Greg Hastings: How the US Navy Gave me the Drive to Thrive as an Entrepreneur After my Transition

This article was written by Operation Supply Drop Supporter and US Navy Veteran, Greg Hastings, to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit in his fellow brothers and sisters who’ve served and continue to serve.

My name is Greg Hastings. I grew up in Stratford New Jersey, a small town just outside of Philadelphia. In 1983, my parents moved us several miles away to a new town called Marlton, New Jersey, where I graduated from Cherokee High and was set loose into society with no skills and no plan. I was misguided and had no motivation. The only part of college I did well, was wasting my parents hared earned money. To compound my lack of direction, I witnessed my best friend die in a pool accident, further blurring my vision of a future. It was then I realized I must take action and force myself into a direction, because my friend’s death could have easily been mine. I wanted to have my family be proud of me, so after the advice of a close friend from my neighborhood, I joined the US Submarine Force.

Even in the Navy schools I went to, I struggle a little bit, but was able to pass all my courses to become a SONAR Technician. Even though I passed, I had still not gained my confidence yet, as even my SONAR instructors looked at me occasionally with that look of, is this kid really this dumb? Honestly, I really had a hard time understanding what the heck I was looking at, but I was able to pass the basic requirements and be sent to the fleet.

I was assigned to the USS GATO (SSN 615), a fast attack submarine. The Permit Class, or 594 class, was the first platform designed to specifically hunt other submarines.. HERE is where my personal growth took off.

I could not hide. I had to be a part of a team. I could no longer make excuses. I could no longer even give myself excuses. I was on a sub, hatch closed, deep, on a mission, with every single person relying on every single other person to complete this mission. I came to learn, there could no longer be any room for error, or misjudgment, or lack of focus. I was able to increase my comprehension and contribute to the missions, by getting qualified in a variety of “watch stations”, both in port and at sea. Once my list of qualifications began to grow, I immediately saw relief and trust from other crew-members. I was steadily proving myself a capable and reliable shipmate and that was the momentum and the motivation I needed to keep pushing.

I steadily became a senior watch stander in my SONAR shack, and ultimately became a SONAR Supervisor, which was a big deal considering I was only a 3rd class PO. However, I was most proud of becoming the Battle Stations Narrowband SONAR Operator. THIS position… IS the tip of the submarine spear.

I was entrusted with the lives of all my crew-members, as it was my job to detect an enemy sub, and track them, in order to get a torpedo on them first. The captain would direct the entire submarine based on what came out of my mouth, and I was only an E4. I was even awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, where it reads that I was “the best SONARMAN ever inspected” by the Tactical Readiness Evaluation Team.

With my confidence high, and with the confidence of my Command, in 1990, I was given permission to try and become one of our submarines own Scuba Divers.  This course is not easy and many of my shipmates who tried, came home without the pin. To ensure our boat had Divers to deploy, our Weapons Officer personally watched me and made me exceed the basic physical fitness requirements and after many interviews felt I also had the mental toughness to complete the course. He was right. I graduated from NDSTC class 90/90 and met my submarine prior to deployment for missions during the first Gulf War in the Mediterranean Sea. I was eventually named the Diving Locker Supervisor and was on board during Navy Seal escape truck deployments, as well as many other important Diving missions. To round out this part of my career, I was awarded a Citation from our Sub Group Admiral for having one of the most successful dive lockers in our entire Sub Group in Groton, Connecticut.

After being honorably discharged, I went on the attack with my found sense of confidence and ambition. I went back to college, paid for with my GI BILL, where for the first time ever, I made the Deans list and the Presidents list, and proved to myself that I can learn if I maintained my focus and my determination to be successful, the formula that I proved worked already on board USS GATO.

After I left the Navy, I was a fireball of confidence, athleticism, and determination! That is when I chose to pursue my dreams of being a Professional Paintball player. I turned that dream into a reality with the same hard work and determination that I learned in the Navy. It worked again! I set my plan, I executed my plan, and I followed through to the final goal. I became a world champion, a top manufacturer and equipment designer, and ultimately a video game developer…of MY OWN GAME SERIES WITH MY NAME ON IT! ALL this…on the very skills I’ve learned in the NAVY. Be a reliable part of a team! When its time for individual achievement, do your best, never second guess, and rely on your training, as well as, your gut feeling.

I was a cocky little wild kid once, where no one thought I would do anything good on this planet, not even me. Now, I’m thankful for the experiences that provided the direction and drive to be a successful entrepreneur, able follow my dreams.