From the front lines to the White House, to the front office of the NBA, former Navy SEAL and anti-cancer advocate Rob Newson is an inspiration.
His father was in the Navy and served in Hawaii and California. When he retired in 1975, the family moved back to Kansas, where his parents grew up. Newson received a Navy ROTC scholarship and attended Kansas University. He then went on to earn a PhD in leadership studies from the University of San Diego. He has two older brothers, one of whom spent 22 years as an Army nurse. The oldest served in the Navy Reserves and serves as a county sheriff Major.
Newson served nearly 30 years as a Navy SEAL, with early deployments in Guam and the Philippines. After 9/11, he served in Bosnia, Kenya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen.
“They were all great experiences,” he told Veterans Advantage. “It was an unbelievable opportunity to see and serve with all the greatest leaders of the war,” referencing Generals Petraeus, Mattis, McChrystal, and Admirals McRaven, Olson, and Tidd.
Newson retired earlier than planned in 2018 to work as a civilian as the Director of the White House Military Office, where he worked for 11 months under President Trump. From there, he spent two and a half seasons working with the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team as the Vice President of Strategy and Vision.
“It was a stretch going to professional sports, but my focus was on teams and leadership culture,” he said. “It was a really challenging environment during Covid. I wasn’t looking for a job in sports and I was not a fan or a follower.” A former Navy pilot was hiring for the position through The Honor Foundation and looking for a SEAL. His responsibilities included overseeing and managing leadership, culture, and innovation initiatives. “I do watch the NBA more now than I used to. I understand the personalities and the behind the scenes more.”
“Military folks bring a unique adaptability and flexibility. They’re used to switching jobs. They’re quick learners and quick team builders, as well as mission focused. Service members have been put in leadership positions from a young age. Leading is never easy, but veterans have enormous experience and a range of problem sets they’ve dealt with.” He encourages fellow veterans to build strong relationships and network as they search for jobs.
More recently, he has been advocating for the fight against cancer within the military, and is a founding partner in a venture capital firm focused on dual use technology enabling the Special Operations community. In 2017, he was diagnosed with aggressive cancer. He had surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and two years of hormone therapy.
“I was a young guy comparatively, so one of my doctors asked if I’ve been exposed to anything to cause something so aggressive at such a young age. So many teammates and special operators and support personnel were getting cancer. I am passionate about getting more focus on the problem – early screening and diagnosis and advanced cancer treatment for active duty and veterans. Service members and vets are in great shape – super healthy - so cancer is not assumed and often found in late and terminal stages.”
He believes there’s been slow progress on addressing cancer in the military and that we are at the early stages of awareness, but “there are promising things on the horizon.” For more information visit the Hunter Seven Foundation; to join the cancer in the military fight - donate.