InMarket: The small meeting that was big

Robert Francis

If you noticed a small group of people entering the Justin Room at the Reata Restaurant in downtown Fort Worth on Tuesday, Nov. 25, you may have paid little mind. Another group, another meeting. But it wasn’t small. It was big, in fact. The one local celebrity you might have recognized was Pete Geren, former congressman, former Secretary of the Army and currently president and CEO of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation. Geren was there to pin a medal on the founder of Operation Enduring Support, John Roure of Austin. Roure received the second highest civilian honor awarded to U.S. citizens, the Secretary of the Army Public Service Award. Haven’t heard of Operation Enduring Support? No big surprise, Roure hasn’t sought out much publicity for himself or the organization. But if you’ve been involved with his organization, you’ve probably sung its praises.

Shortly after the war in Iraq was launched, Roure founded Operation Enduring Support and as stated by Three Star General Sean MacFarland, he “is credited with saving the lives of countless active duty U.S. Soldiers.” How’s that? First, a little background on Roure. A graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington and a former press secretary for a politician, Roure started Optic Solutions in Arlington, a company that sold compact disc systems, and getting out, he said, before the dotcoms took over the computer industry. Then, 10 and one-half years ago, Roure decided to do something else. He wasn’t a military man, but his father was a career medical doctor in the U.S. Navy. What does Operation Enduring Support do? One of the main items on the organization’s agenda is to bring some urban police tactics to the military deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We like to find innovative things and see where something works and make it better,” Roure says.

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For example: On Aug. 5, Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene was killed in Afghanistan in an attack that also wounded at least one major and one captain. Greene was the highest-ranking U.S. service member killed in the Afghan war. That same day, several other attacks took place. In one of them, 14 soldiers led by a lieutenant colonel were attacked. A key difference: the security detail in this group had gone through training provided by Operation Enduring Support from Austin’s SWAT team. They were “taught to do something different than the military was doing,” said Roure, declining to go into detail as to what they did. “As soon as the Afghani raised his AK-47 and started pulling the trigger, they were able to neutralize the threat. There were no soft tissue injuries. Every single one of those Americans walked away.” The result? Roure’s phone started ringing.

“It was a big deal inside the Army because they had just lost one of their own, a two star general – murdered,” he said. The organization also connects the military with local law enforcement for urban sniper training and criminal gang training. “Many of these groups will hire a gang to bury an IED, so we help the Army use some of the same tools as gang units use and it’s proven effective,” he said. Beyond that, the organization works to help military families connect with loved ones who may have been injured. One of Roure’s first tasks after founding the organization was to fly some family members in to visit a wounded soldier who was not expected to live. The outcome proved even happier than Roure expected. “I recently was invited to the soldier’s wedding,” he said. In the nomination letter, General Mark A. Milley noted: “Mr. Roure’s extensive cooperative training programs were responsible for many Army successes including the capture, conviction and imprisonment of the 2010 Iraq NEW DAWN Campaign Super Bowl bombers as well as the detection of numerous IED cells.” So it may have been a small private lunch on Tuesday, but in reality it was big.