Staff Sgt. Torie Fisher knows the UH-60 Black Hawk. Fisher did two combat tours in Iraq -- first with the Army's 1st Armored Division in 2004, and then later in 2007 as a Black Hawk crew chief and door gunner with the Army National Guard.
And now Fisher knows beer as well. She has become a pioneer -- the very first female veteran to own and operate a brewery in the U.S.
Fisher says she first learned how to brew from one of the pilots in her unit, and from there, her love of craft brewing took off. "It was a great career," Fisher said of her military service. "I just wanted more, and since I love brewing, it just made sense to do something I was passionate about."
And that's when the idea for her brewery began to take shape. Fisher says her 13 years in the military gave her many of the planning and execution skills she needed to start Backward Flag Brewing Company in Forked River, New Jersey. The backward flag is a homage to Civil War mounted cavalry and infantry unit flag bearers who carried the flag into battle. As this standard bearer charged, the flag would stream back or "assault forward" with the stars forward in battle.
Fisher has had her share of failures; she said her first beer was a smoked porter, and it was terrible. But like any artisan, through trial and error, she perfected her craft.
"I wrote and rewrote my business plan numerous times until I worked out all the details," Fisher said. It's clear her military training in mission planning and execution have paid off: Her business is doing so well that its production abilities are being increased.
Said Fisher, "Thanks to my military training, I've learned that if you're not edging on failure, then you're probably not pushing hard enough."
Backward Flag Brewing Company's prominence as a veteran-owned brewery has not gone unnoticed -- nor has the quality of its beer. It was voted fourth-best in the state (behind Conclave Brewing Company in Raritan Township; Kane Brewing Company in Ocean; and Carton Brewing Company in Atlantic Highlands) by Untappd.com -- a social media site used by more than 3.2 million beer enthusiasts.
And Fisher's plans don't stop with brewing more beer. She has also founded Arms 2 Artisans, a nonprofit that helps teach the craft of brewing to post-9/11 veterans. Her ultimate goal is to eventually broaden the scope of training to include other artisan skills in the food industry in addition to craft brewing. In addition to teaching brewing to other veterans, Fisher also gives back by sharing the lessons she learned as a combat veteran, as a mother, and an entrepreneur.
Here are Fisher's top tips for military transition:
- Have goals. When you have something to focus on, when you have a mission, it keeps driving you forward and keeps you from falling into a post-service "slump."
- Find other organizations of like-minded people and get involved. I think veterans have a need to be a part of a team. Bunker Labs is a great organization where I have found a lot of inspiration.
- Use your powers for good. The military gives us a lot of tools and experience. The trend of the "disgruntled vet" isn't productive in any way. Use the experience and leadership abilities you learned to continue your service and make a positive impact on the people around you.
Backward Flag Brewing is a veteran-owned company. Our founder served 13 years in the military, including two tours in Iraq. Most of our staff has served in a uniform or is a family member of someone who wears one. We make every effort to support our brothers and sisters who serve our country and community. We encourage you to do the same.
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