“AMERICAN HEARTS” is a series of in-depth, candid conversations with United States military veterans, and those who support them.
“When I was 17 I joined. I didn’t know anything about Rangers, but I knew a little about Special Forces from the movies, from Green Berets, Rambo, Apocalypse Now, that kind of thing. And that’s what I wanted to get into.”
“When I heard about Rangers when I was in basic training I thought, ‘well that sounds pretty neat.’ So I signed up for that and as luck would have it I got to 1st Ranger Battalion straightaway. So I ended up doing about five years, and while I was in Ranger Battalion I heard about these other special mission units. I was interested in going there, but I just couldn’t get there because of my eyes. They had a very strict limitation on how bad your eyes could be. I wore glasses. And I was just really surprised that there wasn’t a waiver for that.”
“I got out and went to college and was thinking about what I wanted to do next. And I really missed it. I missed being in the military. I started studying psychology and more like the organization psych and leadership. And team building. And I thought, over time, well maybe I’ll go back in and help these special mission units assess and select their units, and help them with team building. Because they were just starting to do that in the mid-1990s.”
“I’m out at Montana State, and I join ROTC, and I decided come back in as a psychologist, and try to get into these units, in that capacity. As luck would have it, about a year after I make that decision, they start accepting folks with the eye surgery.
“Now we’re at summer camp in Fort Lewis, I’m leading troops and I’m like ‘man, I really miss this.’ I was like, I think my brain is going to last longer than my body, to hell with it, I’m going back in. I’m going back to the infantry. I’m going back to Rangering. I’ll take a swing at trying to get to [U.S. Army Special Operations Forces].”
Jeff Tiegs is a retired United States Army Special Operations officer who spent over 25 years in the military, including multiple deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan as a counterterrorism and counter insurgency operator. He now works as the Chief Operating Officer for Guardian Group, a nonprofit that works with law enforcement to stop child predators and sex trafficking.
During his transition, Tiegs attended BreakLine, an educational program that helps match veterans with employers.