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History
Minnesota National Guard
An entrepreneurial lesson from a Red Bull Soldier

Minnesota National Guard AMES, Iowa- "Nothing's ever easy," said the humble, bearded 24-year-old "You don't have to be the best to start You just have to start"

This is the mentality of a young US Army Sgt Aaron McNew, one of the creators of the acclaimed Ironman Pack and, more recently, the co-founder of The Factory CrossFit Ames He does not exactly see himself as an entrepreneur, but more as a man always out to improve himself and help others around him

"He worked the hardest of any of my Soldiers from the first day I met him," said US Army Capt Justin Foote, who was McNew's platoon leader during their 2010 deployment to Afghanistan with the Iowa National Guard "He is always moving forward bettering himself and bettering others"

While deployed as an infantry machine-gunner with the Reconnaissance Platoon, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, of the 34th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, McNew had to carry the MK-48 machine gun while on patrol throughout mountainous areas of Eastern Afghanistan Because of the heavy caliber of the weapon (762 mm), additional rounds were often cross-loaded throughout the squad It was then when he and two fellow infantrymen came up with the Ironman Pack concept

"We tried to find efficient ways to carry lots of ammo," McNew said in an interview at his new gym The squad would often get into firefights which left them scrambling for resupply of ammunition, creating lulls in fire

"It's kind of funny," he giggled, "We were watching predator one day and Jesse Ventura was carrying a machine gun and he had a pack on his back So, we were talking and I said, 'Man, we could make something like that'" And the rest is history

McNew and fellow squad members, former US Army Staff Sgt J Winkowski, and US Army Spc Derick "machine gun" Morgan, were the creators of the Ironman Pack prototype which they used in Afghanistan They were awarded Army Commendation Medals in Washington, DC, for their work on what is now being referred to as the High-Capacity Ammunition Carriage System

Fast-forward a couple years and now the resourceful infantryman is beginning his second entrepreneurial adventure in Ames, Iowa, with his same entrepreneur partner Winkowski

"[Our] squad became a very close knit family while deployed," said Winkowski "We continued to stay that way back home When I got into strength training and eventually CrossFit about a year after being home, it was McNew that was coaching and helping me over the phone and through sending texts/videos getting me to where I needed to be"

However, things were not always so easy for the formidable coach When McNew joined the Iowa National Guard, he did not know what he was getting into Weighing in at more than 300 pounds, he struggled with physical fitness Not only was he challenged at basic training and Airborne school, he came back to a deploying brigade where he was assigned as a member of the recon platoon, which touted higher physical fitness standards than the rest of the unit

Winkowski said he knew he was in for a challenge when McNew was assigned to his squad prior to the deployment Despite recommendations to reassign him to another section, Winkowski saw potential

"McNew showed a tremendous drive and there was something inside him that was pushing him beyond his physical limits He was mentally tough, we saw steady improvement," Winkowski explained "[As the deployment progressed], McNew was shedding pounds and continually gaining confidence and experience as a member of the squad"

McNew was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device for actions in the Battle of Doab and an Army Commendation for courage under fire in a separate engagement

Throughout the deployment, and upon returning to the United States, McNew continued to practice CrossFit After a brief stint helping at a CrossFit gym in St Louis, Mo, McNew and Winkowski decided it was time to make a decision on their long-talked-about dream of opening a CrossFit gym in Iowa

"J called me up and was like, 'Hey Why don't you come back Let's get this started,'" McNew said They planned to open a gym previously and things fell through, but as the situation developed this seemed like the best time for the team

The two attended CrossFit Level 1 Instructors Course together this past June and held their soft opening for the gym Feb 10 in Ames, Iowa They anticipate having a grand opening later this year but are excited to bring in their founding members

"War isn't easy," said Foote "For them to develop the [Ironman Pack], improving the squad and operations and now others adapting it it's amazing I wish them the best of luck in everything they do They are going to do great things with this gym"

"I've fought my whole life for everything," McNew said when asked for his best advice to junior Soldiers "There's nothing you can't achieve But, if you don't try it then you're never going to do it Get up Do it"

February 25, 2014
by Sgt. 1st Class Ashley Lolkus
34th Infantry Division Public Affairs



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