From Air Force Veteran to Light Foundation COO – Troy Eden

901

From growing up in Fairfield County to joining the military to now being a part of the Light Foundation, Troy Eden has worked to be a leader and to serve others.

Growing up in Fairfield County was perfect for Eden. He lived between Athens and Lancaster and was a part of FFA.

“I started FFA in ninth grade,” Eden said. “Most of my life, I wanted to be outside, and FFA fit right along with that. I worked on different farms; my uncles had dairy farms. I always put a lot of work in there.”

Although, wanting always to be outside meant Eden didn’t do as well in high school.

“I would literally go to class and look outside and think I could go fishing. And I would just leave, and I would go fishing or hunting or whatever,” Eden said. “When it came springtime, I’d keep my grades at a C so I could play baseball. But other than that, I was really not interested in school.”

After high school, Eden worked odd farm jobs, hunted, and worked at a gas station part-time. While at the gas station, he met a recruiter for the Air Force.

“When a recruiter came through and talked about the Air Force, I remember I was pumping at a gas station, and she said, ‘So is this what you are going to do as your career?'” Eden said. “So I went and took all the tests and everything. They gave me an additional test for Military Intelligence, and it just clicked.”

Eden joined the Air Force in 1991. He was in basic training the day the first Gulf War started.

He went through basic training and loved it; he went through the military intelligence school in Texas and loved it and then went on to Japan for four years. He became a staff sergeant in 1995.

He traveled a lot throughout his military career.

“I’ve been in 65 different countries,” Eden said. “All through the Middle East, Northern Africa, Afghanistan, Korea, and Bosnia. When I became a Command Chief, I traveled nonstop. 250 – 300 days a year for nine years.”

The military did a lot of good for Eden. Not only did he travel, but the military paid for his education, where he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Being in the military was also where Eden met his wife.

“My wife and I have been married 30 years,” Eden said. “During those years when I was gone all the time, we had some rough spells, but we stuck it out, and we’re still standing. We have two boys; one just left the Marines, and the other one was a minister and then got a cyber security degree.”

Eden went on to be an intelligence analyst.

“We collect information on our adversaries,” Eden said. “It’s called ISR, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. You have satellites, aircraft, ground sensors, all this stuff is collecting information. They do this to us as well; it’s a game.”

Eden even worked for the Pentagon as the deputy chief of staff for Air Force personnel.

“All the chief master sergeant assignments, all the highest enlisted assignments, that’s what I managed,” Eden said. “It’s like putting a puzzle together. In the military, leadership positions usually rotate every two years. So, you’re aligning these people, some are going overseas, some are coming back to the States, and you’re moving all these pieces around to make sure all these units have leadership elements in them.”

The Air Force has been a blessing for Eden; it brought him opportunities he couldn’t have imagined.

“I don’t know what my life would have been like,” Eden said. “As a kid from southeastern Ohio, I remember I was on the Great Wall of China, and I was like, wow, how did I get here?”

Eden retired from active duty in 2017. He and his wife ended up working as defense contractors for Wright Patterson. With friends and family in the area, they made the move to Beavercreek.

While at Wright Patterson, Eden met and worked with former baseball player Adam LaRoche.

“I was going out to his ranch in Kansas,” Eden said. “I’d help him with Veteran hunts, guiding and taking care of the veterans that would come in out there.”

Eden met Matt Light through LaRoche. Eden started talking to Light and ended up volunteering in a couple of camps at the Light Foundation.

“When they originally reached out to me, it was for the camp Vohokase,” Eden said. “It was a ten-day camp, and they wanted to bring in some military guys to teach the kids survival skills, shelter building, fire starting, boiling water to get clean water, and land navigation.”

Three days at Camp Vohokase was all it took for Eden to know that this was where he belonged.

“I told Matt I think this is where I’m supposed to be,” Eden said. “We started talking, and I volunteered for a couple of different events; one was a big fundraiser in Boston. On the way back, he called and said here is what we can do.”

Eden is now the Chief Operating Officer at Chenoweth Trails. He is responsible for everything that goes on there. He works on budget and maintenance, bringing people in and keeping them safe, to insurance.

Eden stated his favorite part of being a part of the Light Foundation is being able to serve others.

“It’s serving a bigger cause. Reaching out, talking to kids, trying to mentor them, teaching responsibility ethic accountability,” Eden said. “The military taught me that you are promoted to serve, not to be served. It’s been a good thing to base your life on, just trying to serve others.”

He went on to talk about the type of leadership he has been in since being in the Air Force to now at the Light Foundation.

“There is a thing called Service-based leadership,” Eden said. “I’m in a position of leadership, but I’m there to serve not only the crew out there, keeping the facility up to standards, but also serving the people who come in to be a part of the camps.”

Eden states that a sense of service and giving back is what he loves. He feels very blessed to have the opportunity to continue to serve.

Eden mentioned a story of a night working at the Light Foundation and teaching kids survival skills.

“We did a three-and-a-half-mile hike course, and there were obstacles on the way,” Eden said. “One challenge had 65 cinder blocks on a pallet. The instructions said to find the other pallet and transfer these blocks to the pallet. So if you’re thinking, you go, well, let’s grab the pallet and move it here, and we can transfer the blocks right here. They didn’t do that. They carried every one of those blocks 100 yards to stack them on a different pallet. It taught you to think before you act.”

He said that lesson also taught that things could always be worse.

“I have some of the kids that I talk to, and they’ll say oh man, I’m having a bad day, but you know what? I’m not moving cinder blocks at 1:30 in the morning,” Eden said.

Serving these kids and serving other people is a big part of Eden’s life and something the military taught him well. He loves the community he is now a part of and how willing the community is to help each other.

Moving to Greenville not only brought him closer to his job at the Light Foundation but also to this wonderful community.

“That’s probably the best thing is seeing how this community especially wants to give back,” Eden said. “Give back to the youngsters and just try to mentor them. This community is rare. I’ve gotten to travel all over the world and all over the United States. The way they support the Light Foundation and other nonprofits, it’s special, and you don’t find it everywhere.”

Eden feels truly blessed to be where he is in his life now. He is living the dream.

“For years, I would tell my wife, hey, if we hit the lottery, I would want to start a camp for youth and teach them outdoor skills, fishing, hunting, camping, all that stuff,” Eden said. “This is my lottery. I hit the lottery with this job. I’m very thankful.”

Troy Eden’s career journey has allowed him to not only grow as a person and a leader but also give him the opportunity to serve others.