VRHabilis in the News

VetChamps Tourney Interview

Hiring Our Heroes program and the Hire A Vet campaign by SPIKE TV named VRHabilis as one of eight finalists in the Small Business Tournament of Veteran Champions. The public now has the chance to vote at to help identify the most veteran-friendly small business in America.

A few reasons VRHabilis was selected are:

• Service-disabled veteran-owned small business
• 75% of full-time employees are veterans
• Volunteer and donate to numerous local and national veteran organizations

Watch this Google hangout video interview with Tom Rancich to learn more about the company and why they should be named the Champion of Veteran Friendly Small Businesses.

[mcw_jwplayer_video src=youtube video=eJ0wRUWfRTc width=600 preview=hangout-video.jpg]

A combination of public voting and a panel of judges will narrow the field down to four semifinalists and the same format will be used to select a winner. Voting for the Final Four continues through May 16, 2013, and for the champion through May 30, 2013. Judging for the tournament is based on criteria such as innovative recruiting and retention strategies for veterans, veteran community engagement and leadership as well as an ongoing commitment to hire veterans. The winning business will receive a custom spot produced by and aired on Spike TV.

VRHabilis in the News

Hang Out with VRHabilis

Come join our Google+ Hangout Friday morning to chat with VRHabilis CEO and co-founder Tom Rancich about the company, the veterans who work with us, and how we work with veterans’ organizations. The Hangout starts at 11 a.m. Eastern time on Friday, May 10, 2013, and will run for 15 minutes.

This Hangout is being presented by The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program. It is part of their Small Business Tournament of Veteran Champions. VRHabilis is one of eight finalists for this national award.

We hope you can join us!

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 speaks at underwater munitions conference

Tom Rancich, co-founder and CEO of VRHabilis, LLC, wrote an abstract that was selected for presentation at the Third International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions in Sopot, Poland, April 12-15, 2011. Here is the abstract as it appears in the official program:

Underwater Munitions Location, Mapping, Analysis and Removal

VRHabilis Diving Department is comprised of former US Navy Deep Sea Divers, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, and US Navy Special Warfare (SEAL) and Surface Warfare personnel. VRHabilis has been conducting operations to locate, map, analyze and remove unexploded ordnance from rivers, lakes, tributaries and coastal oceans around the United States since August of 2008. In that time, VRHabilis has removed thousands of pieces of ordnance and analyzed hundreds of underwater acres of ordnance pollution.

Treatise: Underwater ordnance presents a unique set of challenges, as well documented and understood by members of the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM). VRHabilis understands this unique set of challenges and has successfully operated with them over the last four years. The reason that VRHabilis has been successful in our endeavors is that our personnel have over 300 years of combined experience operating in every type of maritime environment completing extremely complex operations. That experience is critical for the following reasons:

  1. The trend in the United States is to treat the underwater UXO problem the same as the land problem. This is fundamentally flawed. Not only must underwater sites be treated differently than land sites, but each underwater site must be treated differently, bringing to bear all possible solutions to develop the best course(s) of action. Though many sites will have similar assets applied to the solution, there will be no cookie cutter solution. Due to the dynamic nature of the underwater environment, an underwater UXO operation is distinctly unique from a land operation. UXO discussion on point one will juxtapose the VRHabilis Humpback Bridge Emergency Response with the Alderwood Lake Underwater UXO Sweep.
  2. As the environment is dynamic so must be the solution. Flexibility in planning and execution of the production operation is a necessity in underwater UXO activities. That fact requires a different type of work force; one trained and encouraged to innovate and keen to be involved in the planning process. Discussion on point two will be analysis of deep water operations off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.
  3. The problem facing IDUM is a production problem; a production that must be safe, efficient, cost effective, and beneficial. The underwater UXO defense explosives, i.e., mines, in military operations. That expertise must be balanced with professionals with production experience. Discussion on point three will juxtapose shallow water mine operations in Desert Storm with the Martha’s Vineyard Time Critical Removal Action. The full development of this abstract will compile, analyze and compare years of successful experience in underwater operations and UXO removal. At the conclusion the audience will have a better understanding of problems encountered throughout the planning and execution of underwater UXO removal actions and subsequent solutions.

For more information and the other abstracts presented at the Underwater Munitions dialogue, download a PDF of the official program. Mr. Rancich’s abstract appears on page 22. We will publish a copy of the full speech as soon as it is available.

VRHabilis in the News

VRHabilis called to identify rusted cannon shell

From the Martha’s Vineyard Times:

Alec Gale dredged up more than mollusks off Lobsterville Beach in the Martha’s Vineyard town of Aquinnah Wednesday. The fisherman found a rusted 40-millimeter cannon shell of the type used by World War II era aircraft.

Mr. Gale brought the shell to the dock in Menemsha Harbor, left it on a shed near the Texaco gas station and called police with news of his catch. Chilmark Police Sergeant Jonathan Klaren called Tom Rancich of West Tisbury.

Mr. Rancich is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, who spent part of his career as a Navy SEAL dealing with disposal of unexploded bombs. Mr. Rancich’s company, VRHabilis, is currently under contract to help the US Army Corps of Engineers in its survey and cleanup of World War II era munitions from former practice sites along the Island’s south shore.

When someone finds a bomb, authorities here notify Mr. Rancich, who determines whether the object is safe to move and store, or whether it is a live bomb that requires a controlled detonation.

After receiving a photo from Officer Klaren, Mr. Rancich advised him not to move the shell, which he later identified.

“The cartridge was sealed and intact, although the nose cone was seriously deteriorated,” Mr. Rancich wrote in a report to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Mr. Rancich moved the cannon shell to a fenced-off location on the beach. That evening, the State Police bomb squad arrived and destroyed it in a controlled explosion.

Mr. Rancich said that although the area off Lobsterville was not used for training purposes, anecdotal reports from local fishermen are that there has been WWII airplane wreckage discovered in that area.

Read the full article.

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.

VRHabilis in the News

VRHabilis destroys bomb found on Martha’s Vineyard beach

Nelson Sigelman of the Martha’s Vineyard Times reported on the role VRHabilis played in the demolition of a rusted aerial bomb that washed up on a local beach:

Explosives ordnance disposal (EOD) experts Friday blew up a rusted aerial bomb that washed up on Wasque Point at the southeast corner of Martha’s Vineyard. The loud explosion that reverberated across Chappaquiddick contained echoes of an earlier era.

More than 60 years ago Navy and Army pilots regularly used Tisbury Great Pond and East Beach and an area known as Little Neck on Chappaquiddick for bombing and strafing practice. The list of munitions used at Tisbury Great Pond included 100- and 500-pound practice bombs with spotting charges and .30 and .50 caliber bullets.

Over the years the remnants of those training missions, rusted practice bombs, have continued to turn up in the marsh and on the beach, most often on areas owned or managed by The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), the private conservation organization. Most of the ordnance are practice bombs that have only a small explosive charge, but a few of the discoveries have turned out to be the real thing.

Last September, federal, state, and Edgartown officials, along with TTOR representatives, established a plan to deal with unexploded bombs from the World War II era. Previously, the state police bomb squad was called to the Island to evaluate suspicious objects, but the frequent discoveries put a strain on the bomb squad’s resources. Now, when a bomb is discovered, the authorities notify West Tisbury resident Tom Rancich, a decorated 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy who spent part of his career as a Navy Seal dealing with disposal of unexploded bombs.

Working under a contract with the Department of Environmental Protection. Mr. Rancich determines whether an object is safe to move and store, or whether it may be a live bomb that requires a controlled detonation.

Paul Schultz, assistant TTOR Chappaquiddick superintendent, discovered the bomb during a morning patrol Friday and notified Edgartown Police who then confirmed it was a bomb and contacted Mr. Rancich.

Chris Kennedy, TTOR southeast regional director, said the bomb found last week washed up almost exactly in the same spot where a similar bomb turned up last March. He suspects high winds on Thursday might have been responsible.

Mr. Kennedy said practice ordnance and some live bombs have washed up during the 20 years he has been on the job. He said there is no way of determining the danger and it is best never to assume there is no danger.

“From what I was told, they could not determine whether it was live or not so they did the safe thing and blew it up in place,” said Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. Rancich’s company, VRHabilis is under contract to investigate potential unexploded ordnance and provide training to the Trustees, lifeguards, police and other people who might come in contact with potential ordnance items. The State Police bomb squad and Navy EOD personnel from Newport have been called on to check on old window weights and other items that looked like ordnance but were not, said Mr. Rancich.

When he can conclusively determine that it is not ordnance or that it is safe to move, Mr. Rancich said he moves the item to a secure storage area for eventual recycling. If it is deemed unsafe to move, then the State police bomb squad and Navy EOD make a final determination and generally detonate the item.

Mr. Rancich said the criteria used to decide the safest course of action includes the ability to determine the identity of an object, its location and the likely hazard to the public. Generally speaking, he said it is unlikely that this type of bomb in that condition would explode “without a lot of help,” but, given the amount and variety of ordnance dropped and dumped during WWII, “it is best to assume the worst.”

As for what private citizens should do if they come upon a suspicious looking object on the beach, Mr. Rancich said, “We promote the program Recognize, Retreat, Report. Recognize that the item could be ordnance, retreat from the item the way you approached it, and report it to the police.”

View the full article online. More information on the ordnance cleanup at Martha’s Vineyard can be found in the following presentations (in PDF format): Martha’s Vineyard Ordnance and Interim Community Assistance: Martha’s Vineyard Ordnance Site.

VRHabilis in the News

VRHabilis co-founder chosen for Construction Institute committee

The Jan-Feb 2008 issue of the Construction Zone, the Construction Institute’s bi-monthly newsletter, featured Tom Rancich and VRHabilis in this article by Stephan Butler, A.M.ASCE.

Lt. Commander Thomas Rancich, US Navy (Ret.) and founder of VRHabilis, has recently joined CI’s Social and Environmental Concerns in Construction Committee. The Committee’s members, who focus on social, economic, technological and environmental concerns in construction, believe that VRHabilis’s business model, which is informed by both social justice and profit concerns, embodies the core vision and mission of the committee and its work.

VRHabilis, which stands for Veteran Run Work (Latin derivative), is a disabled veteran-owned small business with the large vision of increasing career opportunities for disabled veterans in construction and related fields. Tom Rancich, a retired Navy SEAL, combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan (awarded the Bronze Star for valor), explains, “VRHabilis (pronounced vrahhbliss) began as a military range remediation service company. We saw where we could seize a niche market by providing military range managers with tailored solutions to their individual needs instead of following the status quo in the unexploded ordnance industry. One of the first things we wanted to develop was an enhanced remote-controlled capability for land clearance and target placement. We developed the concept, which, we joked, if we got right, we would never have to leave the pickup. Right then the light went on: if we could do it from the pickup, then so could any disabled veteran.”

From that initial conversation VRHabilis has developed the concept of using adaptive technology to bridge the gap between industrial and medical technology. “We refer to it as ‘mass customization to maximize human potential,’™” explains Rancich. “The idea is to work with equipment manufacturers and construction managers to develop cost-effective solutions to individual disabilities and then field those solutions to add service-disabled veterans to the work force.”

The facts are clear. Tens of thousands of disabled veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars face huge challenges reintegrating into the work force. These are not men and women who want, or even would, take hand outs, but the handicap posed to them by their service-related injuries is real.

“I fractured my neck in a helicopter crash in 1996,” says Rancich. “I was able to continue to serve but as I went through the retirement process in 2005 it was obvious that the system was skewed toward telling [me] what I could not do rather than help[ing] me find a way to do what I wanted to. We want to reverse that skew. In the interest of full disclosure, we believe that there [will be] enormous socio, economic and financial benefits in doing so; this is not a nonprofit effort. By focusing on what we know to be true about these men and women—they are honorable, they are trained, they are adaptable, they are diligent, etc.—we can build a corporate structure that supports their needs as a function of productivity instead of overhead.” Success in that endeavor could add tens of thousands of motivated workers to the industry at great benefit to society and the economy, not to mention honoring a sliver of the debt of gratitude owed to these individuals.

You can download a PDF of the newsletter from the Construction Zone.