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Navy Cross Recipient Transitions from Combat to Coffee

“So, I have military service in my family, with three uncles who served during Vietnam,” Chris Farias said. “But the person who inspired me to join the Marines was actually my high school science teacher. He served during Vietnam and shared his story with me. […] If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have joined.”


Farias signed on the dotted line at age 17. 


“I told my family that I was going to join either way, so I had my parents sign the waiver paperwork,” Farias explained. “They hated it, but they did it, and I went to bootcamp in 2004.”


Farias enlisted as an artillery cannoneer, artillery combat support, and deployed first to Japan to set up for jungle warfare training before a stint in Iraq. 


“For the first year and a half, we were prepping for Iraq, doing convoy escorts, infantry tactics, artillery maneuvers,” Farias said. “Once we were in-country, we did patrols, base security, and counterfire. If anyone shot at the base, we would locate them. We ran convoy escorts and handled house-to-house clearing. We ran a joint operation with the Army trying to find the [improvised explosive device] kingpin in Iraq at the time, and we found him on the second day of the operation.”



Photo courtesy of Chris Farias/Black Rifle Coffee Company.


Following his 2006-2007 deployment, Farias went to Japan in 2008 for an exhibitionary deployment-turned-combat deployment in the Philippines. Post-deployment, he transferred from Twentynine Palms to Camp Pendleton, which led to his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan. 


“Some parts of my deployments still haven’t been declassified,” Farias noted. “All we got told was, ‘Hey, you’re doing artillery,’ and then we got trained up on mortars, convoy escorts […] really, we trained for everything, since we were going to the farthest point in the province. We were set to relieve a British infantry unit, and we were the first US unit to set foot there. That area had a haunting feeling to it and was known as a triangle of death.”


Deployed with India Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Farias’ artillery unit was assigned to protect a hydroelectric dam in a remote area of the province. Farias, an assistant squad leader at the time, was among 22 Marines assigned to the small patrol base. 


On a three-day operation in October 2010, Farias and his squad were attacked while stopped inside an empty housing compound. The squad was hit with two recoilless-rifle blasts and heavy rifle and machine-gun fire that pinned them into a mud-walled building. Seven members of the squad were seriously wounded, four of whom required urgent evacuation, according to Farias’ award citation. Farias himself had been knocked against the wall by the blast, but he managed to climb onto the roof of the building to direct a counterattack despite a broken clavicle, a severe concussion, and shrapnel wounds. 

“I didn’t feel any pain at all. At the time, I had some adrenaline going through me,” Farias recalled in an interview with The San Diego Union Tribune. “We started getting a lot of machine gun fire. The wounded needed to get taken care of, and I was worried about finding out where the enemy was coming from.”

While Farias continued to return fire and distract the enemy, another team of Marines was able to move in, secure the area, and care for the rest of his injured sqad. Once an airstrike had ended the firefight, Farias walked the 2,000 meters back to base to receive treatment for his injuries.


Farias became the 2,183rd Marine to receive the Navy Cross for his actions on Oct. 5, 2010.


His award citation reads: “Despite suffering a concussion and neck and shoulder fragmentation wounds from the 73-mm. blasts, Sergeant Farias exposed himself to the unrelenting barrage of enemy fire, climbing onto the roof of the patrol base to engage the enemy with his rifle and grenade launcher and direct suppressive fire from two machine guns onto the enemy positions. His unhesitating actions allowed a reinforcing Marine squad to maneuver into the ambushed compound, clear the kill zone, and transport the friendly casualties to a landing zone 400 meters away. Refusing to seek treatment for his own wounds, Sergeant Farias steadfastly held his position on the roof providing protection for his fellow Marines until he and the last elements safely evacuated the patrol base.”

 

Image courtesy of Staff Sgt. Philip Grondin/DVIDS

“I had to get away from all of that stuff to help me relax, so I became an artillery-school instructor,” Farias said. “I trained people how to be section chiefs, how to lead a howitzer crew, how to lay the battery [organize the artillery] — I taught everyone and everything, officers and enlisted, for two years.” 


Once his injuries began to catch up to him, Farias went to the Wounded Warrior Battalion for a year before getting out of the military in 2015. He continued to travel overseas for work post-military service as a contractor while he tried to find his next career. 


“About three months after I was laid off from contracting overseas, I happened to be shopping for a Christmas present for my father-in-law and found myself right across the street from the Copperfield outpost,” Farias said. “I just walked in and decided to apply for whatever position they had open, and two days later, I got a phone call.”



Photo courtesy of Chris Farias/Black Rifle Coffee Company.

Farias started as a team member in December 2021 and worked his way up to senior shift lead. 


“I just volunteered for things that people didn’t want to do, and I asked all the questions to learn as much as possible,” Farias said. “I learned in the Marine Corps that you have to know your position and also to learn the responsibilities of the roles around you. So I’m just constantly trying to learn all the things.”


“I’ve always wanted to work with [Black Rifle Coffee Company] or start my own franchise,” Farias continued. “I’ve never been on this side of the workforce before. It’s a whole new world for me, and it blows my mind how everything works.”


Photo courtesy of Chris Farias/Black Rifle Coffee Company.

“After knowing Chris [Farias] for over 10 years, I can say that he is one of the hardest-working people I know,” Vincent Garcia, BRCC shift leader, said. “As a Marine veteran who has served alongside Chris, I’ve been able to see him adapt to various situations that have come his way.”


“From some of the worst times that we experienced in Afghanistan to some of the best times we’ve spent at Marine Corps balls, Chris has always had a positive attitude in every aspect of life,” Garcia said. “I look forward to seeing his growth within BRCC and all the people I know he will have a positive impact on.”


Photo courtesy of Chris Farias/Black Rifle Coffee Company.