From Army Ranger to Fashion Photographer

It is the final stretch of An Uncomfortable January, a series dedicated to taking risks. Today I am interviewing one of the riskiest people I know. Ian was an Army Ranger and risked his life for our nation (insert a standing ovation for all who have served our country) and is now a fashion photographer.  Today he is sharing his thoughts with us. Spoiler Alert: His answer to #7 is pure gold.

Pic 4

Self Portrait Photo Courtesy: Kenneth Takada 2012

1. I’ve known you for about 5 years or so, but why don’t you go ahead and tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Well, my name is Ian. I am from Detroit, Michigan. I grew up there my entire life in a home with my twin brother and wonderful mother. When I was 18 I joined the US Army to pursue a career in the military. I am now a combat veteran finishing my education in the arts. I am also a fashion photographer. I’ve been married for five years now to my beautiful wife, and I currently reside in Santa Barbara, California.

2. My husband has a flag that you carried on a mission when you were an Army Ranger. What made you decide to go through such grueling training and put your life on the line for our country?

To be honest, I had no intentions of becoming a Ranger when I enlisted. It was something that I chose to do because I felt that I was subject to greater leadership. Before I became a Ranger I was with a conventional Army unit, where I had been mistreated and manipulated. I decided that it was time for something greater. Something better. I had learned on my base in Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Washington (formally Fort Lewis) that 2nd Ranger Battalion resided there.

I had no idea who Rangers were or what they did, I just knew that those men were held to a greater standard than I was. I called the Ranger Regimental liaison (recruiter) and told him that I wanted this so bad and refused to be a part of my current unit. Two weeks later, I had orders for Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP) and Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia.

My time spent in Georgia was amazing and at the same time soul shattering. I had just gotten married to my wife Muka, and it would be 4 months before I saw her again. She was motivated to push me through because she knew that I could be a better soldier. Once I had an understanding of what it was to be a Ranger while going through RIP, I could not turn back, regardless of how brash my training was – physically and mentally. I knew this was something I had to do.


Me shooting in Santa Paula, CA 2013

3. What did it look like for you when you were deployed? Was it a 24 hour threat?

Unfortunantly, because of my role as a Ranger I was held under SOCOM regulations, therefore I cannot go into specific detail about being deployed as a Ranger.

However, what I can say is, we are deployed for a specific amount of time in a foreign country. Given tasks to complete in a timely manner. Our capabilities backed by our training is what allows us to commit to such dangerous and vigorous tasks. Other units in the Army coin us as men who are excited to run towards danger. There is a real reason for that. A Ranger is a mentally tough and highly skilled soldier, therefore whatever task is given to him, he can shoulder it and prevail no matter how difficult the task is. This is what we believe, its in our Creed. There is a phrase given to us: Sua Sponte. It means “Of their own accord.” This phrase is the mentality of your modern-day Ranger, and its used on the battlefield and in everyday life. We are men of our own accord, not because we are told to, but because we choose to be.

4. Whenever someone is working to achieve a goal or dream there are risks involved. Some good and some bad. How did you learn to differentiate between the risks that were worth taking and the ones that weren’t?

The way I see it is, you never really know the risk at hand until you take it. When you take a risk it is taken because of a certain gain. Whether that gain is personal or for others, you take it because you know the potential outcome and that’s what you strive for. The risks I have seen men (Rangers) take in order to accomplish something, it was out of selfishness and gain for their men. So that they shall prosper, not just the risk taker himself. Risks are worth taking if there is a good deed that comes out of it. I believe that, and I know a great number of men who believe the same.

Muka & I at the Richard Avedon Exhibit 2013

Muka & I at the Richard Avedon Exhibit 2013

5. Most of us are not taking enemy fire in the pursuit of our goals, but we do have lots of other things that can serve as deterrents or distractions. How did you stay focused on your goal when you were getting push back?

I wasn’t always taking enemy fire either when taking a risk haha! However, our role as humans, as people who inherit the Earth, is to prevail and fight our lives as we see fit. I have had many distractions in my life, in and out of the Ranger battalion. Even in my own marriage I have been distracted with things that only I have wanted to do, not thinking about my wife. And the older I got, I was able to identify them more.

Most of the time you fail because of those distractions but it is up to you how bad you want those accomplishments. Being selfless is one of them. Your accomplishment doesn’t just affect you. It also affects others around you whether they are near or far. Your deeds are a reflection of you. If you fail, it doesn’t make you a failure, but when you look back at your failure; what was it that you could have changed? What were the lessons learned from that mistake? This is how I continued to stay focused as a man, a husband, and a Ranger. Now I am a photographer and guess what? Those same distractions reappear, but I have been able to identify them, and work through those obstructions.

Self Portrait 2012

Self Portrait 2012

6. One thing I love about you and Muka is that you are dreamers. After you were finished with the army, you took another risk and started a photography business. Becoming a Ranger, owning your own business, moving cities…you guys have tackled some serious dreams so far in life. What would you say to people who have a lot of things they want to accomplish in life but doubt if they can do them all?

Do them! When we decided to up and leave Washington, we said, “Hey, let’s just leave Washington.” We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We knew the risk, but we knew the outcome. We knew it would mean happiness and joy. We knew it would mean marital development. I still remember what Jady said when he married us, “Your loyalty towards one another will allow you to defeat all odds & you will become better people every day.”

This is something we still stand by to this day. We know that we will have to be loyal to one another, that’s how we have accomplished so much. You have to learn to be loyal. Not only to one another but to yourself as well. If you cheat yourself, what makes your think you aren’t easily capable of cheating and deceiving others? Loyalty to yourself is a huge factor in gaining success because the biggest thing that backs loyalty is Truth!

Me during a photoshoot in East Los Angeles 2013

Me during a photoshoot in East Los Angeles 2013

7. Any final thoughts or words of wisdom on being risky and chasing your dreams?

You know I’ve been getting the word “wisdom” thrown at me a lot lately! As humans, we take an everyday risk. We take risks as soon as we get up in the morning. As soon as we walk out of our front doors to start our daily lives. My mother was a very wise woman, and before she died she specifically told me, “When I leave this place (Earth), you better not sit here and mope around like it’s the end of the world. Go forth and live your life, and live it every day, because tomorrow is never promised to any of us.”

Those words are something that everyone needs to hear. Fear is what kindles in most of us, which is only natural because it is human nature to be afraid. However, the Enemy is what backs our fear. We must never fall for tricks of the Enemy. You have to foster a strength that you never thought you had. You have to engage your issues with power and trust in yourself.

You have to know that failure does exist, but it does not last forever. —> click to tweet

I have failed many times, only to realize that success was just a few steps ahead of me. I always knew that if I could muster the strength to overcome my obstructions, that would conquer my everyday problems. Don’t hold back, don’t hold grudges. Forgive people. Love people.

There are many who have died holding on to evil and deceit, unfortunately they have left what they have held onto for others to burden. Leave a legacy. Make something for the person who comes after you, so that your legacy may have no age or expiration.

Be happy. You’re alive!!! You are loved, whether you want to believe it or not. Last but certainly not least, believe in yourself and be yourself. Believe that you are worthy of greatness so that you may leave a trail of greatness!

– God Bless and Rangers Lead the Way!

Ian E Robertson

Visit Ian’s website to connect with him and learn more about his work–>

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Filed under Faith, Guest Posts, Uncomfortable January 2014

5 responses to “From Army Ranger to Fashion Photographer

  1. Faith

    Love this Liz! Thank you! And thanks Ian…I love that quote from Jady about loyalty. I think I’m going to write it out real pretty-like and stick it on my fridge.

  2. Kathy

    What an inspiring example you are, Ian! You’ve given so much wisdom and inspiration, especially in point #7. Thank you for writing this and thank you for serving our country.

  3. Tammy

    Thank you Ranger what and awesome story .I am a proud Ranger Mom ,RLTW

  4. Robert Zornes

    What Ranger Unit were you with and when? We might have actually crossed paths on one of the deployments. RLTW.

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