Battlefield Leadership Comes to the Gridiron

Van Camp with Tebow

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

Former Green Beret and 2012 MBA Jason Van Camp is a big believer that a person’s leadership potential is best illustrated under stress. His company, Mission Essential, provides athletes and corporate professionals with the opportunity to become better leaders by stepping into the shoes of a Special Forces officer.

Through training sessions that replicate real military operations, the Mission Essential team assesses the group’s leadership dynamic. Possible scenarios include negotiating with an enemy, dealing with a hostage situation, and participating in team competitions.

“The intangible quality of leadership is what separates those who are successful from those who are not,” Van Camp says. “When you’re tired and exhausted your true character is revealed. You really find out what a person is made of.”

Van Camp’s journey to Mission Essential began with a friend and comrade in arms, thirty-year-old Nate Boyer, who asked Van Camp to help him prepare to walk on to the University of Texas football team. Van Camp trained with Boyer for a year—getting him ready physically and mentally for the challenge. The training gave Boyer the tenacity he needed to beat out more than one hundred other walk ons.

After playing for the Longhorns during a losing season, Boyer observed the team had talented players but lacked leadership. This got the pair thinking.

“Nobody has more teamwork or leadership skills than Special Forces operators,” Van Camp says. “We decided to provide the same lessons we learned through training and combat—the stuff that made us who we are.”

The company started small, holding a trial run with Orem-based Pinnacle Security. The program was so successful Van Camp decided it was time to take Mission Essential to the big leagues. He started cold-calling NFL teams. The New York Jets was the first to buy into Van Camp’s leadership-building tactics.

Van Camp spent the summer rubbing elbows with Jets’ players and coaching staff. Mission Essential’s business repertoire has grown to include the Minnesota Vikings, the Texas Longhorns, Protection 1, and Johnson & Johnson.

Even though Van Camp works in the private sector, he remains true to his military roots by using his company to benefit veterans and their families. In addition to donating a portion of profits to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Van Camp also works with the Wounded Warrior Project and the Robert R. Pirelli Memorial Fund.

Van Camp currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he enjoys fixing his old Jeep, doing CrossFit, traveling, watching sports, riding horses, and helping friends.

Check out the fall magazine’s class notes for more alumni stories and updates.