, there's like not even any remnants of anything to kind of like look back on almost. So I think that they're unique challenges on both ways. It sounds like to me that you've got a really strong, long term learner’s mindset. Is that something that you've always had? Or where did that come about? And what kind of transition to that, I guess, could you see over your time in, so far?

Tom Schueman  15:14  

Yeah, that the learner, the long term learner’s mindset is a great way to put it. I would say no, that's not something I've always had. I think when I, you know, when I came to the fleet, I felt like I knew what I was doing. I think there's too many people that it used to be like, “Oh, officer, think they know everything.” And you've got to just always defer default to your platoon sergeant, your squad leader. If the officer doesn't know anything, and isn't prepared to command and lead, then they shouldn't be commanding or leading, you know. And so there's a balance of, “Hey, I'm here for a reason. Because I've been trained and schooled to be able to lead you. Also, there are plenty of things that I still have to learn here. So I'm going to be deferential at times for my squad leader and my platoon sergeant. But if I can't lead, then, you know, then just make the platoon sergeant the duty commander,” you know.

And so I think I hit the fleet probably still with an understanding that I was going to be learning from other people's experiences, my NCOs, my staff NCOs. But as far as like a real commitment to learning, I would say, and this is very regrettable, it wasn't until company command that I started to get serious about being a student. And so it was my battalion commander, a guy who I really respected. He was very, very smart. And he said, “You know, I didn't start getting serious about my personal and professional development to wait too late.” And I was like, “Well, this guy is really smart, much smarter than me.” 

And I'm not really committed to that. I probably ought to get busy about that. And so that's it. I think that's when I started to get curious. And when you get curious, you had that desire to learn, that was really kind of the genesis of my journey to being a lifelong learner. And then I think I coupled that with the ideas that you've never arrived, you know. At no point, do you arrive in life. I think you're always have to earn your seat at the table. You have to always earn your keep. And, and people who are through learning are through, you’re just through, period. 

And so at any point in life, if I feel like, okay, I've got it, I know it, I'm probably in a really bad space, I think. And so, to me, there's, and like I said, the more you learn, the more you realize, there's more to learn. And so I'm in, you know, this phase of kind of constantly trying to home shape, and develop my most lethal weapon, which is my mind. And so there's, you can spend your entire life kind of sharpening that and investing in that, and there's gonna be more. And so that's where I'm at now is that I know that every day I gotta go home, I keep..

Brock Briggs  18:17  

What do you think is the most important thing to starting down that journey? Obviously, it's kind of an open mindedness and willingness to be wrong, a lot and admit that you don't know everything. What kinds of things did you do? Or maybe, can other people be doing to kind of start that journey?

Tom Schueman  18:44  

Yeah, I mean, you said, a willingness to admit that there's some things that you don't know, you know, otherwise known as humility. And so I think, again, it starts with an element of humility, and then you pair that humility with curiosity. And being curious, having the desire to learn, I think is really what's gonna help you expand that aperture and so but I find that once you start, you just have to start. And so once you get into one book, you're gonna want to get it and so when I'm reading a book, I see a reference or something else, I'm like, “Oh, like, what the hell is that thing? So now I've got like four books open, I'm trying to cross reference each, the material across each one and so I think it's just about having that curiosity with an element of humility. 

And once you get going, it's just like anything. When you go to the gym, it's always, the hardest part about getting back into fitness is just starting you know. It's always the just starting part and once you get going, even if you suck, even if you can't move a lot of weight, it's still like, “Okay.” And so same thing you know, if you haven't been reading and if you haven't been taken seriously, you know, your studies, it seems maybe really intimidating just on the outside of that. 

But you just gotta start climbing. And then once you start climbing, once you get in there, you'll find that it's a thing with writing, like, how can I write, it's like, “I don't know how to write like. Oh, this, put a word down on the paper. And then like, put another word down on the paper.” And like, you'll find that at some point, you've written something and might suck, and that's fine. But you just keep working at it.

Brock Briggs  20:25  

You've been writing for some time?

Tom Schueman  20:28  

I started writing in grad school, so that's 2018. And what I found through writing is I really started to make meaning. And to me, I had done three deployments. I got, I'd been in the infantry for 10 years straight. And I never took the time to unpack those experiences, or never took the time to really reflect and interrogate those experiences. 

And the thing is that those experiences were definitely influencing how I was acting, how I was thinking about things, how I was feeling about things. And rather than say, like, “Well, why are you thinking that thing? Why do you feel that way? Why are you acting in this destructive manner?” It was easier just to say, well, “I've got Marines. I gotta focus on Marines. I gotta, you know,” and so, to me, I was scared. I think what I would say is, I would use the excuses, and I would be busy, too busy. I don't have time. It's like, “No, you were scared to kind of try to find out what was going on,” and what was at the root of some of these issues that I was experiencing.

And as I started to write, I was like, “Oh, okay, this is, writing helps me know how I think about something.” I don't really know what I think about something until I write about it. And as I write, it's an act of discovery, writing as an act of discovery for me. And so I was forced to write because I was in an English graduate program, you write. 

Brock Briggs

And you do a little bit of that? 

Tom Schueman 

Yeah. And I was studying moral injury, and Vietnam film and literature. And so much of the Vietnam experience resonates, I think, with the people who fought in the global war on terror. And so it was like, there was an intersection with my personal experiences when I was studying and when I was writing. And so but once you turn it on, I think it's hard to turn off. And so once I started to use that creative kind of side of my brain, I haven't been able to shut it off. And so I've been writing regularly since 2018.

Brock Briggs  22:42  

You talked about some of the intersections of Vietnam and the GY and some, your parallels maybe to those stories. What were some of your biggest takeaways, or “aha moments” from beginning to write and putting all those things together?

Tom Schueman  23:01  

Yeah, it's a moral injury, I think it’s probably the moral injury component of the Vietnam soldier and Marines experience to what I had experienced and..

Brock Briggs  23:15  

Can you kind of just back up a little bit and like, I guess, explain moral injury, like, I've kind of got an idea, but just in case, anybody's unfamiliar. Kind of walk through, I guess what that is?

Tom Schueman  23:25  

Sure. Moral injury really comes down to the idea of betrayal. And so you know, what that looked like in Vietnam is the idea that you were sold a strategy, that was probably not a strategy at all. And if you ever, if you read the Pentagon Papers, or if you ever watched the Ken Burns’ documentary about Vietnam, you'll find that, from the President to the SecDef, to basically everybody in government, and on the military side, everybody knew we weren't winning. And everybody knew that this was a kind of a failed cause. But they wouldn't. They still kept pushing, I think, mainly for political ambitions. 

But so the idea of, in Vietnam and other moral injuries, like your issue, this new weapon, they started to get the F16 and they weren't working. And so when the government gives you something that is supposed to help you or support you, and then you find that that thing doesn't work, you know, that's a betrayal. There's a lot of friendly fire in Vietnam, especially from artillery and close air support, and a lot of that, so you're in a bad spot, you call from artillery, and then that artillery ends up killing you and your friends. That's more injury. And so it's ultimately a betrayal of trust, and somebody and someone or something that you've been trained or led to believe is actually there to kind of take care of you or protect you. 

And so when you look at not having a good strategy, you can I think it's pretty obvious that our strategy wasn't great in Iraq or Afghanistan. I experienced more injury really at the tactical level at the company level where my leadership I felt, at the company level often wasn't looking out for my best interests. And so it's, I'd say it's like blue on blue. It's almost like fratricide. It's not actually being shot at physically, but it's when I would go out and I would fight the Taliban all day. And that was no problem. Because, you know, so it's had this term “premeditation warum”, a premeditation of people. 

And so, when I go outside the wire, I expect that the Taliban is going to try to shoot me, right? That's why I'm wearing a flak and a Kevlar. And that's why I have a condition one weapon, that's why I have a machine gunner with me. That's why I've been training for the last year, the locate, close with. I've been doing firing maneuver. I've been doing metal back drills, all my training, because I understand that I'm going to go out to a place that's hostile and dangerous and that there's gonna be this competition where you're the hunted or hunter, you're the predator or prey, and that in the arena of combat, it's a life or death struggle. And I understood that. 

And so when I go outside the wire, I'm in yellow, and the yellow was a color code. They had these color codes, and the yellow means I'm alert, and I'm aware, and I can respond, because I expect that bad shits gonna happen. And it did. But when I come inside the patrol base, the patrol base is supposed to be an area that I can rest and refit. The patrol base is supposed to be an area where I can take off my flak and Kevlar and I should be relatively safe, you know. So I'm vulnerable, I go conditioned for. I take off my gear, I’m now vulnerable because I think I'm within friendly lines. 

And when you find yourself inside friendly lines, and still under attack, that's where a lot of that more injury comes. And that, to me, it's been, you know, I was physically wounded in Afghanistan. I had all kinds of experiences outside the wire in Afghanistan. But the wounds that have taken the longest to heal, definitely were the things that happened inside the wire. And that's kind of still what I'm trying to reconcile and more and more through.

Tim McCarthy  27:22  

Do you find that you lean more towards writing for that type of thing to help reconcile those wounds, as you call them?

Tom Schueman  27:31  

Yeah, and storytelling. So just, whether it's through writing and or speaking those stories into existence, I think, is where a lot of the healing, the catharsis occurs. And the meaning occurs, you know, as part of my Capstone project with my graduate program, I started this idea called “kill zone.” And it's the idea that, at some point, you're gonna find yourself on the X at some point, something traumatic is gonna happen. At some point in life, you're gonna get ambushed. Whether in combat, or just in everyday normal life, everybody experiences that trauma or experiences that ambush, it could be cancer, a car accident, your kid gets sick, whatever, you know, some point that is coming for you. 

And, what I wanted to explore is how can we be more resilient. So that being left of that trauma, we can start to get our defenses up so that we diminish the amount of trauma that occurs when that ambush actually finally happens. So think of it like a fighter going into a ring. When you're a boxer and you go into the ring. You're gonna put your hands up, because you're in a fight, and you know, you're gonna get hit so that when that person hits you, it's not like if Mike Tyson punches you and your hands are up, you're like, “Oh, that was no big deal.” No, I'm assuming it's probably still pretty big deal, right? I assume, it still hurts. 

But I also assume that if you've got, if your hands were down at your side, and they punch you, it’s gonna be a little bit worse, right? And so I was kind of saying, like, let's be more resilient. Let's get our hands up. Because this thing called life has plenty of ambushes out there. And we're in a fight. And so, okay, so now I've been hit, right? The ambush happens, I'm in the kill zone. I've been hit because we're all it's happened, and it's going to happen again. And that's just life. Okay? Well, now I gotta start to recover. 

And so the act of recovery or getting off the x, and the first part of recovering, I think is identifying where you're injured. Where are you hurt? And we do a really good job in the military, of teaching Marine soldiers and sailors how to assess a physical wound. Okay, you've got a gunshot wound to your arm. Like we're gonna put a tourniquet on. We're gonna put you in a sling. You know, we know how to assess and treat physical wounds. What I feel like we don't spend enough time talking about or thinking about, it's invisible woods and so what I kind of characterize it is. There's routine priority and urgent casualties, and a routine casualty you can usually do self-aid. Routine casualty means I sprained my ankle. You know, I gotta just tape it up. And I can walk it off, you know. 

Priority care students, “Oh, well, I've been. I mean, I got shot in the leg. I gotta have a buddy, kind of help, firemen carry me off,” right? I need that buddy. I'm a priority casualty. Well, urgent casualty is like I got a sucking chest wound. And when I need to get to a higher echelon of care. And so too often when we put this into the visible wounds place, I think it's like, “Okay, am I routine right now? Am I just having a bad day? Am I in a little bit of a funk? All right. There's some things that I know I can do to kind of help myself get in the right headspace to kind of push through this little routine.” 

And we have to acknowledge that sometimes you just have a bad day. Sometimes you just are sad. Sometimes you're angry. Sometimes you're lonely. And what we've done is we've indoctrinated veterans to think that anytime you feel anything other than being happy, something's wrong. And it's like, no, that's life. And then like, sometimes you have a shitty day, and sometimes you don't feel and so it's like, “Oh, I must have PTSD. I'm angry today.” It's like, no, like being angry is just like, you know, you get cut off in traffic, you the person cuts you in the coffee shop line. It's like, that's not PTSD. That's just you having a normal response to whatever's kind of going on. 

And so we got to normalize first and foremost, that feelings other than happiness, and so that when I'm a routine casualty, and I'm having a feeling other than happiness, I say, “Okay, hey, look, you're just having a little bit of a funky day, it's no problem. Like, we'll get through it tomorrow, you know?” Okay, but maybe I'm a priority casualty, and maybe I'm having a couple bad days. Or maybe I can't really kind of shake this thing that I'm going through. And it's like, okay, that's when I talk to my buddy. I say, “Hey, buddy, I got an issue. And, here's what I'm going through.” 

And then maybe just by talking through that experience with my buddy, and my buddy, who isn't listening to respond, my buddy, who's somebody I trust, my buddy, who I can be vulnerable with, my buddy who's empathetic, who's actively listening. Here's my story. And often, it's just by sharing that story with someone I start to feel better, you know. And so my load is like, by that and then sometimes I am an urgent casualty. Sometimes, I tried to shake it off. Sometimes I talk to a buddy about it. And maybe I have an actual real something seriously going on. And so just like if I got a sucking chest wound, I wouldn't say like, “Oh, I can probably treat this gunshot wound to the chest.” Like it's no, I went to teach TCCL to combat lifesaver.  I got to suck here, no!

And just like, if I had a second testimony, I wouldn't say, “Hey, buddy. I'm probably gonna die in the next 60 minutes. But you're my buddy, you can probably just hook me up here.” No, I have a sucking chest. Where do I wanna go? I wanna go to the fucking doctor. Like I wanna go to the surgeon that knows how to treat sucking chest wounds. I wanna get to a hospital. I wanna get to a higher echelon of care when I've got. And so sometimes we've got that invisible wound, that's a sucking chest wound. And rather than get to the doctor who's trained to treat that, we're like, “Well, maybe I can, like just walk this one off.” It's like, no motherfucker, you got a sucking chest wound. Like you need to get to the doctor that treats that shit, you know. And so I think and the idea is like, well, you're either you're too prideful or whatever. And you're like, I'll just keep pushing. 

And what you're doing is like, that blood that you're spilling, it's not contained, you know. You start to have collateral damage. When you don't go to that higher echelon of help. You're not a self contained entity, because the people who love you and the people around you start to suffer because you won't go, get the healing and the help that you need. And so all that to say as I started this Kill Zone Project, in grad school. I started to write about it, how we can be more resilient, how we can start to find better pathways towards recovery. And then, what I wanted to do was I wanted to go talk about this publicly. And so I started to go to veteran open mic nights. And so there's coffee shops around DC and bars around DC that had these opportunities for open mic nights. 

And so what I found is that writing is one way, but when you actually speak something, it's a whole another experience. And so the first time I shared my story publicly, I was like, it felt like let's just say like I was talking, and then also my throat was getting a little bit tight. I was like, oh, you know, like, and I was like, “Wait, what's going on? You've written about this a bunch, and now you're talking about it, you're getting all kind of choked up about it. What's the deal here?” And..

Brock Briggs  35:31  

Everybody knows that lump in your throat feeling.

Tom Schueman   35:34  

And I would say that, when you add your voice to your story, it's different. And it's powerful. And so yeah, I think it was through writing and kind of speaking my story out loud is really where I started to kind of make some progress and figure things out about my own journey and my own challenges and issues.

Brock Briggs  35:58  

You mentioned something earlier about how the military as an organization hasn't given enough focus towards like invisible wounds. I think that, that would certainly have been my experience, or at least with the people that I encountered while in the service. A lot of people struggling with mental issues and needing to see somebody about something maybe in one of those more urgent situations where literally life is on the line. But there's not the initiative can't be taken for fear of like repercussions. People worried about like maybe losing security clearance, worrying about all of the side effects that come from seeking help for mental issues in the military. Has that been your experience? What do you think about that? And what do you think is the solution to like a big problem like that?

Tom Schueman   36:59  

Yeah, I think, you know, whether it was World War Two vets, or Vietnam vets, or maybe even the 90s or early 2000s, there was the idea of like, you know, just be a man, suck it up. And you can't talk about that. And we don't, and you know, you're a soldier or whatever. And so, I think the pendulum was way, way off in the wrong direction. What I noticed is a massive pendulum swing, though, throughout my time of service, where it started to almost feel like we were being treated like children or like a baby where it was like, I came back for my second deployment. And I was just one person on an advisor tour. And so when I redeployed back to the States, I flew back with a headquarters element from like, it's called the Meth, which is like the highest level of like, think of a division, like brigade division. 

The Meth is like, I was back with the Meth headquarters, and I was in there like, one week transition course back into America. And the chaplain was like, “Hey, you all have been damaged, you all have been hurt.” And it was kind of almost prescribing that we were messed up. And I was like, “I mean, the majority of the people on this team had WiFi and ice cream. And, you know, like, in a coffee shop.” I don't know, like they've been seriously damaged from the deployment. Not to say that being deployed wasn't hard. Of course, it's hard. You're not with your family, you're not with your friends. I don't think me, the grunt, is the only person who has a challenging deployment. It's not to say that those people didn't have real challenges while they're deployed and had to make real sacrifices. It's just to say, like, “Let's not prescribe them, PTSD. Let's not prescribe them, like they're damaged.” 

And it was this conversation. I was listening to these, I was a captain. I listened to these two tenants from the headquarters team. And the guy is like, “Yeah, man. I went to the barber shop the other day, and it was packed. And it was like the deli line, you had to take a number, you know, and you had ticket before you get called up.” And he's like, “Someone whose ticket was after me went and sat in my chair, when I was supposed to be the next one up, and I almost lost it. And I almost snapped, dude. I just think I'm having a hard day.” I'm like, “Could it be that that would have pissed you off, no matter what the contexts or circumstances are, had you not deploy. 

You know, so the idea that you're pissed that this person cut you off, it's like, no, that's just an inconsiderate hassle and you're pissed off about it. It's not combat related, you know. So I think we are very sensitive to it and now sometimes overly sensitive to it. Whereas when I was a company commander, 180 Marines, I was company commander. If someone said, Oh, we're going on a 15 mile hike tomorrow. I suck at hiking, and I know my sergeant is gonna crush my soul because I'm gonna follow the hike.” They could just say, “Excuse me, I'm sad.” 

And then I was like, “Oh, cease fire, cease fire this guy’s sad. Like, send them out, can't talk, can't touch and can't talk to him.” And it's like, well, surely, that's not the answer either. And so, you know, what can we do better? It's, we don't wanna coddle, right? We don't wanna coddle and I feel like now there's a lot of coddling. So we don't wanna coddle and we also don't wanna say, “Hey, just suck it up. Don't be a bitch,” you know. Like, and so there's probably somewhere in the middle, where it's like, “Hey, if you're having a real issue, there's no drama, there's no stigma, go, go get,” just like, again, if I came into my command, and I had a compound fracture, my bone was sticking through my arm, you know. They wouldn't say, “You're being a bitch about this.” You know, they would just say like, “Hey, dude, your bone is sticking out of your arm, you gotta go to the doctor, you know.” And so like..

Tim McCarthy  41:05  

Change your socks and take some Motrin.

Brock Briggs

You're a Marine, rub some dirt on. You’ll be fine.

Tom Schueman  41:10  

And so we just had to have that same kind of acceptance that, “Hey, like, yeah, you've got this injury. Go get a treatment.” And so in terms of people being worried that they might lose a clearance, etc, I can understand that. I think we're in a weird place where we're trying to be better. But the ways that we're trying to be better aren't always more helpful. And I don't know the exact solution for it, you know, in the military context, besides just treating it like any other kind of injury, and allowing people the time and space that they need to heal and recover from.

Brock Briggs  41:52  

So you mentioned that, like, maybe that was just a fictitious example that you gave, but as somebody being in charge of lots of Marines going into, like, you know, on deployment, or even at home exercises and whatnot, is that something that you experienced people, a deliberate use, deliberate misuse of that to get out of things?

Tom Schueman  42:19  

Yeah, so I mean, you used to have to get out, you used to have to smoke weed, you know. If you wanted to get out, you had to pop hot on your piss test, you know. But then now you're gonna get a dishonorable discharge or whatever. Now, it's like, I've made a mistake. I played Call of Duty, and I thought this was gonna be like Call of Duty, and you just kind of, it was just cool. And you got to carry a gun and post pictures on Instagram. And it's like, no, actually, you had to go through these really shitty hard things. And, there are people that take this really seriously because they understand it’s a life or death profession. And I was just trying to have this kind of cool, whatever. 

And so yeah, I think you will definitely find some malingerers, who will exploit the system as it currently is set up. And it's not, I'm not saying that it's like an epidemic. I'm not saying that it's the norm. But I do think that I was also at the School of infantry. And you get all these people in their entry level training. And, they and I found that they also were using this kind of as an out. They say, “Hey, I have PTSD from my drill instructor, from when he yelled at me.” And I'm like, “Oh, do really like, okay, but so, you know, I'm not the clinical psychologist. I'm not gonna get into it right.” But I know that it's caused me some issues as a commander with this over, I think over sensitivity.

And so, again, we've just gotta find the right balance of acknowledging that some people are going through stuff and not attaching any stigma to that and allowing them to get the help, and allowing them to get the help that they need without starting to coddle folks.

Brock Briggs  44:15  

One last question on that and then we can kind of move on. Have you ever like been in the hot seat as a leader for something like that or seen repercussions? I don't know if you can talk about that. But had something come back on you for somebody, maybe deliberately misusing that?

Tom Schueman  44:39  

Not deliberately misusing the mental health thing but I've been probably the most investigated company commander you ever meet. And I am relentless about my preparation for combat, and I'm pretty ruthless. And I think I am colored by my experiences. I had 19 casualties in my platoon of 35, you know. I know that there's no do overs in combat. You don't respond. You know, when you're dead, you're dead forever. And when you lose a limb, you've lost your limb. And so I find that it's my duty and my obligation to prepare my Marines and sailors to fight and win to bring as many of them home as possible and in a very unforgiving environment. 

And so, I'm psychotic about that. I understand that I am belt fed, and very aggressive. And so I don't have a lot of tolerance for weakness. And this is the wrong line of work. If you don't bring your weak shit around here now, I don't view asking for help because you're going through something mentally as weakness. I view that, that's a strength, that if you're able to be vulnerable, like that, and address your need to try to get yourself back and fit for full duty, because you want to be in the fight, you want to have your head in the right place. Like I view that as a strength. 

But I definitely had a couple times where Marines attempted to malinger in one way or the other, not through mental health. Again, the mental health stuff, it's just like, hands off, you can't touch it, you can't mess with it. It's like, go to the wizard, get the help. Maybe you're splitting a system, maybe you're not, but I know that I'm not going to fuck with that. But a couple of times where maybe I felt like a Marine was trying to be a little bit soft. Whether that was on a hike, or I have a couple of stories that led to investigations, that where I felt like somebody was trying to be a little bit soft, and I didn't have any time for that shit. And I got a little bit trouble.

Brock Briggs  46:58  

I don't know how, again, I don't know how much you can share or want to share about like, what is getting in trouble look like that? I don't know what rank you held at the time, but what does that look like?

Tom Schueman  47:11  

Yeah, so I mean, there's two instances. They're not the only two times that I gotta investigated. It's coming sooner, but to that, so you know, call it a command investigation. And it's stressful. When an investigation happens, people start poking around all your shit, you know. They're looking under every rock. They're reading through your emails or checking the logbooks. And it's never, I always felt that I had the moral high ground. And whatever I was doing, I always felt that whatever I did, whatever decisions I was making, were for the betterment of the organization as a whole. And so I always believed I had pure intentions. 

And so I wasn't necessarily afraid that someone would find anything out. But it's still an uncomfortable place to be when you have an investigating officer looking in and do an interview with all, you got 150 Marines. They're doing an interview with all these Marines and someone's having a bad day and if it's up at you, it's like, “What did they say,” you know, and so it's an uncomfortable situation. And I had a Marine who was UA. He was in like, have Sooners, too drunk and he missed rifle range. And the next day, he..

Brock Briggs  48:24  

Where were you stationed at the time? How far away is, is that a long waist?

Tom Schueman  48:29  

29 Palms, it's a couple hours outside of 29 Palms. So..

Brock Briggs  48:34  

We're not like five states away or anything?

Tom Schueman  48:37  

No, but it was just Monday morning. He's supposed to go to the range. And he didn't make it back from a certain time. The next day, the squad went on a run. I had this one great sergeant, Sergeant Smith. And the Marines still hung over and fallen on the run. So he's kicking his ass to the front and keep saying, “Go to the front,” and not nice language, right? And then they go to the gym. And so now they're at the gym at 7am where everybody in the regiment is at the gym. You know, it's not like this didn't happen behind closed doors at 2am with a gas mask and you know any of that type of bullshit. It's at the gym, and this hungover individual can't do a squat, you know. So he says, “Okay, hold this medicine ball. And maybe that'll help you get deep in your squat because you're half-assing your squats, you know.” 

And so, the next day, I had a Marine, not that Marine but one of his buddies saying that he wanted to request mast because he felt like he’s been hazed. And I said, “Okay, like, of course, if you want to request mast, you're afforded the opportunity to request mast. If you're making a hazing allegation, you don't have to request mast and make a hazing allegation. You could just make the hazing allegation and we'll investigate it. But let's talk about hazing and what happened. And then so we talked about it and at the end of it, I said, you know, here's what hazing, here's the definition of hazing. Do you still think that, that Marine was hazed? And the Marine said, “no.” And I said, “Okay, and do you think you do still intend or desire to request mast?” No. Okay. 

So I had this first sergeant who was a PFC lover, right? He loved the PFCs. He emasculated my NCOs at every corner. And I was talking to him, “Hey first sergeant, the Marines need to understand what hazing is, you know. I had this Marine in here and making a hazing allegation. He just didn't know what hazing is. I want you to talk to the company about what hazing is.” And he's like, “Oh, sir, well, if you have any hazing allegations, you got to report that to hire.” I'm like, “I don't have the hazing allegation because he left my office and said, he doesn't have any allegation in hazing.” It's like, well, he came in the office with the hazing allegations of the hazing, and I'm like, “It's over. It's done. We're not bringing this up.” 

Either way, couple days later, he told the command behind my back that I was trying to bury a hazing allegation. So that was uncomfortable. So and then investigation happened. I got a non punitive letter of caution. In Australia, I had a Marine get poked in the eye from a radio antenna. He was walking around in the dark and got poked in the eye by the antenna. And this wasn't a great Marine to begin with. And he said, I sent him to the doctor. He said, I can't see you. So I sent him to the corpsman. The corpsman sent him to the medical officer. He was evaluated by the medical officer. The medical officer said you got poked in the eye, you're clear to train came back to me. And we're doing a like a 40k, because in Australia, it was absolutely psychotic, how much we walked. And we were doing a 40k and it's like, “I can't hike. I got poked in the eye.” Was like, “How are your feet? And are your feet okay?” And I'm like, “Okay, and you're walking.” 

And so I made this Marine hike. When we got out of the field, he said, “You know, I still can't see.” Okay, so I've sent him to the center, ophthalmologist and ophthalmologist just said, “You got poked in the eye.” And so then we came back, I said, “Okay, you're going back to train.” And so ultimately, additionally, he did request mast. It said that, you know, he's gonna be blind, because I am insensitive and I keep making him train. And one investigating officer came out and like quickly did the investigation said,”Yeah, there's nothing here.” Well, the Marine requested mast again, and so the investigation was a sham. 

And so then I had this guy who was a Reservist, he was a major, and he was a detective. Like, in his civilian job, he was a detective. And so he brings me to the PMO, like, jail. And like, sits me in the room next to the prison and like, hits the tape recorder. And it's like, cross examining me and I'm like, “You know, and he's doing that with my sergeants and all,” and so it was really uncomfortable. You know, gotta got cleared it was whatever. But yeah, so well, I never had any issues regarding mental health. I did definitely have some other issues that were not pleasant.

Brock Briggs   53:23  

That really sounds like they can hold your feet to the fire real quick. And I think in a lot of ways there does need to be. There's gotta be checks and balances. I mean, that you can't just have people making allegations all the time for no reason. But at the same time, like the military does have a strong history of hazing like that. That's something that has happened and exists. So I don't know what the answer is. That is a problem for somebody much smarter than I am, that's for sure.

Tim McCarthy  53:57  

I wanna switch up to the kind of transition into PB Abbate. And kind of that whole thing, so can you give us kind of the down and dirty about that? How that started, what that is?

Tom Schueman  54:11  

Sure. So in April 2020, one of my Marines, Corporal Justin McLeod, snuck there. I don't think it was quite suicide, but I think he overdosed. And McCloud had enlisted out of high school. He had a D1 college baseball scholarship, but he wanted to go, fly first country. And so he went to Iraq, then did a MEU deployment. And then I came in to be a student commander in 2009. 

And right before we deployed, he had a kid, Desmond, and he said, “Hey, I was gonna extend for the deployment, but now I think I'm gonna EAS.” And I said, “Okay, well, you're my best shot at the platoon. You're our Llandaff guy. You're one of my best team leaders, maybe, you know, do what's best for your family. But maybe you talk to your wife again about it.” And he goes back and he talks to his wife and comes back and says, “You know, sir, you're my family too. I'm gonna extend.”

Well, two months later, McLeod is blown up by an IED. Among the patrol I come up, one of my Marines hands on McLeod's fingers. Put those in my cargo pocket, it was a very weird situation. And then once I got the security perimeter set, once I got the, medivac called in, I start I would always take when we have an amputee, got you know, five or six people usually trying to treat the amputee and so, I took one of the I would always take one of the junior Marines off and say, “Hey, go call security, let me get my hands and knees guts. And so as I'm packing up, and basically packing meat, you know, you're holding meat to the bone while someone wraps around your hands. 

And so initially, when McLeod was hit, he was saying, like, “I wanna say fuck you to the Taliban,” but as throughout while we're waiting for the medivac, it took a little while, you could see that he was starting to weaken. And I had one of the hardest conversations I've ever had, in that I feel responsible that this Marine extended and I know he's got a baby boy, a home and I'm saying, “Hey, you gotta stay with us. You gotta stay you. You're gonna play baseball with your son someday, you know. You’re gonna coach his little league team.” And I'm saying this to a guy who's a triple amputee, knowing that his baseball career is probably done, and he probably won't be doing these things. But, I'm trying to help him find a will to live again. And he did, he grabbed hold that will to live, stayed in the fight. 

But he was still fighting that fight for the next 10 years. You know, he was in and out of surgeries constantly on heavy medications. And so I lost McCloud. And that was really tough. Because the time I had my own baby daughter, and like I said, when you're in combat, you're in the yellow, we're in combat, I know that people are gonna try to hurt me today. And I'm prepared for that. But when I put my daughter to bed, and I came back and I had a message from one of my Marines, and said, “Hey, sir, can you give me a call,” and it's like 10 o'clock on a Friday. That I'm not I mean, I'm not in a, I'm in a vulnerable spot. 

And getting that ambush was pretty tough. And within a couple of weeks, I had two more Marines kill themselves. And I just said, you know, from when I was a company commander. And so I said, what is going on here? It wasn't the first time I had somebody killed themselves. But so I started to read through all the VA reports. And I said, what's the problem? And what I found through these VA reports, is that the leading proximate causes of veterans suicide or feelings of disconnectedness and isolation, and also found that 80% of veteran suicides are non combat, and that there is no correlation between combat and suicide. 

And so I said, “Okay, so if we know that people who are feeling disconnected and isolated, who are killing themselves, what resources are out there that are putting people in community that are getting people connected. And not just combat veterans, but everybody who served and it made a lot of sense to me that everybody who served needs that space. Because let's say you're on a C130, or let's say, you're on a helicopter crew. You know, let's say you're on a submarine, let's say you're on a ship, or you're in the engine room. And all those places, you're in close community, closely connected to a fire team, or a squad, where each of you is depending on each other for something that you really believe is important. Like, keeping a destroyer moving in the Pacific Ocean, if you're in the engine room on a Navy ship, like, that's important, you know. Keeping that aircraft in the air, if you're a maintainer, like that's important, and there's life or death consequences with that and everybody in your team. If it came to World War 3, everybody in that team would die for the person, for left and right. You know, that's an incommunicable experience where everybody signed a check in the military. 

And so the idea that only the grunt, or only the Special Forces have that need to community I thought, you know, that's not what the data suggests. And when you think about it like that, it would make sense that kind of anybody might have struggled with that. When they start to miss that as they transition. So I started to look, I was hoping to find an organization that was inclusive, to everybody that would put everybody in community. Okay, so if the reason they're killing themselves is because they feel isolated and disconnected. Hopefully there's an organization that says, “Hey, if you served, you can join our community.” And what I found is that 99% of the resources out there were dedicated to 1% of the community and that community was your combat veterans, your special forces in your combat wounded. That was really encouraging to me that our nation has rallied around the people who have sacrificed the most, that was encouraging. I'm grateful that we live in a country that so many people have committed to helping the people who've sacrificed the most. 

But I said, why does it seem like that's where we started and isn't there enough space out there? Can't we find some room to be a little bit more welcoming, and inclusive to kind of everybody who's raised their right hand? And so I said, you know, I don't see it. I did all my research. I don't see an organization or community out there, that's gonna welcome everybody. And so I said, “Well, I'm gonna go get a space, a physical space. I wanted it to be a physical space, where anybody who served, anybody who's raised their right hand, can come out to and get that connection and find that community.” 

And so I got the 350 acre ranch out in Montana, that falls about an hour and 45 minutes outside of Missoula. And, we call them Patrol Base Abbate. And the idea is, a patrol base, again, like I talked about, is a place that you can rest and refit. A patrol base is a place that you can take off your gear, be vulnerable around the campfire and make those kinds of connections. And the idea is that you rest, refit, and you get that tribe. So that you can get back outside the wire, you know. Patrol base is a temporary, it's a temporary, it's not. You don't stay there, you gotta get back out on the patrol life. You gotta get back in your communities, into your families and continue to serve. You know, we're men and women of service. And so you need a tribe, you need a purpose. And so the purpose is continuing to live a life of service and sacrifice. And so I named it after my sniper, Sergeant Matthew Abbate, who was killed on December 2nd, maybe across incipient. He's the greatest warrior I've ever met. And I wanted to continue to keep his legacy alive.

And I found that no one, I couldn't think of anyone more than I would want to kind of keep telling, sharing that story. And so the idea is that, you're gonna come out, and it's not my patrol base, right? It's your patrol base. It's anybody who served patrol base. So there's physical dirt, there's an actual place, that every veteran, every active duty, every Reservist, every national guard can say, “I have a space where there's dirt, and it's real. And I belong and I'm welcome there.” And no additional qualifiers. 

And so the idea is, I kept finding, is that all the services that were out there, said, “You gotta check this box. You gotta check,. You gotta be disabled enough. You gotta have a disorder. You gotta have just tried to commit suicide. You gotta have just, you know, had an overdose. You gotta be the guy who killed Osama bin Laden, you know, and so I wanted to say, “Hey, what if we create a place where that instead of being intentionally exclusive, and kind of let's create a space that, instead of a place that says you don't rate. You don't rate my services, you don't rate to be. So what if we create a place that said, hey, you raised your right hand, come on, in.” 

And, you know, as a guy who can check a lot of those boxes, I don't wanna be narrowly defined by my wounds, by a disorder, by one of my disabilities. I don't want to. I wanna say, hey, Tom and I recognize the value of connection and community, period, you know. And I thought, like, let's get left the bank, all these resources exist for people who have already transitioned, who are in a moment of crisis. What if we take a pre-emptive or proactive approach and say, “Hey, you're on active duty, whether you transition next year, or in 20 years, at some point, there's gonna be this identity crisis.” And so all the VA data suggests that in the first year transition, identity crisis happens. And that's when the most kind of stress happens in that first year transition. 

And so what if we were able to get you in community and get you connected before that a little prehab? You know, and so, that way, when you go through that identity crisis, you can say, “Oh, someone has my plane.” You know, “I've got someone watching my six. I'm in this fire team, right?” And so and then come out to our patrol base. We're gonna do whatever you're into, you know. Last year, we did a hunting club retreat. We did a Fight Club for jiu-jitsu and MMA. We did a strain club for people who are into lifting weights. We did a book club, and we did a music club. 

And we're gonna continue to expand that. So come do the thing that you're already into. So you've got a common interest there. 

And then you've got a common narrative of other veterans. So we all speak veteran, you know, so it's these people that you can trust. It's the people who are into the thing that you do. Come do our programming, get around the fireside, get connected. You're gonna do some work at the patrol base, because we want you to work at the patrol base, because this isn't a retreat, like you're going to Cancun where you put cucumbers on your eyes, and you just drink Pina Colada. This is we're gonna put you back on a work party, and be sweating again. 

And so you know, the idea is you improve the position while improving yourself, you know, lead the patrol base better than you found it. You're gonna lead yourself better than you found it. And then get back and continue to be a man or woman of service. And so then we have 43 local chapters right now. So we've got Patrol Base Abbate, Boston, New York, Chicago, Carolina, Southern California, Utah, you know, and so the idea is that you can sustain that community. There's an enduring community where you're actually physically located. And those local chapters are predicated on, there's a social component. So sometimes you go for a hike with your local chapter. Sometimes you go watch the UFC fight with your local chapter at Buffalo Wild Wings. 

But then, you know, once a quarter, let's go out and do a service project in our community. And to me, I'm a big narrative guy. I'm an English person, right? And so I think about narrative and I thought, this narrative around veterans who are entitled, damaged, broken, victims, special, this is not the narrative. I'm not satisfied with the way that the media, or society or culture is kind of discussing what it means to be a veteran. Too often, that is a veteran, people think of veteran, and they think unstable, like a ticking time bomb, guy with a cardboard sign who is asking for change on the side of the road. Like that's not the veterans I know. So let's challenge that narrative and let's elevate it. And let's be men and women who continue to serve and address the greatest needs in our community. 

So whether you're going to the soup kitchen, or the women's shelter, or you're going to pick up trash on the beach, outside of Camp Pendleton, like, let's demonstrate that we're not victims. We're warriors. And we're going to continue and where people have continued service. And so go serve in your home, go serve in your community, and walk point, find a place to walk point again. And so that's what we provide with our local chapters. And that's that kind of continued purpose. And so we've equipped you with the fire team has equipped you with a tribe and community. And so now we're gonna continue to find ways to feel purposeful. 

And so, you know, you're a podcast that talks about transition. And I think, too often there's a failure to adapt. There's, you know, entry level training. You can rate a discharge, for failure to adapt, meaning you weren't able to socially adapt to a military environment. Well, what do we do? We indoctrinate you. We inculcate this kind of teamwork, selfless mentality. And then there's a failure to adapt that occurs when you transition out of the service. And so why is there that failure to adapt, and one, it's because you are holding too tightly to that. Your whole identity has become who you were as a Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman. So that's we kind of addressed that I think, at the beginning of the podcast, but also I think of like the hero's journey. 

So Joseph Campbell, kind of talked, he wrote extensively on this concept of the hero's journey, and that means that in your life, there'll be a call to action. And then you answer that call to action. And then you gotta go. You gotta leave where you're at. You gotta leave your home. You gotta go slay a dragon. You gotta conquer your challenges. And then there's homecoming. 

And so the hero has a call to action, they slay the dragon, and then they come home. And so, you know, where does this archetype start? It starts in The Iliad, and the Odyssey, you know. It starts with Homer, and he kind of tells us this first story of the hero's journey. But you can look at whether you look at, you can look at the Bible, where there's consistent hero's journey throughout the Bible. You can look at Star Wars where Luke gets the call to action. You can look anywhere in popular culture to find examples of the hero's journey. 

And so what we're finding is that it's so, the homecoming part is so problematic for the veterans community and why is that? It's because when they return home, they forget what made that service so many meaningful, and that's that they found something to feel sacrificial. They found something that's continued to serve. And so you lose yourself in service to others. And so you just have to find that thing. And so for a lot of people, that thing is now PB Abbate, but you gotta find that thing that calls you back to serve. And so you can work, whatever your job is, and maybe your job is an accountant. And maybe it doesn't. It isn't like that rewarding in that you're feeling like you're serving. 

But there are so many opportunities in life. There's so much need out there in the world, that there's a way for you to find that call to action, again, to continue to serve. And so you've gotta get outside yourself. You gotta get back into what felt so meaningful, so rewarding. It's not gonna be the same, you know. When you're keeping aircraft in the air for a destroyer running like, “Okay, I understand that it's not exactly congruent.” So you have to maybe adjust a little bit there. But the idea is just to get back into service and sacrifice because you are a man or woman of service. 

You continue your hero's journey. It's not, the hero's journey isn't just a linear thing, where it's like, I went to boot camp. I served. I came home. And it's like, no, it starts right back again, you know, so find that next thing where you're called, where you're served. And that needs to be a loop, it needs to keep happening. And that will keep you fulfilled or sustained. And so much of, I think what we find the disillusionment or the kind of mental health issues is that we've forgotten that we're men or women or service, and that's what's absent in our life. And that's what we're struggling with.

Brock Briggs  1:11:46  

That's quite a powerful mission that you're serving. So many important points there. When did you start PB Abbate? And how many retreats have you had? How many people do you have involved with that?

Tom Schueman  1:12:03  

Yeah, so we launched just over a year ago. And then April 2021, we had our first retreat out there at Thompson Falls, Montana. And it's important to know that our retreats are free of cost. And so we're gonna fly you out. We're gonna pick you up. We're gonna feed you. It's all with the idea of accessibility. Because if, let's say, “Okay, I would go to your retreat, but I just can't afford it.” Or “I would go to your retreat, but you're not doing the thing that I'm into.” And that's why we offer a different variety of retreats, because we wanna make it so that everybody feels like they have access and that there's a seat at our table for them. 

And when I, one of the biggest challenges that I've been fighting is that so many veterans are, believe this lie, and that their service doesn't matter because they didn't go to combat or they didn't do this thing, or they. And so I think social media has really distorted and polluted the way that we think about service because you know, one of the most popular social media accounts, they are all special forces type things that are guys carrying scars, scars with suppressors, and have four night vision goggles, and they're jumping. It's like, so we've kind of constructed this false binary, that service means you're a Navy Seal, like that's not what service means. Service means that like, you answered a call and you gave something to something greater than yourself, you know. And so that, to me, is service. 

So we, I've seen a redefining of what it means to serve and people are buying into this myth of what service means. And so what will people would tell me is like, “I'm just a,” or “I was just a.” I'm combating this idea of just, and it's like, you weren't just a Motor T Marine or soldier, you know. You weren't just a maintainer on an aircraft. You weren't just a supply clerk like, that shouldn't matter. You know, you raised your right hand. You signed a check, and you went and served the country. You're not special. You're not entitled to anything. But service matters. And so get rid of this idea of I was just and just and come, and we've gotta try and we want you just how you are. You're welcome. Come on in. 

And so yeah, we ran a five retreats in Thompson Falls. We ran a retreat with a partner organization out in Boulder, in December. So I think, six big events that we ran. But you know, again, we wanna meet people where they're at. So let's say your thing is surfing. Well, there's not a whole lot of surfing in Thompson Falls, Montana. But we do have a chapter in Southern California. And so what we did is we brought a bunch of folks out to serve out in Southern California, you know. Our gun club is gonna meet in October out at a range in Arizona because an organization is offering, allowing us to use a range. So we’re gonna keep finding ways to support your interests, where you're at, and find a way to get you connected. Because that's it's all about finding ways to get veterans connected and back into the community. And so this year, I think, we'll run probably 10, 11 retreats or events. 

And every weekend, like this weekend, PB Abbate North Carolina met at Buffalo Wild Wings. They went to watch UFC fight. PB Abbate Salt Lake City met last weekend, and they all went on a hike and did some archery stuff, you know. So every weekend around the country, our local chapters are active and doing stuff. And then we're gonna continue to kind of run our big programming out of our headquarters in Montana, and then find other ways to support folks. So let's say you're into golf, you know, we might not bring you to the mountain to golf, but I'll find a way to support the PB Abbate golf community, and we'll get you somewhere to do the thing that you're into with the people that you care about. And so long as that we find that connection, those communities for me.

Tim McCarthy 1:16:07  

That is, that's such a cool, that's so freakin’ cool. How many, I need to look into that, because that's freakin’ awesome. When you first were starting it, was this just your idea? I mean, how many people were involved in starting it and kind of like getting it up? Because it sounds like it's gone from 0 to 100, really, really quick. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Tom Schueman  1:16:37  

Yeah, it's grown and scaled. I mean, we're the fastest growing veteran service organization in the country. And why is that? Because there's a demand for try, you know. People, it is not, you know, when you look at people's needs, not what people desire, what people need. People need to feel a community in a tribe. And I would say that that's universal to just human beings. And I would say it's intensified by humans who serve. 

So once you've been in this bond, in a squat, or on a team, with a bunch of with this incommunicable experience where everyone's here, left or right, so I would die for you. I think that desire for connection. Look, you've had such a pure and strong connection. I think it's just intensified. So, of course, people who are out of uniform are missing that thing. And so, yes, there's been a significant demand. And because we're inclusive, and there's 20 million veterans out there, and we say, “Hey, you're all welcome. You know, you're on active duty. You're welcome. Your National Guard, you're welcome. Reservists, you're welcome. And we're gonna do the thing that you're into.” 

And so it's like, not only are you're welcome, but it's not like the Tom Schueman Club, where I like to read and walk around in nature. You know, those are two things that like are my two hobbies. I didn't make an organization where that's the only two things we do. I say, if we're not doing the thing that you're into, if you're into frisbee or hacky sack, I don't care. Like, lead it. Lead the hacky sack club, lead the Frisbee club, and we'll find a way to bring you out to Montana to do the thing that you're into, you know. Walk point, build a sandbag, that's a challenge. Like, it's our patrol base. It's not my patrol base. And so, what was the other part of the question? Oh, yeah. Was it just my idea? So..

Tim McCarthy  1:18:17  

Like, how many people were involved in like launching it?

Tom Schueman  1:18:21  

Yeah. So I mean, initially, it was a challenge to myself, are you a leader? And you see a gap, you see a problem. You're gonna pass it off to somebody else. And again, my hope was that there was an organization that was inclusive, that didn't feel accessible to everybody. And I would just say, “Hey, how can I fill sandbag within your organization?” What I found is that no, all these organizations were saying you don't rank, you're not special enough. And so I said, “Well, if you're a leader, lead. You've defined the problem, right?” So I started by trying to define the problem. And then I thought, “Okay, what's the solution?” 

And then I thought, well I’ll do it with PB Abbate. Here's a challenge. I don't know anything about nonprofits. I don't know anything about starting a business. I don't know, you know, I'm a grunt. I don't know, I know how to lead and kind of attack objectives, complex missions that are challenging. But I don't know anything about starting a business. But I do know something. And that is, that the reason I've been successful in my career, the reason I've been able to attack objectives in these missions and be successful in that, is that I know how to build a team. 

And I know the value of a team. I know the value of attacking something as a squad, or as a platoon or as a company and that when you and the amount of strength that comes in an attacking a problem as a collective. And so the first person I called was my squad leader, Sergeant Dray Humphrey, who he and I were wounded together on November 9th. He lost his leg. And had some nonprofit experience. And he's just the guy who I knew that can accomplish any mission. 

And so I said, “Well, if I'm gonna start this ambitious mission, I'm gonna go to the guy who I know who's accomplished every mission I've ever given him, and who has some expertise, and then I called a gold star.” Also on November 9th, Robert Kelly was killed in action 2010. And his sister, Kate Kelly, Now Kate Fox, she had worked in nonprofit space for a long time. And so I called her just for her nonprofit experience and expertise. And so those were the first two phone calls I made. And I pitched my idea and got them on board, to kind of support the mission. 

And then I, for hundreds of hours, hundreds of hours. By the way, I'm teaching at the Naval Academy, I gotta shit tons of. For hundreds of hours, I'm calling experts how to start a business, how to run a website, how to do accounting, management for donations, how to, what insurance, I don't know how to do insurance, you know. What are the legal requirements here? And so I'm calling people and just listening and taking note after note, and filling up notebook after notebook. I'm just saying, “Hey, you walk this path. You know how to run a business. You know how to run a nonprofit, you know?” And so, would you be willing to just share your knowledge with me? And so yeah, I made hundreds of phone calls and spent hundreds of hours on the phone, just listening, taking notes and learning about the nonprofit space and how to run a business. 

That was extremely labor intensive. But every time I gotta give you a pitch, you know, every time I gotta get you hooked as to why you should care or support or offer me your advice. And the thing about Patrol Base Abbate that makes that a little bit more nuanced or challenging is that if I called you, I said, “Hey, we're the disabled veterans charity. Hey, we're the charity for paralyzed veterans. Hey, we're the charity for the Navy SEALs.” It's like, oh, well, naturally, you're gonna feel inclined to like, I wanna give you $5 or I wanna give you my time, because it's so easy to see that. You know, I talked to the guy who who runs the organization stopped soldier suicide. What a great organization, what a great mission to stop soldier suicide. 

But when he makes a phone call to someone, and his organization is titled Stop Soldier Suicide, people are like, automatically like, “Okay, yep. Like I can see.” And so when I'm saying, “Hey, I'm Patrol Base Abbate. I'm trying to get veterans and community and get them connected.” It's like, well, why does that matter? Like what? And so, you know, you and I know, because we're service members, we know why being in a fire team, why having that tribe matters. But not, it's not. People don't necessarily understand the depth of that or why that's so important. And the data suggests that when you are in community, you are less likely to commit suicide. When you feel connected, when you feel like you're doing something purposeful, right? That's why we got the services in this organization, that you're in a better headspace, with your mental health. And so we can pull the string and connect the dots. So this is what we're doing here, but it's gonna take me a minute to explain that to you.

And so I've gotta give this pitch over and over. And that's fine, you know. I'm happy to do it. But it was very labor intensive. Ultimately, we formed an awesome team and all volunteer staff that was just willing to, and my challenge everybody was, “Hey, we're building this patrol base. And we need everybody to fill sandbags. This is an all hands on deck. And so, if you know how to do IT, guess what? You wanna come fill a sandbag and do IT. If you know how to do marketing, I got a sandbag for you to fill, come fill the sandbag. And so it's gonna take everybody filling a sandbag to build this organization, because we're trying to build a patrol base to fit 17 million veterans and everybody that's on active duty,” right? So we need everybody to come kind of fill sandbags. So yeah, we built an awesome team with a bunch of great, great folks. 

And it's, we got civilians on like, I don't know anything about finance. So you know, I called a buddy whom I go to college with who went to Chicago Booth for his MBA, who does Finance. I said, “Hey, he's a civilian, but I pitched him.” I said, “Can you help us manage the money and tell us how to use the money,” and so you know, we got a mix of, it's mostly veterans, but we got definitely welcome civilian expertise or support. 

And you know, and because I will never, because I refuse to go out with my hand out and say, “Hey, I'm this broken, damaged veteran, help us,” you know. I'm never gonna say I'm never gonna use the victim card. I'm never gonna portray us as damaged or needy. Again, it makes it a little bit more challenging that I'm saying, “Hey, we're warriors, we're gonna build this patrol base ourselves. Would you like to come help us build this thing,” you know. And so that's kind of where I started. And that's how we built the team that we have, which is now a very large team of supporters and volunteers.

Brock Briggs  1:25:21  

I think one of the beauties of having to give a pitch like multiple times is, it feels kind of uncomfortable each time at the beginning. Because you're like you feel some type of way. And you're really just trying to, like, get across to the person that you're speaking to, like, you want them to feel it. And the beauty is, by pitching it multiple times, it kind of evolves and it gets better each time, you have a better understanding as you walk down the path of it. 

And I have felt that so much with this podcast at the beginning, I was like, “We're just trying to do this thing. Like we have a podcast, we want you to come on this level.” And then now like after having done it a bajillion times, it's like, “Hey, this is what we're offering. This is what we're trying to do. This is why we think that you would be a good fit to come on and talk and the mission kind of evolves with you,” which I think is cool and powerful and solidifies it.

Tom Schueman  1:26:20  

I’m at, you know, I'm talking to guys who've done startups, guys who know how to do startups. And so they're saying, like, “You gotta have the MVP, minimum viable product.” I think there's really no and so like, what is it that you do? What is your essence? And I'm like, well, we kind of like and so you're saying like that, that kind of them challenging and saying like, well, you're kind of going down a couple different lanes. What is the thing that you do that differentiates, like why? And so, it is so helpful in that. 

And again, I found that by pitching it to people who have pitched people before and so like, here's how you do it, you know. And then and the same thing with like, asking for money, it's like, if we're gonna, this will all gonna be free of cost. Because we don't want any barriers to people being able, we gotta go get some money. And we gotta get you know, we gotta put the acre ranch and it's very uncomfortable for me to ask for help. I had to, and again, this is from somebody who's in the nonprofit space who said, “Look, you're not asking for you. You're asking for the members of your patrol base.” And once you kind of reframe that, like, “Yeah, I'm not getting paid anything. You know, I am asking this, although, I shouldn't say that there isn't any, there's a significant benefit to me leading this effort, because it's so rewarding to build a space for all veterans. So I wouldn't say that, like there's nothing here for me that is super rewarding. Yeah. Alright, sorry, what were you saying?

Brock Briggs  1:27:53  

No, you're fine. That's good stuff. We may kind of touch on this at the end, but where can people go to get involved with that? Whether maybe wanting to participate on a retreat, or maybe meet up at a local chapter, start one, etc, be a part of the retreats or maybe work for you guys, if you guys need help? Where can people go to get involved with that?

Tom Schueman  1:28:21  

Yeah, so we're on all the social media platforms. We're probably most active on Instagram. That's because I have, personally, I have like a large base on Instagram. So I've been able to drive a lot of traffic towards our Instagram web page, our Instagram page. If you go to our YouTube channel, it’s Patrol Base Abbate. You'll find all our retreat videos, which I think are so like, I still don't understand really what they do, you know. Go to YouTube, type PB Abbate, you'll see like, a couple of our retreat videos. And I think it makes sense by the end of that. And then you just go to pbabbate.org. And you can either sign up to volunteer or you can sign up to join. 

And so you know, the idea is that it's like, well, I don't have any money. I don't know how I can support you or I'm not an IT or an accountant. I don't know how to support you. It's like, well, could you share, could you tell somebody about us, to me that's doing a sandbag, you know. Everybody has the ability to kind of contribute to us and fill a sandbag, even if it's just sharing our mission with somebody else. And so, you know, when we're building this patrol base out of this austere location, it's like, I don't care if you're an electrician, a carpenter, there's a need, you know. We'll find a way to, but ultimately, the most important thing for me is that you just join the tribe, and then get plugged into your local chapter. 

And then if there's a retreat that interests you, I hope you come out to Montana too and so we'll post our summer retreat scheduled by the end of this month. So the applications will be open and live by the end of this month for what we're gonna run, what programming we're gonna run this summer. But if you just wanna join, and I hope everybody who's raised their right hand is listening, goes and joins. You just go to pbabbate.org and sign up and your local chapter captain is gonna reach out to you. And if you say, hey, I'm interested in jujitsu or open weights or the strength club captain or the fight club captains, just reach out. Hey, welcome to fight club. And, hey, welcome to the North Carolina chapter, that most people, most folks will contact you.

Brock Briggs  1:30:24  

Where do you see PB Abbate going over the next couple years? You've got a really big mission, and you're tackling a really, really big problem. Where do you think you guys are in five years?

Tom Schueman  1:30:38  

Yeah, I think we're the largest center service organization in the country. You know, we're the VFW. We're the Legion. You know, we're for the modern veteran. Well, of course, any veteran who's ever served so boomers 50, 60, 70 years old, come on out to patrol base, right? You're more than welcome. But I think this will largely appeal to the GY veteran or someone who's serving right now, who are transitioning right now. And so I think, you know, the VFW just think of the name veteran of foreign wars, right? 

So it's like, if you're not a veteran for war, like, do you feel welcome in a place that's built for Veterans of Foreign Wars, you know. And also the VFW, which is a great organization. I've been a member of the VFW, but you also like have to pay dues. And you have to know a little secret card or punch code to get in the back door to the smoky bar, you know, and so the idea is that we become that for the kind of the current generation, or the recent generation who served and so I think we will grow to that. And part of that is our inclusivity. And the fact that everybody can see themselves represented at a patrol base, and everybody feels welcome at our patrol base. I am finding locations around the country who are willing to host. We're gonna call them Warriors’ Nights. 

And so that's like, let's say, you're part of a local chapter in the southwest part of the United States. And you couldn't make it out to the patrol base, off to Montana in the summer. I wanna have one or two Warriors’ Nights, per year, annually, where as a region, you come together, and we're gonna do something, again, outside in nature around the campfire, do some service work, getting in community and that way, your local, it's a lot more accessible to the people that who are around you. 

And so I think we'll start to see some Warriors’ Nights springing up around the country where we do a big event, regionally, Northwest, Pacific Northwest, Southwest mountain region. So I think those are gonna be awesome events where we invite, like, you know, the retreats out in our headquarters are probably about 15 people. I think that's about the right size, it's a squad size element, to really kind of get that connectedness that we're aiming for. By hitting these Warriors’ Nights, we can, you know, have a couple 100 folks out and really having this kind of big event. I think you'll start seeing those springing up. I think we'll continue to grow, the amount of interest based clubs we have, again, in the video gaming, like I don't know what you're into, right? But we'll, we're gonna meet you where you're at. 

And so I think the interspace clubs will continue to grow. And then what we wanna be able to do is continue to offer programming year round, so that we're not just bringing out people during the summer, but that we're running kind of continuous operations. We're gonna bring you out with the thing that you're into. And so I would anticipate that year round a couple times a month, we're gonna be offering retreats out to our patrol base to do the thing that you're already into. And I would anticipate that we're gonna be doing these regional events. And that I think, again, I just think that our manpower, and our numbers are gonna continue to grow as people learn about this organization that says, “Hey, your service matters to us.” 

We don't, you know, there's no ego. When we do our introductions at the retreat, I intentionally say don't tell us what service you’re in and don't talk about what units you've been part of. Just say like, “Hey, I'm Tom, nice to meet everybody.” And then that kind of stuff will come up organically in conversation. But the idea is that we know you served. And this is not, you know, there's plenty of organizations that you gotta go to that say, “Hey, I deployed to this place. I was part of this unit,” you know. That's not what we're trying to go for. We're just trying to say, “Hey, your service matters here.” 

And I think that's gonna resonate with people and so I just anticipate that continue to grow with them and then local chapters who are growing and really what you're gonna see is that you know, where do I wanna see us in five years, every weekend, around the country. You're gonna have members of Patrol Base Abbate, filling sandbags and walking point in their community. 

And so it's gonna redefine and elevate the narrative around veterans, it's like not, we don't think about veterans anymore with some kind of stigma, or some kind of people that are broken or damaged or unstable. Because when I see a veteran, it's this guy or gal out in my town, and they're feeding the homeless, and they're helping other women shelter and they're cleaning up the beach. And like that's so to me, you know, my long term is to elevate the narrative around and reimagine what we think about what it means to be veterans. I think we're gonna leave that effort with Patrol Base Abbate.

Brock Briggs  1:35:42  

I feel like I'm at like a motivational speech here. Like, you're just, that's so fantastic. I like I said that is one of the highest callings, I think the first and foremost, like serving your country, and second is serving those that served our country. That's really fantastic. And what you've been able to accomplish, you and your team, everybody involved in such a short amount of time is really nothing short of remarkable. 

And I think one thing that really sticks out to me that is truly spectacular about you as an individual is, you are so clued into this problem and have your gear so close to the ground that like you aren't even a, you're still in service. And that you're the whole point of everything that you've been talking about is not differentiating in inclusivity. But you're still in and aware of those types of problems that veteran or like post exit service people are talking about. 

And I think that that's really cool. And it points to the fact that you don't just feel it after service either. You can be feeling those types of things and that lack of community while you're in. So I think that, that's really need and really love and support everything that you guys are doing. What do you think are some unserved problems in the military community that maybe you guys at PB Abbate are looking to tackle? Or maybe things that aren't up your lane? What are some big problems that our military members are facing today?

Tom Schueman  1:37:27  

I think career transition. So like that's, I think you guys are filling a need, you know, to kind of specifically talking about different pathways to finding your next career, your next profession. I think, the transition readiness seminars, right? Every service has them, and they're kind of generally considered a joke. And the idea is that when you go to your transition readiness seminar, they'd say, okay, here, put on a tie. And here, we're gonna help you write a resume. You're all set. You're gonna be great. People are gonna love you because you're a veteran, like, that's not the case. 

And so I think, and I think also, those transition readiness seminars would be better served saying, “Hey, you might fail a couple times, when you go out there, trying to figure these things out.” And rather than kind of saying, like, “Okay, now that you know how to get dressed, and wear a collared shirt and know how to do a resume, you're gonna go light the world on fire.” It's like, no, you're probably gonna start down one path. The doors gonna close, then you're gonna so like, knowing that, you're not defeated, that doesn't mean it's over. It's like, “Okay. I thought I was gonna do this thing after I transitioned.” I had all these, you know, you spent the last year bullshitting with your buddies around the smoke pit, kind of talking about what this great idea that you had, you know. It didn't work out that way. That's fine. You know, adapt, and then reattach. You know, it's, you take a tactical pause, you reassess, and then you push again. 

And so I think what we need to do better is to talk about these career transitions or profession type stuff and say, “Hey, if the first or second thing doesn't work out, that doesn't make you a failure. It's just as normal, you know.” And so, the idea is, you keep moving, you know. You only die when you stop moving, you know. That's when you die. You gotta just keep moving, and you'll find the thing that works for you. 

So I think that's probably one of the biggest things that is underserved in the military, you know, but I always kind of debate like, how much does the military owe you in preparation for that career transition? Like, what I owe you is good, hard real training to prepare you for combat, keep you alive. I also owe it to America, in our nation, in your family, to hopefully make you a better citizen, to make you a better man or woman. Hopefully you leave the service better than I found you. And I'm talking about morally, mentally, physically, spiritually, like, just leave a better person. But I don't know, if what I owe you is like to make sure that you start with a six figure job, like, I just don't know if that's in my toolkit or within. 

So, you know, but I think the military is progressing in the right direction, a little bit in that, like, there's all the skill bridge opportunities, all these, you know, and so like, we're seeing an increase in that. And so like me, as a commander, I had to recognize like, “Okay, you're leaving, and trying to be supportive of you do your skill bridge, do your internship,” and, but also, I have to balance that with like, “Hey, you're a sergeant, and you've got a squad. And I still need you to train them, because I'm still, you're still getting paid.” 

And so that's, you know, it's not an easy kind of challenge to kind of work through. And so I would say that's probably one of the most the primary areas where we can continue to kind of get better and at least get, at least through our education, and at least through having a little bit more honest conversations during transition reading readiness seminar, rather than saying, “Hey, here's how your tie overhand Windsor or whatever, you should be great,” you know. 

Brock Briggs  1:41:18  

Yeah, then I have talked at length. And we on several episodes prior to this talked about how, like you said, they don't owe you like a job after the service. You know, you're getting out and they've provided for you during these times. I think that, that transition class that I don't know, maybe we go through the same one, but that week-long thing of kind of reintegration. Here's how to write a resume, here's how these things like, man, I, that might have been like, the most unproductive week of my time in, for sure. You know, and there are a lot that could be improved upon that. So that's interesting, I guess, that you see that and hearing that from your perspective.

Tom Schueman  1:42:05  

And then the last part about that is just letting people know that transitioning is hard. And that you're gonna feel a little funky. You know, so like, normalizing feeling a little bit funky, you know, feeling funky is fine. You know, so if you feel like, hey, because we hand you a piece of paper, and we say you're no longer that person that you've just been for the last four years. And it's like, well, I saw the same haircut. I still like yeah, I feel like, I still really like feel like I'm that person that you just told me I was, the last four years. I feel like I'm a machine gun. 

It's like, well you're not, you got a piece of paper now. It's like, okay. 

Tim McCarthy


Tom Schueman

And so, you know, understanding that there's gonna be some weirdness in that, I think it's worth kind of being upfront about it. And again, it's not to say, “Okay, now you're a victim, or now you need to be pitied.” It's like, just understand, like, “Hey, you're gonna go through a transition. Transitions are weird. Transitions are weird. You're gonna be okay. Happy to try to continue to support you with whatever you need, but just know it's gonna get a little funky. And it's okay to be funky. And it's okay to be okay. And so if you're feeling good, that's good as well,” you know, and so, wherever you're at..

Brock Briggs  1:43:23  

It’s okay to feel good. 

Tom Schueman

Yeah. Yeah. 

Brock Briggs

I kind of wanna wrap up here, Tom. What would you say that your biggest learning is, about the Marine Corps, about working with transitioning veterans, PB Abbate. Whatever it is, what's the big takeaway? What can we and the listeners learn from you specifically?

Tom Schueman  1:43:49  

Yeah, it's the notion of being always faithful. The notion of Semper Fidelis you know, it's more than just a motto. It's a lifestyle. And the thing that has made the biggest impact on me and my service is seeing these two words, Semper Fidelis, always faithful, being lived out to the extreme. And I like to point to Lance Corporal Art Managua. My son's middle name is Artem. He's named after him. And Art Managua was 18 when he got assigned and he's a combat engineer. And he walked point. And he walked point in a minefield. He had a metal detector. The issue is that the IEDs were non metallic. And so he's walking point through a minefield with a metal detector that's supposed to keep him safe when it doesn't pick up or give any signature to these non metallic IEDs. 

And at the time that Lance Corporal Art Managua was killed, we had kilo company three five had one squad of combat engineers 12,11 of the 13. But at the time that he was killed, 11 of the 13 were either amputees or dead. And so Art Managua knew ahead of time, that it wasn't a matter of if, it was simply a matter of when. But never once had this 18 year old kid turned to me and say, “Sir, can someone else do this today? Can someone else walk out? Can someone else take this responsibility for me?” No, and steady, grabbed his rifle, put his pack on, and walked out in front of this formation every day. 

And it's so easy to be faithful, when it's sunny out. It's so easy to be faithful when the conditions are good. It's so easy to be faithful sometimes. What if you just had to be faithful 50% of the time. I can probably easily be faithful 50% of the time. But to be always faithful, to put the Semper Fidelis, to be always faithful. That to me is what's so special about Art Managua and that up until the moment he died, he was faithful to the end. And I owe it to him in the many Marines like him that I've served with, to live with that same ideal and that same kind of conviction. And that's what I'm trying to do as a dad, as a husband, as a Marine leader and with this organization is to try to just live up to the standards that Lance Corporal Art Managua set and to be always faithful.

Brock Briggs  1:46:49  

I can’t think of a better much calling for them than that. Tom, this has been fantastic! You're a hell of a Marine, obviously and a hell of a human being. Thank you so much for your time and coming on today.

Tom Schueman  1:46:59  

Thanks, men!