In July 2020, the Battle Bunker was just an idea. For the life of my YouTube channel, I never wanted my content to be just about me.
I had been producing lots of video content involving fitness challenges, other creators, and even the occasional Marine Corps obstacle course.
It was such a fascinating idea to me to take two occupations and have them go head to head. I loved producing the videos because I got to do what I love - which is to work out, and also got to hang with some pretty cool people.
The Ultimate Decision
In the later months of 2020, I was coming up on my re-enlistment date for the Navy. I had previously served seven years and had the option to re-enlist for four more years. All the while my YouTube channel and videos were inspiring millions of people each month.
In August of 2020, I finally had made the decision to get out and pursue fitness and creation full-time. That decision was tough for me because I loved the Navy and my job, but my decision was based on me loving fitness and creation even more. I had until from August-November to take it to the next level.
Now that I knew I was getting out of the Navy, I had to focus on taking the idea of these competition videos, and building and brand and series around them. This is where the fun (and complete nightmare) came in.
Where the Name "Battle Bunker" Came From
I knew the name had to be perfect because it had to encompass what we are, our community, and our mission in the same short name. I really liked the idea of "Battle Factory" but after a short search online, I saw that it was trademarked by PokeMon ( I should have known).
A few days later, I had come up with the idea of "Battle Bunker". It perfectly encompassed everything I was doing with the series. The term "Battle" stood for the competition between the competitors, and "Bunker" stood for the roots in the military community.
I just had to have this name. So, like anyone does before legally claiming a name, I looked for the previous trademarks and companies with the title "Battle Bunker" and to my surprise no one owned the name. The funny part was, NERF (yea the massive foam dart gun company) had just let the trademark expire a few months earlier and it was mine for the taking!
A Dumb Purchase
At the time, I had no place to shoot my videos. Typically, I would go to a local high school gym or the Marine Corps obstacle course at Camp Pendleton and shoot my videos...but this was different. I knew I had to claim a piece of land or area that I could shoot these videos at.
In September 2020, I stumbled upon a piece of land - 10 acres in Lancaster, CA and stupidly enough of me purchased it for $10,000. I thought "what a bargain". I was going to make this piece of land the home of the Battle Bunker and build my own obstacle course.
Not so fast Austen - any land in Southern California that is $1,000 per acre has something wrong with it. I didn't know this as the time but that land was located in a "significant ecological area" and required 4-5 surveys for endangered species, biological history, and land use history.
My "Golden Opportunity" fell through when LA County informed me that the cost per each survey was $20,000-$30,000. I struggled a bit mentally because after knowing this, and after learning that any good piece of property would cost upwards of $500,000 (money I didn't have) my vision of the Battle Bunker dimmed a little. On the bright side, escrow let me have all of my money back so I could still afford lunch the next day.
Making the Battle Bunker an Actual Thing
If I had a dollar for every motivational entrepreneural quote I've heard, I would be rich...but one always stuck with me.
"If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again"
Man it really sucks when you have this vision in your head and you hit a road block (LOL) and if you've ever experienced this you'll know that any good thing doesn't come easy.
My search continued, and I was coming up on my EAOS or "End of Active Obligatory Service" in the Navy. I knew I had to keep up the momentum with the Battle Bunker or I would take a mental "hit" on creating these videos.
After shifting my focus from buying to renting, my manager Michael suggested to rent a lot on a piece of land that was already surveyed, permitted, and approved for recreation (yea, California is crazy with their land). The search began again for my golden piece of land.
I reached out to several paintball parks and outdoor gyms, but none really had what I was looking for or were too expensive for me to even consider. This is where the quote "If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again" came in handy mentally.
After what seemed like hundreds of phone calls, I had actually found a spot just North of Los Angeles that I went to have a gander at. The owner had 80+ acres (way overkill) for a price that I couldn't refuse. So I pulled the trigger and signed a lease on 80+ acres of land in an area that was easily accessible and had a great view of the Malibu ocean from the mountains.
Building the Battle Bunker
Literally three days after I signed the lease to this beautiful desert/mountain country, I flew my cousin out from Alabama to help me map out a spot for the obstacles. We measured, planned, took aerial shots, and cleared the land for the bunker.
This building process was an emotional one for me. I had entered my "terminal leave" from the Navy and didn't have to show up anymore. Every day that I was out there on the tractor, or lift, or bulldozer, I would think to myself "What the heck am I doing leaving a full-time job, renting land, and building this obstacle course?". I was taking on more financial liability, and I knew that my $60,000 salary from the Navy was going to go away forever in 45 days.
Still staying true to my vision, I was out there every single day for 40 days building, landscaping, renting tractors, buying nets, and progressing towards this idea of The Battle Bunker. In hindsight, building the Battle Bunker helped me in so many ways adapt to the outside world, and not having anyone tell me what to do anymore was tough for me. I was so used to that over the past 7 years, it was hard to even tell myself what to do now that I was out of the Navy.
This may sound stupid, but I felt like the Battle Bunker was this floating personality constantly over me telling me to come to work. "If you build it, they will battle" was always in my head and I may or may not have gotten that inspiration from the Field of Dreams.
Nine obstacles, lots of work, and lots of land...
In November 2020, the Battle Bunker was born physically. Myself and the friends that helped me celebrated over popping some champagne. I remember not drinking any because I knew the real work had only begun.
Now as I am writing this one year later, we have produced a little over 15 episodes on YouTube, launched the series on Facebook, and Snapchat Discover. We've reached a little over eleven million viewers through our videos on all platforms and we are just getting started.
This is how the Battle Bunker was first started, and if you're new here feel free to follow The Battle Bunker on Instagram to become a part of the journey.