Like many veterans in the millennial generation, Adam McCaw was affected by 9/11 as a young person.
“I went to Texas Tech for two years,” McCaw said. “I attended classes, tried to study, but [I] was very much more interested in what was happening in Iraq. I wasn’t as inspired by school as I’d hoped to be, plus I just felt like there was so much more going on outside of college.”
McCaw enlisted in 2005 and was deployed to Iraq 30 days after basic training. After his first deployment, he realized he needed to make a change, so McCaw went to selection. Upon graduating from Q Course (Special Forces Qualification Course), McCaw deployed to Afghanistan, South America, and then back to Afghanistan.
Photo courtesy of Adam McCaw.
“The op tempo and political environment were very intense,” McCaw said. “As you’re coming and going on deployments, you’ll get like two nights in Spain or Germany, so that was always a nice highlight. Then, you know, airplanes break down and flights get rescheduled, so those were breaks that I appreciated and took advantage of.”
When he wasn’t deployed, McCaw was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with 4th Infantry Division; and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, with 7th Special Forces Group.
“I originally discovered the University of Montana because, when I was in 7th Group, I went there to learn Pashto through their language center [the Mansfield Center],” McCaw said. “I loved it so much that, when I got out of the military, I chose to go back there and attend their School of Journalism [J-School].”
Photo by Todd Goodrich/University of Montana.
McCaw spent the next six years living in Montana, attending school (which included contributing to the Native News Honors Project and a Missoula-to-Berlin international reporting project with the J-School), and then working for the Helena Independent Record.
“I was part of a traveling team with a writer, Holly Michaels, and we traveled the state,” McCaw said. “We worked on pieces featuring environmental news, state politics, and Native news, to name a few. It was phenomenal. I was basically living out of a car during all of this coverage.”
“I really wanted to be a combat photographer,” McCaw said. “So in 2017 as ISIS was kind of on the run and being pushed into Syria, I bought a plane ticket, went right over, began freelancing, and stayed there for the next six months.”
After McCaw returned stateside, he realized he needed a more long-term plan. During that time, he enlisted in the National Guard Special Forces in San Antonio, Texas. “I have 10 years left before I can retire, and honestly, I missed it,” McCaw said.
“I connected with an old buddy of mine who started talking about Black Rifle Coffee Company, and I found out that they [BRCC] were hiring,” McCaw said. “Turns out, it was Marty [Skovlund’s] contact info that he gave me, so I emailed Marty right away, and simultaneously, my buddy texted JT [Jarred Taylor]. That really got the ball rolling. Literally 30 minutes later, Evan called me and asked me to text my resume over. I was sent a vetting assignment, knocked that out, and I started pretty quickly after that in September 2018.”
McCaw was offered two positions: one with Coffee or Die Magazine as a writer and one as a producer with the BRCC social media team.
“I knew absolutely nothing about social media,” McCaw said. “So I chose to do that. I wanted to give myself a challenge and subject myself to the pain of the learning process. I don’t know if I would have ever taken the time to learn about anything social media without absolutely having to, and now, I’m so glad that I went that route — its been great. The sky’s the limit in creativity, and it’s all about how you pitch the story. Besides, no one really knows what social media is. It’s kind of just this tornado we’re all riding till it fizzles out.”
The social media team only consisted of four people when McCaw joined, and now, there are more than 20 people working in that department. Even though McCaw chose the social media producer position, he also finds time to work as a contributing writer for both Coffee or Die and Free Range American.
“I love the behind-the-scenes work the most — being able to just be a fly on the wall, hit the outer edges of an event, and capture everything, whether its the Daytona 500 or filming on-site for a new YouTube video. It’s really neat,” McCaw said. “When you flip back through the photos, you get a Rolodex of the event, almost a story within a story. What happens in front of the camera is only 1% of what’s really transpiring. Behind the camera is chaos, cameramen, wires, and dogs everywhere.”
“The similarities between BRCC and the military are noticeable in that you get a task with right and left limits and get told to go forth and do great things, sometimes with no logistics or transportation, but it's exciting and fun to be able to make that happen,” McCaw said. “I love the creative aspect, being able to make news and content relevant to our audience. Everything about this job is fast-paced, and a lot of creativity can be stymied by overanalyzation, so the process is literally the same as throwing a bunch of wet noodles to the wall, and whatever sticks it what you roll with. I don’t think a lot of folks in the company are scared to fail, and I appreciate that.”
Photo by Stephen Medrano/Black Rifle Coffee Company.
“There’s so much about this company that’s inspiring,” McCaw said. “To be honest, when I first interviewed, all I knew was comedic videos. I didn't know a lot, but once I started to meet people and learn what my job was, it became clear that I was able to offer content with value. I had the ability to find ways to make social media carry weight and be entertaining at the same time, which is really excellent. I love to tie journalism and social media together because I have faith that our viewers are savvy and ready to see something other than rapid entertainment, so I enjoy pairing strong photography with more long-form, journalistic pieces; good ingredients coming together to create an outcome that’s both informative and entertaining.”
Photo by Stephen Medrano/Black Rifle Coffee Company.
To see Adam’s work on social, check out @blackriflecoffee and click on the respective links to read his contributions for Coffee or Die and Free Range American. To hear Adam McCaw’s entry in the Veterans History Project, head here.