Western Union leaders take on the crucible

Career By Emily Larson Jun 14, 2018

There has always been a strong nexus between the United States military and the business world; whether it business’ adoption of the military tactics, techniques and procedures or the military’s adoption of business leadership ideals and beliefs. This hybrid ecosystem has enriched both entities by, at a 30,000 foot level, applying different optics to a problem or objective that needs to be solved or negotiated.

One of the first things taught to a leader in the U.S. Military is the five-paragraph order. This is the framework of a plan on how to accomplish a specific objective. It’s very similar to developing a business case and solving for it. The five-paragraph order includes the 1) situation at hand, 2) the mission to accomplish, 3) how the team is going to execute that mission, 4) the administrative and logistical requirements for the mission and 5) the command structure and communications plan for the mission.

Two of our Compliance leaders, Bridget Abraham and Scott Swantner, were recently given the opportunity to participate  in Jan Rutherford’s Self Reliant Leadership Crucible – a program that brings together corporate leaders and military veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce.  When they found out where they were going and what they were going to accomplish, they thought explaining their experience in the form of a five-paragraph order would most accurately portray their journey. Here it is.


Self-Reliant Leadership Crucible expeditions foster the exchange of new ideas and provide a powerful opportunity for senior leaders to hone their leadership skills. The focus is on facing adversity with resilience, resourcefulness, clear communication, and more effective decision-making. Targeted coaching is also included at the start and finish of each expedition to track and reflect on personal progress.  For our specific Crucible, six military and business leaders, with three amazing support staff, traveled to the Moab, Utah for a 96-hour physical and mental challenge of climbing, hiking, slot canyon roaming and repelling.


  • Successfully negotiate all obstacles presented to the group that included:
    1. Multiple strenuous climbing exercises requiring climbing gear (harness, helmet and climbing shoes)
    2. Long distance movements over steadily ascending terrain with 35-45 lbs. pack
  • Discover new leadership techniques from other members of the team that we could add to our toolboxes and bring back to our respective companies
  • Discover the challenges facing current transitioning veterans today and ways to help with that transition


Everyone in the group performed seamlessly under these adverse conditions.  This is due in large part to the diversity of the team and different approaches they brought to completing the mission.  The team members were:

  • Jan Rutherford.- Self Reliance Crucible Founder and Former Green Beret
  • Kerry M.- Retired Navy 2-Star Admiral and SEAL
  • Adam S.- Retired Special Forces Operations Leader
  • Courtney W.- Former Army Engineering Officer and current Entrepreneur in Boston
  • Ryan R.- Media Marketing Leader in New York City
  • Bridget Abraham- Compliance Leader at Western Union
  • Scott Swantner. – Compliance Leader at Western Union
  • Zach B.- World Renowned Videographer
  • Vince A.- World Renowned Climber

One of the cornerstones of success for this mission execution was the constant teamwork from our group that seemed to grow immediately after we met, through all the daily challenges, until the end of the Crucible.  The utter lack of selfishness allowed for nine strangers to quickly form a strong crew that was pliable enough to accept new leadership daily throughout the Crucible.  The bond between this team crystalized through our in-depth discussions centering on what the key ingredients are to a successful team. In one sentence, we can best describe our successful team as high performing. A high performing team is a group of people who have solid and deep trust of each other, share a common vision, goals, and who can collaborate and hold each other accountable to achieve results.

Scott and Bridget Ready to Climb

Administration and Logistics:

The team was quite adept at planning and preparing for our daily evolutions, and even set some records in getting ready for the day. The most important item that was addressed, while administrative in nature but still very important, was safety.  The theme of safety was integrated into every activity during the Crucible from the climbing (obviously!) and hiking to the not so obvious food storage (best to hang your food out of reach of hungry animals) and water consumption (we went 24 hours with the water on our backs and no re-supply source in sight). As in business, the team would take a risk-based approach to any safety question, provide input and then execute the decided safety action plan for all evolutions.

Command Structure and Signal:

Strong communication came easy to this group and due largely to it playing an integral part of past personal and professional successes in each of our backgrounds and careers.  What was unexpected was the depth of communications, through nightly conversations, we achieved in such a short time.  We’d all been part of temporary teams before but were collectively surprised at how vulnerable we found ourselves becoming during these talks. It was this vulnerability that truly allowed us to understand and accomplish our mission: new leadership techniques and current challenges to veterans.

When we got out of the field on Sunday and made it back to civilization in Grand Junction, Colorado; it was this sense of mission accomplishment that was most evident to all the group. We walked out of that desert in Moab armed with new tools and new knowledge that will enrich our respective teams and, as an extension of that, enrich the organizations to which we belong.

Said another way…. Mission Accomplished.

Western Union has been a key sponsor of the Self Reliant Leadership Crucible for the last number of years because we, as a Company, support veteran hiring, and value the integrity, leadership, and teamwork skills veterans bring to the table.

Bridget Climbing

Scott Climbing