Marine Recon leader receives award earned only by a few good men
By Alex Junes-Ward
Rudy Reyes, star of FOX’s new hit television series SPECIAL FORCES: World’s Toughest Training, Britain’s Channel 4 SAS: WHO DARES WINS, and HBO’s 2008 miniseries GENERATION KILL, received one of Global Eco Adventures’ (GEA) most unique awards during GEA’s annual Eco Ball, Thursday, April 20. The award, GEA’s IRONMAN, has only been received by 14 men so far. The selection pool is small, so-say GEA officials, and the standards exacting.
Reyes, a former U.S. Marine Recon sergeant, received his IRONMAN designation after two years of work as a military diver with FORCE BLUE during the SCUBA diving portion of GEA’s South Carolina 7 (SC7) expedition.
GEA’s initial group of IRONMEN were those who, according to GEA founding president Dr. Tom Mullikin, “have not only served our country with distinction in peace and in war, but the high-intensity military culture from which each of them has emerged has enabled them to continue serving with the same intellectual acumen, physical prowess, and spiritual commitment we might aptly say describes an IRONMAN.”
Mullikin, a former U.S. Army officer and retired two-star commander of the S.C. State Guard who has for years led arduous expeditions to remote and often dangerous destinations around the world, was several years ago named IRONMAN through the Christian men’s organization, Ironman Outdoors. Mullikin established the GEA award in 2020.
An article by former semi-pro football player and U.S. Air Force veteran Chris Carter in 2021 said: “A few, though not all, of GEA’s titled IRONMEN include Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), recipient of the Medal of Honor; and Keith Vitali, world-renowned Karate fighter and S.C. Black Belt Hall of Fame inductee. Col. W. Thomas Smith Jr., a retired S.C. Military Department officer, former U.S. Marine infantry leader and easily one of the nation’s premier counterterrorism experts and Shia extremism analysts is an IRONMAN.”
Carter himself is an IRONMAN as is Thomas Mullikin Jr. (Dr. Mullikin’s son) who has himself led global expeditions often at the head of former U.S. military special operators. Other IRONMEN include U.S. Marine Col. (Ret.) Steve Vitali, a veteran combat commander of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who, like his brother Keith, is a member of the Black Belt Hall of Fame. Col. Vitali’s fellow Hall-of-Famers Bruce Brutschy and Mike Genova are IRONMEN; also National Wrestling Hall-of-Famer and member of the S.C. House of Representatives Ben Connell; state wrestling champion and Kershaw County Councilman Brant Tomlinson; SCUBA diver Dewayne “Duke” Gary; and retired U.S. Army Infantry (Airborne Ranger) Col. Bill Connor.
Brutschy said, “Rudy being named an Ironman only adds to the prestige of what has emerged as an elite group of Ironman recipients hailing from the Palmetto State.”
Fresh back from Syria and on his way to New Zealand, Reyes lives in Lexington, S.C.
A companion award, “THE PEG” – Heart of a Lioness Award, and named for Mullikin’s late sister Peggy Mullikin Kinney, an accomplished marathoner with a “refusal to quit spirit” was presented to Lt. Governor Pamela S. Evette during GEA’s annual dinner and awards ceremony in 2022.
This year’s GEA dinner and awards ceremony was attended by Gov. Henry McMaster, U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan, S.C. Senator Thomas Alexander, USC Pres. Michael Amiridis, several general-officers, state legislators, other VIPs and nearly 120 guests at Junction800 on Gervais Street in Columbia’s historic Congaree Vista.
– IRONMEN pictured (L-R) are S.C. Black Belt Hall of Fame president and inductee Mike Genova, National Wrestling Hall of Famer and S.C. Rep. Ben Connell, and U.S. Marine Sgt. Rudy Reyes.