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Inspiring Conversations with Jim Cragg of Special Operations Technologies

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jim Cragg.

Jim, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Today, I wear many hats. As my passion, I am a voice in the Veteran community as the Commander of one of the American Legion’s most influential Posts – the Ronald Reagan Palisades Post 283, and the director of non-profit Green Vets LA / Vets Corps USA. As my day job, I am the CEO of a company producing medical, rescue and tactical equipment called S.O. Tech / Special Operations Technologies Inc. which is going into its 25th year. I founded the company in my garage in 1997 and provided hundreds of jobs in Los Angeles sewing American made products. Fulfilling my commitment to serve our Nation, I am an Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel in charge of a unit in the 1st Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Where all of these roles come together, I am forging an effort to develop the human talent of the American Legion to harness our Veteran traits of leadership, organization, and dynamic engagement to connect with and serve our community. Traditionally, Veterans have returned from war to self-segregation from society to the bars and pool halls of Legion and VFW Posts. At RR Post 283 we are using our skills as medics to teach community first aid. As radio operators, we have established a HAM radio station prepared to serve in natural disasters. As security experts, we are consulting with community councils and local police departments to bring the community closer to law enforcement to create safer neighborhoods. All of these things give Veterans a sense of purpose that can be lacking after taking off the uniform, and they give community members a connection with the people who defended our freedom. Recently we orchestrated a family day in the Veterans Gardens of Palisades Park where children and families came for games and bar-b-que and also got to meet Veterans of Vietnam, Korea and World War 2, telling their stories of service near some historic military vehicles. A win-win as the children got hear history lessons from the people who lived it, and the vets felt the joy connecting with the kids through their experiences. In the military and in business, we talk about winning hearts and minds and engaging the customer. In the Veteran community, this is the opportunity of assimilation into the society they served.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Leading an organization that is 100 years old has challenges in accepting improvement. But experience in managing a growing small business and in leading soldiers at war develops and hones your skills in change management. After years of trying to educate and inform key members of the organization, I gave up and took a step out of the Post to focus on my struggling business, military program and family. Low and behold, the time away allowed the group to develop and engage the new strategies and I was asked to come back to become the Post Commander. And while some may look at this as a negative experience, I believe it accentuated the understanding that the Veterans of all age groups can come together and learn for mentor experience as well as innovative new ideas. And young troops learning from the Veterans is part of our soldier life experience.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
We specialize in innovation to meet the challenge. Our base customers were military Special Operations personnel facing life and death challenges. They came to us to design their harnesses, packs, holsters and medical kits to survive the world’s worst situations. We developed a model to listen to our customers, process their needs, and present solutions from the experience of a veteran. We have developed over 2500 designs and hold 13 patents. Every soldier and Marine went to war in the Global War on Terror wearing an ammunition carrier and a first aid kit designed by S.O. Tech. This summer, West Point will send Cadets to S.O. Tech for an internship in innovation and entrepreneurship – a skillset the military wants to develop in its leaders.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
Serving over 20 years as a Military Intelligence Officer breeds a sense of analysis where luck is replaced by calculated risks, and risks are mastered by warrior spirit.

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