VRHabilis in the News

Impromptu Fundraiser Nets Over $1,000

From Martha’s Vineyard Times:

The Island premiere of “Act of Valor,” a newly released movie that portrays the real life challenges of NAVY SEALS prompted an idea that will benefit the Navy Seal Foundation (NSF), which provides immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare community and their families.

Island resident Tom Rancich, a former Navy Seal and Elliot Adler, a former Navy bomb technician, co-owners of VRHabilis, a company that specializes in cleaning former munitions sites, collected money at the movie opening for NSF. 2022 The men raised more than ,000. They said their company will match that amount.

For more information go to the

VRHabilis in the News

Fellow Martha’s Vineyard veterans lend Jared Meader a helping hand

By Janet Hefler of the Martha’s Vineyard Times:

Last week veteran Jared Meader of Vineyard Haven experienced [the] “band of brothers” bond first-hand when fellow veterans Tom Rancich and Elliott Adler stepped up with a $5,000 loan to stop foreclosure proceedings on his home….

Mr. Meader shared his frustration and despair about possibly losing his home at a recent veterans’ support group meeting run by Tom Bennett, the associate executive director and senior clinical advisor at the Island Counseling Center.

Afterwards, Mr. Rancich pulled Mr. Meader aside and said he would talk to his business partner about helping the Meaders out.

“Tom said, hey, this isn’t charity; we all hit hard times, and I’m not going to see another veteran lose his house,” Mr. Meader recalled.

Mr. Rancich is a U.S. Navy veteran who spent part of his career as a SEAL dealing with disposal of unexploded bombs. He and his business partner Elliott Adler met in the Navy as classmates in explosive ordnance school.

After retirement from their military careers, Mr. Rancich and Mr. Adler started their own company, VRHabilis, in 2007. The “VR” stands for “veteran run,” and “habilis” is Latin for “work.”

Mr. Rancich said after he left the veterans’ support group meeting, he shared Mr. Meader’s story with his partner.

“Why don’t we help?” Mr. Adler immediately responded.

“I went to Jared and told him, we’re not a mega-corporation, but we’ll be damned if we’ll see you and your wife and kids put on the street for $5,000,” Mr. Rancich said. “And what we’d like to do is extend to you a loan for that amount, get you current, get the bank off your back and allow you to have a little breathing room, so you can have a chance to succeed.”

On May 5 he put a cashier’s check for $5,000 in Mr. Meader’s hands. The next day Mr. Meader paid his back mortgage payments to Bank of America and put a halt to foreclosure proceedings scheduled for May 18.

“I think that if I had not known Jared through Tom’s group, that would have been an impossible offer to make,” Mr. Rancich said. “But since we’ve sat there and cried at the table together, I was able to make the offer, and he was able to accept it in the vein that I was extending it, which was look, you’re a brother in arms, and one of our company’s core values is to try to help out disabled veterans.”

Challenges for returning vets

Mr. Meader and Mr. Rancich stopped by The Times office last week to share their story. Mr. Meader said he didn’t mind going public with it, in the hope that it would bring to light the problems that some returning veterans face, especially those with disabilities.

“One of my soap box issues, and this is repeated throughout our history, is the country is perfectly willing to go to war without an appropriate safety net for the guys coming back,” Mr. Rancich said. “And you just see an enormous divorce rate, an enormous alcoholism rate, and an enormous suicide rate because civilians are of the opinion that you have to have fought in the Battle of the Bulge or something like that to have post-traumatic stress.”

VRHabilis provides military range management, remediation, and emergency response. The company is currently under contract to help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in its survey and cleanup of World War II-era munitions from former practice sites along Martha’s Vineyard’s south shore.

Mr. Rancich and Mr. Adler share a kinship with disabled vets, since both of them qualified for that category from injuries during their years of service.

Mr. Rancich broke his neck and back in a helicopter crash in 1997. He said that because of superior care he received from therapists on the SEAL team, he was able to continue to serve out his 20 years.

“So one of our company’s goals is to take guys with traumatic brain injuries or missing limbs and use adaptive technologies or adaptive strategies to employ them in fields that they want to work,” Mr. Rancich said.

There’s lots more — read the full article at the MV Times website.

VRHabilis in the News

VRHabilis’ Navy veterans working on Martha’s Vineyard

Nelson Sigelman of the Martha’s Vineyard Times published a story on July 2, Navy vets put war-making training to peaceful use, which features some of the US Navy veterans of VRHabilis. Here are some excerpts:

The popular stretch of sand and surf that fronts on the Atlantic Ocean is far removed from the world’s conflicts that shaped much of his training, but for Eliott Adler, co-owner of VRHabilis, the cleanup is an opportunity for veterans, some of whom are disabled, to do meaningful work.

This spring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hired EOD Technologies (EODT), a Tennessee based company that specializes in munitions cleanups, to find and remove practice munitions in Katama and Cape Poge on Chappaquiddick…. While the Cape Poge cleanup was primarily land based, the South Beach cleanup contract … called for a search and cleanup 110 feet out from the shoreline.

EODT subcontracted the South Beach dive work to VRHabilis, a company with a strong local connection. West Tisbury resident Tom Rancich, a former Navy SEAL, is a partner in the company and once commanded a specialized unit that included Mr. Adler.

Since April the men and their four employees have worked out of a small trailer parked on the beach. They have methodically moved along the shore searching the underwater terrain for any lost munitions.

Safety, for the public and the crew, has been a primary concern. While one diver is in the water another is suited up and ready to assist at all times. Signs warn the public that they are not allowed within a set exclusion zone.

The search technique relies on a diver who searches a specific grid with a magnetometer, an instrument that detects metal objects buried in the sand. When a signal is heard the diver uses an air vacuum to remove sand around the object.

If the object turns out to be old munitions it is not moved until at least two of the on-site ordinance experts agree that it appears to be inert. “The more eyes that you can put on it the better and when everybody has a consensus that it is acceptable to move that is when we make the decision to bring it up,” said Mr. Adler.

The use of video technology to involve other experts is one of the techniques that VRHabilis pioneered.

During a recent demonstration visit to the work site arranged by the Army Corps of Engineers, diver Erik Toews entered the rolling surf tethered to the shore by a rope, air hose, and communication cable. While in the water he communicated with Kim Heckhausen of Taunton, a retired Navy deep-sea diver who now works as a commercial diver in Boston. Mr. Heckhausen monitored the diver’s progress from within the trailer by means of a video camera mounted on Mr. Toews’s hardhat.

Standby diver Robert Rozzi of Hull, who served in the same Navy unit as Mr. Adler and Mr. Rancich but on another team, remained suited up and ready to assist. When it came time to leave the water diver Larry Weinmann, of Vero Beach Florida, assisted Mr. Towes with the heavy cables.

As of June 12 the team had found a total of 103 ordinance items, including old warheads and rocket motors, none of which contained high explosives according to the Army Corp of Engineers. The South Beach cleanup was scheduled to conclude today, but extended to July 7 and may be extended beyond that date.

In a telephone interview Monday Mr. Adler, who calls Knoxville Tennessee home, said that after he retired from the military in 1996 he went to work for companies in the environmental and unexploded ordnance fields.

When he saw a niche that called for a combination of diving and ordinance expertise, he contacted Mr. Rancich and together they started VRHabilis. “Tom and I have been friends for about 20 years,” Mr. Adler said.

They met while classmates at Navy explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) school. Later, Mr. Rancich was the officer in charge and Mr. Adler was the senior enlisted man in the same explosive ordnance disposal mobile unit.

Mr. Adler said the Navy created their team for a specific mission in the first Gulf war after it was learned that the beaches of Kuwait were heavily mined. Their job was to work with special operations units.

“One of the alternate battle plans called for landing personnel on the beaches of Kuwait,” Mr. Adler said, “so they needed our unique skill set to be able to go in and defuse the mines and remove booby traps and things like that, so that other personnel could get in safely.”

Today Mr. Adler and Mr. Rancich use their skills to clean up former military ranges. Their business strategy includes selling the recovered metal as scrap, a process that helps defray costs and utilizing readily available remote control devices where possible.

“One of the things that we are particularly proud of is that we offer employment opportunities for guys that have become disabled during the course of their military service,” Mr. Adler said. He said the company uses adaptive technology so that disabled veterans can work in their chosen field. For example, a bulldozer can be fitted out so that someone who cannot walk can operate the machine, or operate a remote control device.

Mr. Adler said the veterans he has worked with represent a significant investment by the military in training, have a tremendous amount of experience and bring a good work ethic and extensive leadership skills. Mr. Adler said, “So you are able to get a top flight, A-1 individual who has had success in the same career field and we are able to utilize those talents.”

For more information, including additional photographs, a video clip, and links to PDF maps, read the entire article: Navy vets put warmaking training to peaceful use on the Martha’s Vineyard Times website.