The Protectors® Podcast

#457 | REWIND | Don Bentley |Target Acquired: The Success Story Behind Don Bentley

September 29, 2023 Dr. Jason Piccolo Episode 457
The Protectors® Podcast
#457 | REWIND | Don Bentley |Target Acquired: The Success Story Behind Don Bentley
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(Original Air Date June 29, 2021).  Get ready for a riveting journey as we sit down with New York Times bestselling author, Don Bentley. An extraordinary man, Don is not only a celebrated author but also boasts a past life as an FBI agent and Apache pilot. 

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Make sure to check out Jason on IG @drjasonpiccolo


Speaker 1:

Hey, welcome back to the Protectors podcast Today. A very special guest on Bentley, new York Times bestselling author, former FBI agent and former Apache pilot. But first I want to give a big shout out to Deliver Fund. I love Deliver Fund. They're doing great things and right now they are actually taking the war to the traffickers. They're fighting behind the scenes and they're doing incredible work. So make sure you check out Deliverfundorg. So let's welcome Don. There he is. Hey, Jason Don, how's it going? Big news since the last time you had Jan right, oh my gosh.

Speaker 2:

yeah, this is actually, I guess you are the first person I've talked to, the first important person I've talked to since we got the news last Wednesday. So, yeah, it was crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy.

Speaker 1:

Without sanction. I loved it. I'm right in the middle of the next one right now, and now I have another book, target Acquired.

Speaker 2:

I have to watch.

Speaker 1:

I don't know if you're doing great things, brother, really great things.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, man, and it's been man. The last three years have been crazy, and then the last I guess six months or so have been double that, and so I know you and I have kind of talked about this before, but just for any of the new folks so I spent, you know, 17 years writing books that nobody read, and then 2018 was lucky enough to sell, without sanction, a two book deal. But when your first book gets bought, it takes about 18 to 24 months for it to come out, and so when it came out, right before it came out, I was writing yeah, right before it came out, I turned in the second book already Because, again, it takes so long for the first one to come out, which was the outside man. And at the end of that, my editor, tom Colgan, is also the editor for the Clancy series and he asked me if I would want to write in the Clancy series, which is an incredible honor. Fast forward, this year, I turned in target acquire in February the outside man book to, and Matt Drake came out in March, and then target acquired the first one of mine in the Tom Clancy Jack Ryan Jr came out two weeks ago. So it has been a wild 2020, to say the least, or 2021 rather.

Speaker 1:

I could only imagine. You know, like you said, 18 years, 18 years. I was like you just picked up a pen one day and said, hey, you know what I'm going to write? A New York Times best-selling book. I seriously, you know, without sanction, I've talked about it before I've read it. It's like a real book I've actually read. You know, sometimes I don't have time to read everything, but it's really good, man, and I like it. The protagonist, matt Drake, just Matt Drake. I like it, man, I like that. It's not like this super secret, like you know. I mean, he's super secret, but not like this, like like really way beyond. But the reason we're going to we're having on today is talk about target acquired and we're going to do a little bit of something different today. We are going to talk about what is a day in the life of a New York Times best-selling author.

Speaker 2:

I mean, it's in man. I'm like fascinated by this graphic right now. Look at the shot groups clicking in right there all over the place. So I have to say that I have been a New York Times best-selling author for all of a week, or not quite a week. We found out last Wednesday this is again for newbies, you know you may have already known this, I didn't Is that they update the list every Wednesday at 7pm Eastern, and so the I was waiting on Wednesday to see if it would hit or not, and my editor actually called me at three and I was like, well, it can't be that call because it isn't seven yet, but I guess the editors get a advanced copy. And so he told me, which was incredible, and so I wish I could say I have. I have all this experience living a day in the life as a New York Times best-selling author, but it's not even a week old yet. Having said that, like you and I were talking about before we started taping, I've been no-transcript, so I'm like most writers. I had a day job and then, when I got the opportunity to write, target Acquired, I had a day job and I was writing two books a year, which was a little bit much, and so I just now had the opportunity actually last week, which my first or my last week at my day job. So now I am officially a writer every day, which means I sleep till noon and think about books and then, you know, just kind of scribble down some words and then go back and take another nap during the day. And actually that's not true at all. Right now I have the third book in my Matt Drake series, which is called Hostile. Intent is due in just about three weeks. It's due on the 15th of July, and so right now my day starts. I still get up pretty early and get up about 530 or so and do a blocker writing until about 10 or so, and then I do kind of the glamorous non-writing tasks of being a writer, like updating your website and responding to emails and doing all the other crazy stuff that isn't actually writing. And then I do a second chunk of writing in the afternoon and then I try and get a workout in or something like that, and then I have another spot of writing in the evening that I'll sometimes do as well. So hopefully once, like I said, I'm kind of behind on this book right now because I was doing the day job at the same time. I'm hoping that for my next book, which I think hopefully will be a Jack Ryan Jr book, I can get something a little more manageable, but that's it right now, just writing, sleep and writing. It's very, very glamorous.

Speaker 1:

Now writing and getting into the character's head because you're working on. I mean, if you get another Jack Ryan Jr book, you're going to be working on two protagonists kind of at the same time. What is your writing process like during the day, and does it change each day? Or is it just kind of like I sit down on my keyboard, I look at it and all of a sudden it starts flowing?

Speaker 2:

No, that's a great question because I think a lot of for me when people talk about writer's block or just trouble writing in general. For me that usually happens when I don't know enough about the story, about some aspect of the story, and so this weekend's a great example where I had I had planned that I was going to crank out a couple thousand words a day this weekend, and what I spent seemed like most of my time doing is I should take you over and show you the dining room table and it's all just note cards scattered across the dining room table. And I spent a lot of time in this position, right here, surrounded by note cards, hoping that they would speak to me and I'd figure out where the book would need to go or the part of the book that I'm stuck on. And so, if I can, if I'm disciplined in the night before, I can, I can, you know, come up with some notes or something like that about the scene that I'm going to write, starting early the next morning, or maybe start the scene so you get the juices flowing. It goes a lot faster, and I try and write when I was writing a day job or when I was doing a day job at the same time and I had much, much less writing time allotted in my day. What I started figuring out is that I could I could write between two hundred and fifty or five hundred words pretty easily, like that's usually when I start. Getting stuck is right at that point. And so what I started doing throughout my days. I would in the morning I'd say you know, hey, during the week I'm just gonna try and get five hundred words a day, or something like that. And so in the morning, before I started my day job, I would just write and see how many words I can get. Usually I could get pretty close to five hundred Just in that one set. You know between two hundred, fifteen, five hundred. And then I do the same thing at night. And then you know what. You start combining those and then they and they pile on top of each other. You have that bigger word count, and so that's. I've tried to be the same thing. A good friend of mine in a fantastic writer is a guy named mark grainy who does the gray man and get a bunch of tom clancy books, and I remember him saying that he does about two thousand words a day. And so I started. I was like I gotta work at least as hard as mark grainy does if I'm a full time writer, and so I started with that in mind is kind of my target. But I still break that down. And so the first for me In the morning you know, when I'm fresh and it's early and I don't have anything else distract me the first thousand words or so comes pretty easily, and then the next thousand words usually has to get broken up over a couple of different writing, writing sprints or something, if you will. But again, it seems to work better for me if I do a little planning beforehand and figure out what needs to happen and why. If I just try and say, sit down on my computer cold and say, okay, what am I gonna write today usually doesn't end well.

Speaker 1:

Now the transition from, you know, having a day job. You've had a lot of really cool jobs. I really have to say that fb, I agent, apache, pilot, writer, intel, all sorts of cool stuff and writing your passion. Doing that is a full time job, yet scary, but once you get over this hump you already checked off. One of the biggest things to get possibly ever imagine Is new york times best selling all third dot. You know I can say now that I met a guy person. You're the first author I think I've actually seen in person and went to like a book signings.

Speaker 2:

That's really cool, that was good. Yeah, that was further without sanction back to it, I can.

Speaker 1:

Think one of the last pre covid yeah yeah, yeah, when you bring up I love this thriller generation. I'm looking forward to having your book on the new protectors book club. I'm excited to have that launch this past weeks. Is a is books? We love books is something about our generation is like this thriller generation. It's just really cool books out there, man, we have these. When I was a kid it was like ninjas and like you know, rambo, but I was like it's really cool man. But you know, going back to one of your jobs, that's one thing I want to talk about it like transition completely from the right and now you're back in your in the army. You're an apache pilot which hands down. If you're gonna be a pilot, I think that's the way to go. You know that's just me and we know you have you did a lot. But just what is a normal day like a normal day when it comes to, like you know it, in conus and o conus?

Speaker 2:

Sure, and I'll say it is. That is one of the, I think, the coolest jobs in the world to have. It's. It's hard to have a bad day when you're flying apaches, and in fact, they want to. The coolest things about the apaches you wear when your pilot, you wear what's called this helmet display unit, so it's this little monocle that slides over your eye and you use that. As you turn your head, the sensor follows your head, and so you fly at night time through that one I the other sensor that sits on the, on the nose of the helicopter, and then the other cool thing that does is the thirty millimeter can and that hangs, believe, below the, the nose as well. If you have that slave to your eye, everywhere you look, the thirty millimeter can and follows me, squeeze the trigger and bad things go away, which is which is incredible. And so I'll start with the not as exciting one first. So in conus or in the, when you're not deployed, the way pilots work in the army, it's different from any other services that there's two groups of pilots, if you will. There's what are called one officers and then commissioned officers, and so in the army, the majority of pilots are warren officers, and so those are the guys and girls who full time job is to be a pilot. And when you're a warren officer there's three or four different specialties. You start with your what's called a w one and your you know, we call them Peter pilots just that's your, it's your sole job is to be a pilot and to get very familiar with your aircraft and become an expert on it. And then, usually about the time you make CW two, which is, I think it's about two years to between two and four years after you come out of war and officer school, you start to branch off into a specialization, and so the specializations can be what's called an IP or an instructor pilot, a MTP or a maintenance test pilot, a safety officer, attack ops officer or and I'm sure there's, there's another one I'm missing too and so those then branch off and that's kind of your specialization. So if you're an instructor pilot, what your, your, your job is is to progress the new pilots that are coming into the organization be kind of the standard bearer for it. You give check rides, you do all of that stuff. If you're a maintenance test pilot, then your job is when aircrafts go down, and they go down frequently. What I mean by that is from a maintenance perspective. They go down and have to be fixed, the maintenance test pilot he or she is. That is kind of the head maintenance person at the company or troop. And then when, when they do fixes to helicopters, they fly them and get them signed off and so on. So a whole bunch of different jobs. If you're what's called a commissioned officer, which means you've gone to ROTC or the military academy or OCS, your career path is a little bit different. So you go through flight school just like a warrant officer does, after he or she comes out of warrant officer candidate school. But then you are the, are the leader. Your job is to do. When you're a lieutenant you're a platoon leader and then you go off and do, and when you're a platoon leader you fly all the time. It's your job. In in a, in a Apache company or troop or at least the way it used to be there are eight aircraft and two platoon leaders, and so each platoon leader he or she has four different aircraft. And when I was, my first assignment out of flight school was Korea. I was in one sixth cavalry, and so I was started out as the, as the back platoon leader and then you progress to the scout platoon leader, which is normally the more senior one in the troop, and so you have four aircraft that are yours, and then half the enlisted folks who are the mechanics and such, and then half the pilots. And so you do that while you're a platoon leader and then, once you do your year, two years of platoon leader time, you rotate out to staff job and you don't fly as much anymore. You're either usually an assistant S3, like an operations officer, or you're, you know, one of the staff in the military. The staff all start with an S at the battalion level, so it could be the intelligence officer, which is the S2, or the logistician there's a beautiful Apache right there and so those are the jobs you do until about the four or five year mark when it's your turn to cycle back and be a company commander. And so then when you're a company commander you fly all the time again, and then when you're a major, you rotate back off and you do staff jobs, and then when you're a lieutenant colonel you come back again as a battalion commander or squadron commander if it's a cavalry unit, and so those are kind of the differences between the two. So when you're in like a platoon leader, company commander position, usually fly about once or twice a week, depending on the hours and stuff that you have, and then there's all kinds of administrative stuff that the military events for you to do when you're not flying, when you're deployed, is completely different and there's a distinction and for pilots and it's something that's called being a pilot in command, and so in the Apache you sit one behind the other in the front seat, or the technical term is the CPG, the co pilot gunner we always call him the front seat and then the back seat Is the person who sits in the second seat, and usually in the old alpha model Apache helicopters the seats were so different in that the controls were so different between the two, that you were usually assigned one seat or another, and so the more junior pilot usually sat in the front and the more senior pilot, who was the pilot and command, sat in the back, and sometimes you would have Folks who were called dual seaters, who could move from one to another, but that was really the exception rather than the norm. The longbow and now the guardian, which is the next generation of patches, much more advanced, it's a completely digital cockpit, and so you can configure your own cockpit to be there's what that are called pages, these multi purpose displays that have pages, and so I can set up my cockpit how I want, and you can set up yours, and so the difference between the seats becomes much smaller, and so it's much more common for people to be dual seated, and so the distinction still is who is the pilot in command, and so pilot in command is something that every pilot kind of strives for, and it's something that you spend a lot of time getting experience and studying for, and when you're ready, you have to be recommended To take your pilot in command ride, and then you take it, usually with the squadron or battalion, the chief instructor pilot there, and it's very, very rigorous. When I took mine While we were at Fort Hood, before we deployed to Germany and then went to Afghanistan, it was a couple hour oral examination first, and then you know, three or four hour flight where you're, where you're happy, and you're not only displaying your skill as a pilot, but it's also heavily, heavily slotted towards your decision making criteria, because, because you're going to be given, you know, responsibility for this helicopter, and so they put you in all kinds of crazy scenarios and Just to see how, how mature you are, whether you can wiggle the sticks, you know when you, whether you know what your limitations are as a pilot or not. And so, because I was fortunate enough, my best friend was was a troop commander in what's called a line troop, and so he had the helicopters. I was a troop commander in what's called support troop, and so when we went to Afghanistan, I became one of his backup pilots. And so what would happen is there are three different types of missions that you you fly in Afghanistan or you did you know 15 years ago when I was there and it is a QRF mission, or a quick reactionary force mission, which your job is to. You know, you carry around a handheld radio and for a 12-hour shift, if you get a call on that radio, you have to be airborne within 30 minutes, and so those missions could be anything from very benign, like a general needs to go from Kabul to JBad or something like that, and you're going to provide escort to. There's a medivac that is taken off and they need an escort to. There's what's called a tick, or a troops in contact and they need gunships, and so it's very much could be anything and everything, or it could be nothing and you could spend 12 hours and never get a launch at all, and so that's one mission. Second mission is what's called ring route support. So in Afghanistan much of the people, gear supplies moved by helicopter because of the ruggedness of terrain and the dangers associated with IEDs, and so that stuff was carried in either Black Hawk or Chinook helicopters, and so use the Apache helicopter pilot would be the escort form, and so it could be, you know, a six or eight hour mission where you're just literally going from fob to fob and escorting a Black Hawk or Chinook. And then the final kind of mission is what's called a direct action mission, where there's a unit on the ground. It could be in biogram. A lot of times we supported the SEALs because their organic fire support aircraft are usually the 160th, and the 160th didn't have little birds or armed dapps or anything there, and so we as Apaches picked up that mission form. It could be, you know, normal infantry folks that are out, they're going to go do a raid on a village, and so you'd be the gunship support form or anything in between. And so that's the third type of mission, and that one obviously is the much more exciting one, where you do a whole bunch of mission planning beforehand, you do coordination with the ground, you do rehearsals and then you go execute it, and so that one is kind of on the left side of the asmyth, if you will, for the amount of coordination and prep time and everything you do beforehand, versus on the total right hand side are the QRF missions, where most of the time you literally have no idea what you're going to be doing until you go do it. And so that's kind of what the three different missions look like, and it's a data Apache pilot. How about that?

Speaker 1:

That is exactly what I was looking for. The thing about, like your background and writing the books, is you see it and the details in the paragraph you could tell someone who doesn't have either the background or they don't do the adequate research and those books really don't go that far. Fortunately, everybody that's been on the show really world class authors, all of them. Some of them don't have that big old caveat of New York Times bestselling author, no, but a lot of them will be. And I love following your journey and I love seeing what you're doing, because it's really cool to see you come out with the Matt Drake and then, all of a sudden, now you're doing Jack Ryan Jr and now we really need to pull up that graphic again, because I don't even know what I did with it, but that was really cool. I was trying to pull up some Apache while we were doing it and it wasn't, so we got the Apaches in there, so that was kind of cool. So, yeah, man doing great things, brother, and, as usual, I love promoting anything you're doing, looking forward to seeing what happens next with Matt Drake and Jack Ryan Jr. I know we're here to promote Jack Ryan Jr, but I really like the whole Jack Ryan series and I'll always have.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, as soon as I get through my next two books, I'll read that one. Nice, nice I'm really looking forward to it, man, looking forward to having you talk to everybody out there. If you are into books and you're into especially books like Don has Join a Protector's Book Club. Don's books will guarantee you'd be part of the selection coming up in the next couple of months. Right now, let's see if we could pull up this graphic here. There it is Target acquired is out now and it's up there. It's in the top of the charts, don. I appreciate you coming on a show, brother.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, Jason. Thanks for having me, man.

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