Tim Kennedy: “There are some things in life worth risking your life over”

For regular readers of FiveOuncesOfPain.com, Tim Kennedy needs no introduction. For newer readers to the site, Kennedy is a member of the elite Army Rangers. In his spare time, he also pursued a career in mixed martial arts, accumulating a 9-2 record competing for promotions such as Extreme Challenge and the pre-Zuffa WEC.

In 2007, Kennedy received national exposure by challenging Jason “Mayhem” Miller in the co-main event of an HDNet Fights card in Dallas, Texas and then fighting again two and a half weeks later during the IFL’s World Grand Prix finals in Uncasville, Connecticut.

While 2007 ended in a big way, 2008 was a quiet year for Kennedy when it came to his fighting career. He was unable to take any fights because his primary employer, the United States Army, needed him for several important missions.

For the past several months, Tim has authored a blog on Five Ounces of Pain entitled “Letters from a Foreign Land.” In his blogs, Tim chronicled some of his experiences that he encountered while on some of his missions. Regular readers know that Kennedy and his unit were not on a peace keeping mission and that they encountered hostile forces on a regular basis.

We’re pleased to be able to let everyone know that Tim is now back home with his family. And thanks to Tim’s manager, Nick Palmisciano of Ranger Up, we were able to speak with him and updated on how he’s been doing. Below is a transcript of our conversation with him in which Tim discussed injuries sustained while deployed, the logistics in producing a blog for Five Ounces of Pain, what life was like on the battlefield, along with his plans for 2009.

Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): We had heard through your manager, Nick Palmisciano of Ranger Up, that you were injured in the field recently. He assured us you were okay but we were still concerned. Now that you can talk about the situation, can you update everyone on exactly what happened and how you’re doing right now?

Tim Kennedy: I was working in [deleted for operational security]  with pretty much the greatest combat unit on the planet and we there to help give the people there an opportunity at a free life. It just so happens that some of the people there aren’t really up for it. They don’t like the idea of people not being underneath their thumb. We were there providing some aid to a village and we got IED’d (improvised explosive device) pretty part as a part of an ambush. I got a little bit of shrapnel wounds; some to my face and some to my arm. And then when I was trying to pick a guy up who was a part of the explosion, I didn’t permanently injure anything in my biceps but my adrenaline was going and his body was kind of heavy. As far as recovery, I am 100 percent. I’m doing doing two to three workouts a day right now and loving it.

Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): How long have you been back home now?

Tim Kennedy: I got home right before Christmas. Just in time to spend the holidays with my family.

Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): Were you able to finish your deployment or did you come back home early due to the injuries?

Tim Kennedy: Oh no, I finished my deployment. I’d probably have to be dead for me not to finish deployment.

Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): While in the field, you were doing an awesome blog with us that was one of the most popular things we’ve published on the site. Nick did a great job in bringing the content to us and coordinating everything. Logistically, what were some of the obstacles regarding what you could and couldn’t say and also just sitting down and writing?

Tim Kennedy: The Internet was sometimes an obstacle (laughs). I’d be in the field for any given period of time ranging from three days to three or four weeks with no phone, no cell, and no Internet. I’d try to get my writing done during those times but I’m a terrible writer so by the time I got back and got all of it on a computer I could see all of those red squiggly lines underneath it showing how pathetic a speller I am.

So logistically the issues were just getting it to Nick so that he could proof read it. I would even mess up and put things in it that I shouldn’t. Opsec, which is operational security, is a really important thing with ongoing missions. You can’t really say where you are, what you’re doing, how long you’re going to be there, and when you’re coming back — all the things to help ensure a troop’s protection. These are things that are not to ever be published for anybody. It just puts everyone at risk. Even with that always in the forefront of my mind, I still made mistakes. In mid-paragraph I’d write something like, “We’re holed up here at this elevation.” Well, somebody can figure out where you are just by the elevation. So it’s a no-go. Fortunately, Nick is pretty savvy and has prior military service so he’d pick up on all the mistakes I would make and clean up my poor writing.

Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): It’s interesting to hear you talk about operational security because my cousin is in the Navy and is currently deployed. Because of where he is, my aunt and uncle tell me that Naval officials are constantly monitoring calls to make sure nobody says anything they shouldn’t. Is the Army the same way?

Tim Kennedy: I couldn’t really say what they monitor but the Army, they’re not trying to “Big Brother” us. So in everything that they do, they’re not trying to censor us. They’re just trying to protect their troops while in the field. And I being the guy that’s in the field all the time, I really don’t want somebody who is in the back talking to his mom saying “Oh, we’re so tired because we were loading this guy’s truck so he could go out today.” That’s the last thing I want to be said over an open line. So while they might monitor us, it’s always with the best intentions. They’re just keeping the troops safe.

Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): During your third blog, you casually write about how you had just gotten back from a firefight that was worse than the movie “Hairspray.” It was surreal reading that because you talked about it like it was nothing more than just a bad day at the office. How many firefights was your unit involved in during your most recent tour? How regular was armed combat a part of life for you?

Tim Kennedy: (Pauses)… In all seriousness, every time that we would wherever we were, we would get into a gunfight. And we would leave almost every day. I’m in a different situation in that I’m able to move around to different places while I was in country and so the teams in some of the places they are, every time they would leave they would be getting shot at, blown up, RPG’d (rocket propelled grenade), IED’d every time. It was just kind of like, “Alright, we’re going to go out and we’re going to get shot at probably right around this area and we’re probably going to get blown up and RPG’d right around this area. Let’s get ready to go. Let’s make sure we’ve got our beans and bullets.”

Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): Coming from a civilian perspective, I can’t imagine or comprehend what it would be like being under the constant threat of fire. I’ve just got to ask, how do you cope with that? Or is there even a way to cope with it?

Tim Kennedy: Well, the guys that I am working with, they’re the best trained in the Army. They’re the highest screened in the Army. They’ve gone through more tests than anyone and are perfectly selected for this job. Everybody that is in the Army has a great job and is doing an excellent service for their country. But some of the guys I work with, they’re the best and this is what they’ve been training their whole lives for.

I know this sounds corny, but some guys were riding by on a motorcycle and threw some acid in some little girls’ faces simply because they were going to school. The [deleted for operational security] that’s there don’t think that girls should go to school so they threw acid in this little girls’ faces. We have medics that are with us and they’re treating these girls and we’re not looking for retribution or revenge, but it’s a big motivator to have a 13-year old girl in front of you that’s just been burnt. Knowing that you might be helping make a difference, you begin to think that maybe it is worth going out there and taking some risks. I think there are some things in life worth risking your life over. Having the right for a 13-year old girl to walk down the street and go to school I believe is one of them, regardless of where you live.

Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to ask you some fight related questions. Last year a report surfaced in the Army Times that you wouldn’t be re-enlisting so that you could pursue MMA full-time. Could you update us on the latest regarding that?

Tim Kennedy: Right now the Army has reached a middle ground with me where they say that I can fight, which is awesome. I love the Army and I love the opportunities that they’ve provided me and my family. And the opportunity for me to go out and represent the Army as a fighter is going to be awesome.

With that said, the unit that I am in, the amount of work that we do, there just aren’t enough hours in a day. So I am going to have to make a choice — and that’s where I am at right now — whether I am going to make exceptions and make time for me to slip into training like I have been for the past three, four, five years and try to be a full-time fighter and a full-time solider and still be able to put everything into it? I really want to see where a full-time fight career is going to take me and I am pretty confident that’s where 2009 is going to lead.

I have a lot of things lined up. I haven’t signed anything but I’ve expressed a lot of intentions to certain people and I’m sure you guys will be the first to know when that happens. I think you’re going to see me fight a whole bunch in 2009 and I’ll be training full-time.

Sam Caplan: Will the injuries you suffered have an impact on how you perform in the ring or cage?

Tim Kennedy: Well, I think I am nastier (laughs). Put a chunk of metal into some one’s body and I think it might fire them up a little bit. Just like in the one article: try and take a pomegranate from me and I might get a little fired up. Well, a chunk of metal in my body is a little bigger deal than a little pomegranate.

This morning I just did an hour of a crossfit workout with some friends from church and some guys from the unit that I work in. And then this afternoon we were out there we did some wind sprints and I also just got done with almost a two-hour long sparring session. Tomorrow it’s going to be more of the same. It’s probably going to be more of the same Saturday when I’ll figure out something disgusting to do to my body. I’m pretty motivated right now and the prospect of fights that I have coming up, I can’t do it half-ass. I can’t do it 50/50. I’m bringing in some of the best black belts on the East Coast to train with me on the ground as well as some Division I wrestlers. I’m trying to find some of the best sparring partners and I think you’re going to see a freakishly new Tim Kennedy in 2009.

Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): During a Q&A at a local Fort Bragg sports bar, a fan asked Dana White if the UFC was interested in you. Dana looked right over at Joe Silva and it was a pretty adamant “yes.” Are you currently negotiating with the UFC?

Tim Kennedy: That’s a question my manager will have to answer right now because I can’t because I’m not supposed to.

Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): I had a chance to cover “Fight for the Troops” and it was an amazing experience getting to go onto Fort Bragg and seeing how everyone lived. I also got to meet Bill White from the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and he explained to me just how many members of the Armed Forces are coming home having suffered brain injuries. Seeing as much combat as you did, I can only assume that some of your colleagues didn’t come back home 100 percent. Can you give us a soldier’s perspective what life is like for a lot of troops that come home after having sustained a serious injury in the field?

Tim Kennedy: (Pauses)… None of my injuries are bad. But some of the guys coming back now, I couldn’t imagine having to deal with some of the things that their families are dealing with. You want to see some courage? Go to a soldier’s home and watch that mom who has been by herself for the past ten months. She’s been taking care of two kids while her husband has been fighting in some foreign land and comes back burnt or his brain is swollen from an explosion. There is not only courage inside of a solider but also within his family at home.

I can’t empathetically say what their life is like because I’ve never been there but my wife, myself, and our church, we spend a lot of our free time helping these guys out. And in a community like ours, these people are my brothers. I’d bleed for them in a heartbeat. They are the greatest guys on the planet and they’d do the same for me. And it just isn’t on the battlefield; when they come back home you’ve got to be there for them as much as you would be when they’re deployed.

I hope I never have the experience where I can say what it’s actually like, but from the helping hands aspect, I just know that every solider has to be there for their brothers. Nobody understands how long that recovery process takes and how much goes into it. This woman has been taking care of her kids for the past ten months by herself and now she has to take care of her husband too. And not much support is there. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s tough. And part by the grace of God and some brothers from the service, these people can actually get through it sometimes.

Editor’s Note: For those who would like to support injured members of the United States Armed Forces, please visit the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund at: http://www.fallenheroesfund.org/

15 COMMENTS
  • Wayne says:

    Spoken like a true Soldier.

    I never thought I would say this willingly…

    HOOAH! You do Soldiers proud Tim.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  • Jerry says:

    Tim is THE MAN.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  • Jess says:

    Fiveounces always delivers. Awesome interview. Tim, I am always humbled reading about what our troops go through, and have the utmost respect for you and the others who choose to serve, thank you for your great stories, and also, thank you for your service.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • benkordus says:

    If you have been in the armed forces maybe you can help me out…
    no disrespect here..I have to ask this though..

    Do soldiers just have to carry out orders blindly, no matter what they personally feel/believe in? Are there times when you say, “no, I wont do that” to a commanding officer? If you do not obey is there a punishment that could be career ending? (in both military, and civilian life?)

    Thanks in advance to anyone who answers this.

    yours,

    benji

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • JollyDV says:

    Benji-

    Yes, you have to carry out the orders given by your commanding officers and senior NCO’s. It doesn’t matter if they tell you to take your tooth brush and go clean the bathroom floor or they tell you to go out on a dangerous mission. You just do it.

    Should you tell your commander “no, I won’t do that”, well, there is always going to be a form of punishment. If you won’t clean the bathroom with your toothbrush, you are looking at losing some money and probably some rank. If you won’t go on the dangerous mission, you are looking at jail/brig time and dishonorable discharge. So yes, it can be career ending.

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  • Jake says:

    First, thanks to Tim Kennedy for your service and for these posts

    In response to Benji…no you do not have to follow every order, there are certain provisions when a soldier is not only allowed but I believe duty bound to refuse an illegal order.

    For example if a commanding officer orders you to do something that goes against the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC), the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), American Federal Law, and the Geneeva Conventions then you can legally refuse as the order is unlawful.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • benkordus says:

    Thanks jolly, and jake.

    I kind of got sucked into the joining the navy when I was 18, but before going to boot camp I called the recruiter (who lied to me about job opportunities available) and told him that I was not going to join.
    All that happened was the senior recruiter called me and tried to talk me out of it. I wasnt having it, and I got a letter a month later, stating that I, “REFUSED TO JOIN.”

    and nothing happened after that. (maybe I am blacklisted from government jobs?)
    Whenever I asked a person in the armed forces if they refused an order and what happened if they did, I just got a reply of, “you just do it.”

    Thanks for sharing the insight,

    benji

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Army Guy says:

    Benji,

    You weren’t technically in the military yet – that is why there were no repercussions. There are provisions for people that washout of boot camp (fairly common). You essentially washed out, which is why you didn’t get in a boatload of trouble.

    The response to you reference unlawful orders was accurate, but I think the thing that you are missing is that officers and NCOs don’t just go around dreaming up ridiculous things for guys to do because they can. Contrary to what you may think, a good unit is predicated on respect. People trust leaders that are competent and lookout for their guys, period. There is an illusion that an officer can just say jump and everyone does it, but in reality, no NCO worth a damn is going to let his men do something that is going to get them hurt or killed, nor is any soldier going to do something that will likely put his life in danger if he doesn’t have the utmost trust in his leadership.

    Lastly, the thing I want to bang home is that we LOVE our guys. When I was still on active duty, there was nothing that I wouldn’t have done for them, or would do now for that matter. They’re our family. Their lives and those of their families are dependent on our decisions and we (military leaders) feel the weight of the responsibility daily. I know Tim very well. He is part of an exceedingly elite unit. In that unit, he is actually on a first name basis with all the men in his unit, including his commander. They know their roles, and they respect the fact that if they don’t all execute at the highest level, they don’t come home.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • Brendhan says:

    Excellent job on the interview. Dude is the true definition of a hero. Kennedy + the UFC is a winning combination.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • Imbecile says:

    It is nice to hear from Tim Kennedy, and also read an MMA-related story/interview on something so much bigger than just MMA. Tim Kennedy deserves all of our gratitude, as do all of the soldiers and sailors who fight for our freedom and the freedoms of those around the world. I can’t wait to see Tim take out some of that aggression on some poor middleweight… hopefully in the UFC!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Evan says:

    Benji,

    I used to do recruiting. Nothing can happen to you. You are not blacklisted from government jobs. The recruiters have your name in a system and it shows if they have tried to contact you before. If they have contacted you and its noted that you refused to join than they will most likely not contact you again, Unless they really need the numbers.

    You can refuse an unlawful order by anyone. orders have to be just and morale. as far as tim’s blog about getting hit every day. its inevitable, you would get hit like 8 times in a week than you get 2 days of not and like what happened thought we were going to get hit today but you never let your guard down. IEDs are a bitch.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  • Jacob Nuesser says:

    I met Tim after he fought in the IFL…he was a great guy, very humble and one hell of a fighter. I admire him as a hero to our nation and I can see him taking belts in MMA in late 2009!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • darkmetal says:

    Tim, thank you for your service.

    It is men like you in the trenches who work daily to liberate 25 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sure, there continue to be a small percentage of Jihadists who try to impose their wills via terror, but each and every day more young girls are going to school, more people are tending their shops, and they have less fear of speaking out of turn about their govt, or ours.

    It may take years for them to fully realize it, but the citizens of these countries have been gifted from the life and limbs of our fine soldiers.

    Many of us sit comfortably behind our PCs pondering the benefits versus the costs of any military endeavor, but few of us have the fortitude to make things happen. You did, and many others continue to do as well.

    Take care and we will see you in the UFC, God willing.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • D. Fetters says:

    He draws not the sword in vain. If you do evil you have much to fear for he is a
    minister of God’s wrath against the evildoer. If you do good you have nothing to fear.
    This was spoken of the Roman centurion. The forerunner to our military and law enforcement types. Written by the apostle Paul. The Psalmist said that this same God has trained his hands for battle. To each one of you guys still operational, go with His blessing and protection. He is the only One that will count that day when He says well done my good and faithful servant. If you know Him personally then your power and authority come not only from the government you faithfully serve but from the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit. His are the ultimate Special Ops.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • jan fain says:

    Thank you all so much, I have no idea what you are doing but I would love to email any or all of the soldiers from the USA to just tell them how proud we are and I know they are also part of our Lord Jesus Christ Platoon. If I can be an E-Pal please let me know. Jan Fain

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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