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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Raymond Maddocks, Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command Public Affairs
During Lt. Bryan Neely’s transition from the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) to commissioned naval officer, he knew he wanted to be a part of the special warfare community.
Unfortunately, he learned his red-green color vision deficiency medically disqualified him from going into that field, so when the time came to choose another community, he decided on the supply corps. In his spare time, he channeled his passion for fitness and his trauma from previous life experiences into obstacle course racing, where he competes at the highest level in the world.
“I wasn’t really initially excited about being a SUPPO [Supply Officer]; then I found out what SUPPOs do,” said Neely. “Knowing what I know now, Supply, to me, is one of the best communities.”
Neely’s first tour aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) was full of challenges, all of which he met head on.
When Neely reported, he found out that he would be the ship’s only supply officer. Normally, a destroyer would have a first-tour ensign as the assistant supply officer, and a more seasoned lieutenant as the department head.
“There was a time when I first got to the ship where I was the only SUPPO there,” said Neely. “I remember being a 22-year-old kid, fresh out of college feeling a little overwhelmed, but I thought to myself, ‘I have 46 people looking up to me; there’s no time for excuses.'"
At that time, the ship was in the middle of training and certifying for deployment, as well as completing a ship-wide material condition inspection known as Mid-Cycle Inspection (MCI). MCI preparation relies heavily on supply department, so this was an especially difficult time in the ship's operational cycle. Halsey then completed a 7-month deployment as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, with missions spanning the South China Sea and the Arabian Gulf. Neely used this time to earn his Surface Warfare Supply Corps Officer (SWSCO) qualification.
During his first tour, Neely said that, although it was challenging, he became a better supply officer and leader.
“I learned a lot of lessons during my time on the Halsey,” said Neely. “Things like the importance of following up with people, and how and when to properly delegate. I also gained a lot of experience in my field.”
Now, Neely is ready to bring that experience to the Reserve side of the Navy. He is currently transitioning to his first Navy Reserve unit, a special warfare command.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the special operations community,” said Neely. “I am the kind of person to just get the job done, and I don’t make excuses. I’m excited for the chance to work with other Sailors like that. They’re the best warfighters in the world.”
Neely stated that, not only has the Navy Reserve given him a unique opportunity to finally work with and support the special warfare community, but it has also allowed him to explore more opportunities in the civilian world.
“I have a lot of goals I want to achieve on the civilian side, and by transitioning to the Navy Reserve, I have a lot more opportunity to work toward achieving them,” said Neely.
In the Spartan Race circuit, he competes in the 25-29 age group, with fellow peers who he terms "weekend warriors" - in other words, people who have a similar passion for fitness, but make it a hobby and priority in their free time, rather than a career.
Neely finished 3rd place in the 2022 Spartan U.S. National Series, 2nd place in the 2021 Obstacle Course Racing World Championships, has set course records in endurance races, and is training for a world title in 2023.
He also owns a property that he has turned into a retreat, where he hosts obstacle course camps, clinics, team building camps, and small group retreats, something he finds peace doing.
“Endurance racing and obstacle courses are two things I really enjoy,” said Neely. “I was invited to an invite only endurance racing event in Abu Dhabi and I finished sixth in the world, so putting on this type of event for other people is a lot of fun. I feel really in my element.”
For Neely, being able to participate and excel in this sport is a point of pride. According to doctors, he shouldn’t be able to compete at this level.
“When I was five years old, I was hospitalized with bronchitis, which eventually turned into pneumonia,” said Neely. “My entire left lung was filled with fluid, and by the time the fluid was removed, it left severe scarring.”
The doctors told him and his father that he had lost about 40 percent of his lung capacity.
“When my dad asked the doctor what the impact would be, he said that I would never be able to run long distance,” said Neely. “To this day, those words have been something that motivates me.”
Aside from training for endurance races and managing his retreats, Neely is in the process of releasing a book, and he also helps organize mental health awareness events.
His book, which he is in the process of publishing, is a kid’s book titled "Embrace Your Roarrr". It’s about inspiring and empowering the future generations to embrace who they are and to teach them the importance of hanging around the right community, having the mindset to overcome life’s obstacles, as well as the humility to use their success to help others.
“There is a lot I want to accomplish, both in and out of the Navy Reserve,” said Neely. “Fortunately, the Navy Reserve gives me the opportunity to grow in both my military and civilian roles. I’m looking forward to growing within the Reserve, and I’m looking forward to my next command.”
Neely said that, whether it's in his military or civilian career, he will continue to get things done, no excuses. His personal motto is, "Rise it up - mindset is everything." This is a reference to his spirituality and his positive outlook, which guide and strengthen him and provide him with the resilience needed to excel in difficult experiences.
Be on the lookout for more greatness from this inspiring Citizen Sailor.