Carroll County Times

'Black Hawk Down' veteran: Military, business not all that different

Seconds before 1st Sgt. Matt Eversmann and his men intended to jump out of a helicopter in Somalia for an Army mission Oct. 3, 1993, the helicopter became enveloped in smoke.

The helicopter landed a few blocks away from its intended spot, Eversmann said. Then a soldier was injured from a 60-foot fall from the helicopter, bad enough that the soldier needed immediate attention. They went to call for help, but the radio was no longer operating.

"All of this has happened in 25 seconds," Eversmann said. "I could not blurt out an idea - I don't know how long it was, probably a few seconds - other than this is really, really bad."

Eversmann was among a unit of U.S. soldiers trapped in Somalia in the hostile district of Mogadishu for 18 hours. Rangers and Delta Force soldiers were outnumbered by an angry mob until a rescue convoy was mounted. He was portrayed by Josh Hartnett in the 2001 film, "Black Hawk Down," which he said isn't quite chronologically accurate, but gets to the point.

Eversmann is a decorated military hero, who served until 2008, including an 18-month tour in Iraq leading an Army Ranger force. On Thursday, he spoke to a group of people with the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce for a member and non-member lunch.

In October 1993, surrounded by hostile Somalians, his young sergeants sprang into action without missing a beat, he said, doing exactly what they should have been doing, because of their training in the Army.

While the scene is different, the reaction should be the same for businesses, he said to a group of 174 at the Portico at St. John's Catholic Church.

Every company will go through "strategic shock," at some point, he said.

Strategic shock is when a business finds itself in an emergency situation and it brings the skills that come with fight or flight, he said. The best way to make sure employees stay and fight comes from creating an atmosphere of responsibility, and making sure everyone knows how to do their job, he said.

While the process - meaning the computers or telephones or machines or even the industry - can fail, the people can make it work, he said.

Mike McMullin, Carroll County Chamber of Commerce president, agreed.

"In many ways, the same leadership, skills and courage that a person needs on the battlefield, they also need in the workplace," he said.

After his military retirement, Eversmann said he spent eight months "sitting on my hands." Everyone told him civilian life was different than life in the Army. In some ways it was, he said.

He spoke of a lack of civility in the workplace that doesn't exist in the military. People should instead respectfully disagree, Eversmann said, which creates a better atmosphere for everyone.

McMullin said that comment really rang true with business owners he's heard from while working in the Chamber.

While Eversmann was still getting back on his feet following military retirement, he attended a networking event and found he knew nothing about business. But when a speaker brought up the phrase "strategic shock," it clicked. Since then, he's become the vice present of a Timonium-based wellness company, Allegeant.

He also does speaking tours, he said in an interview, for anything from touting courage to inspiring business leaders.

The speaking part came pretty organically after the release of "Black Hawk Down," he said. In preparation for the movie, coaches helped him prepare for any media interactions, which led him to getting a speaking agent, he said. It's his venture into the business world that has been more challenging, he said.

But the key to a successful business, he said, always comes back to good leadership. Good leadership fosters great employees who are able to do their jobs regardless of what situations arise.

"That's what I saw on Oct. 3, 1993, was a bunch of great young men," Eversmann said to the audience, which responded with a standing ovation.