Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct Mykel Hawke’s age.
Flood? Fire? Zombie apocalypse?
You name it, Mykel Hawke is ready for it.
The former Green Beret and co-star of the Discovery Channel’s “Man, Woman, Wild” has a survival pack on him at all times, ready to brave whatever comes his way, with a weapon, a first aid kit, a couple of compasses and a stick of beef jerky.
That’s not counting the other go-bags by his bed and in his Jeep — much to the frustration of his wife, who has to work around hatchets and survival gadgets after a grocery run.
But Hawke, 52, doesn’t want to survive alone. Through an Army career, multiple training programs and appearances on dozens of TV shows over the last two decades, he has devoted his life to teaching others how they, too, can live through natural disasters and other worst-case scenarios.
“The reason I like (survival) so much is it applies to all human beings, no matter what your background,” he said in a recent interview.
An upbringing of abuse and extreme poverty sparked Hawke’s lifelong interest in survival. After getting kicked out of junior high and hanging out with a gang, Hawke saw the military as a way out. He went to boot camp as soon as he turned 17 and eventually became a Special Forces medic.
“My military training was 100 percent the inspiration for everything that I’m doing,” said Hawke, who retired as a captain in 2011. “Everything I felt that people could benefit from, I try to teach to other people.”
After Desert Storm, Hawke took a break from military service and worked as a military contractor. During that time, he started the survival skills training companies Global Univision and SpecOps, which have since morphed into his company, Hawke Brand. He made his first TV appearance on the MTV show “Road Rules” in 1998, and after another active-duty stint with the National Guard following September 11, 2001 — one he’s ready to reprise, if needed — he started getting multiple invitations to offer his Special Forces and survival expertise on camera.
Last month, he was on a History channel miniseries, “The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen,” produced by Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio. Others may recognize him from a January episode of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” in which he and his wife, British broadcast journalist Ruth England, brought a “Fear Factor”-ish flair to the popular dating show with lessons in drinking urine — which turned out to be apple juice — and eating bugs on a survival-themed group date for Arie Luyendyk and eight of his female suitors.
“A lot of (the women) probably had the most come-to-Jesus outdoors experience they’ve ever had,” he joked.
And while he confirms that one can, indeed, stay alive for seven days in the desert by recycling pee, it hasn’t ever come to that for Hawke. Most of his near-death experiences, outside of the military, have been self-induced — like all the times he’s camped out in the open near lions, wolves, bears and other wild animals for good TV, his wife said.
“He’s not risk-averse, let’s just say that,” said England, who has starred in two shows with her husband and is an adventurer in her own right.
England recalled a time when she, then-pregnant with the couple’s 11-year-old son, Gabriel, got a call from the producer of a show Hawke was shooting in the Amazon. He said Hawke had been injured and the crew hadn’t heard from him after he left to get help. Her mind raced with questions: Had he been killed? Captured by guerilla fighters? Shot by a native with a blow pipe?
Turns out, finding a village doctor in the Amazon took longer than expected, and Hawke had trouble getting a signal with his satellite phone to let everyone know he was OK.
“I married an officer in the Special Forces, so I kind of did sign up for it,” England said.
Hawke, as down-to-earth as they come, considers himself “just a teacher” who doesn’t mind doing his thing on camera. When he’s not filming, he runs customized adventure activities for high-end clients and teaches survival courses at the military and government training facility ALTAIR Training Solutions in Florida, where he is also helping to develop an “American Ninja Warrior”-like adventure course for people of varying skill levels.
Michelle Jones, ALTAIR Training Solutions co-founder, described Hawke as a “sweet, all-around good guy” who’s also a “total badass.”
“We’re very careful about who we do business with, and we’re going to be doing a lot of great things together to help a lot of people — not just Special Forces, but veterans and just people that need to learn the skills that he offers,” she said.
And to Hawke, that’s everybody — adults and children alike. He and England recently wrapped up a family survival guide with tips for parents on teaching their kids about survival, as well as information for children to know if they ever get lost or separated from their families.
An accompanying video series featuring Gabriel, which will coincide with the book’s fall release, is intended to get the next generation outdoors and interested in nature and survival.
Hawke said he never had a master plan to end up working in Hollywood or become a renowned survival expert. But his passion for helping people just kept opening doors along the way.
“Teaching people the skills that will help them survive — and help them survive better and, hopefully, with honor — is a big part of my ethos and reason for being,” he said. “(I’m) trying to use it to help my brotherhood, to help kids, to help vets, to help animals and just use it for good.”
Natalie Gross has been reporting for Military Times since 2017. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.