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From JSOC to The Compound, This Veteran’s Op Tempo Changed, but His Mission Remains the Same

This feature is part of a series of veteran highlights in conjunction with Black Rifle Coffee's 'Veteran Salute' events at FedEx Field. In partnership with the Washington Football Team, Black Rifle Coffee selects a veteran to highlight at each home game during the season. 
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What do you do with your life after you work on some of the most badass intelligence operations of the last few decades? 


Pow Srikachorn started an MMA gym.

MMA Gym
Photo courtesy of The Compound Silver Spring

Local to the DC area, Pow grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland. One of a handful of minorities, he was often a victim of bullying, which led to a number of unhealthy coping mechanisms and life-threatening choices. Needless to say, service and sacrifice had not always been at the forefront of his mind. 


“My parents are both immigrants,” Pow said. “They were dishwashers and couldn’t afford to send me to martial arts lessons for self-defense. I learned how to fight the hard way — and lost a lot.”


His parents were admittedly Top Gun superfans, and his mom wanted him to join the military and be a fighter pilot, but Pow had no interest in joining. It wasn’t until Sept. 11, 2001, that Pow received a wake-up call. The tragic events of that day motivated him to begin mapping out a new future for himself, and in 2003 he enlisted in the United States Air Force. 

Pow in uniformPhoto courtesy of Pow Srikachorn

Joint Special Operations Command recruited Pow in 2006 for a special operations unit, and after completing selection, he served as part of a team that conducted secretive missions across the world. Most notably, he was involved in the hostage rescue mission that saved Capt. Richard Phillips and in the high-valued individual targeting of the world’s most wanted terrorist, aka Usama Bin Laden. (If you’ve ever seen Zero Dark Thirty, Pow doesn’t have a direct movie counterpart, but Jessica Chastain uses a line or two from his dialogue that night.)


He didn’t sign the manifest that night, was never officially read onto the mission, and didn’t even know what mission he had been working on until they announced Bin Laden’s capture. “I knew nothing,” Pow said and laughed. “I thought we were after Bergdahl ... talk about surreal.” 


Pow separated from the military in 2012 to come home and care for his parents. He was working as a military contractor and completing his bachelor’s in leadership. 


“I didn’t get TAPS or any kind of guidance on my way out of the military, so I had to figure it out myself,” he said. “But while I was contracting, I took a 38% pay cut, then realized that I needed to do something where I’m in control. 


“I turned my passion into a project, just like everyone told me not to,” he continued. “After trying to franchise with another gym didn’t work out, I decided to do it myself.”


For 11 months Pow worked full-time, went to school full-time, and did all the general contracting work on his gym space. In 2019, his mixed martial arts gym in Silver Spring, Maryland, called The Compound officially opened. 

fitness class at the compoundPhoto courtesy of The Compound Silver Spring

“I want the kids in this area to have something that I didn’t have growing up,” he said. “They deserve to have a place to be proud of ... and this gym is the closest thing I have to the military, a place where everyone trusts those around them. The quote ‘the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb’ definitely holds true for this gym.”


Inspired by leaders like Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Pow makes it a point to learn the name of every single patron of the gym. On his first deployment, he said, he encountered McChrystal on the FOB, where the four-star general called Pow by his first name. He discovered that the general made it a point to learn the names and faces of everyone he was deployed with so that he could call them by their first names.

 

Pow has partnered with the VA for judo adaptive classes, hosted a free training event on Memorial Day for veterans, been highlighted by Good Day DC, and featured on a PTSD vs. Jiu-Jitsu documentary by Warriors Next Adventure.

 Warriors Next Adventure Group PhotoPhoto courtesy of Warriors Next Adventure

“We’re super fortunate to be here,” Pow said. “From 126 people pre-pandemic, to losing 62 members during COVID and now being back at 297 members in the last year and a half, this is what I wanted to focus on, people first, business second, mission always.”