Meet Brian Stann

For Silver Star recipient, U.S. Marine, and former UFC fighter Brian Stann, fitness was a matter of life and death.

Meet Brian Stann

You won't see Brian Stann strutting around town wearing the Silver Star he was awarded for gallantry in action during combat in Iraq in 2005. This Marine wears modesty better.

Stann takes more pride in the fact that all 42 of the Marines in his platoon survived a harrowing six-day battle, due largely to their mythical ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome, and in part to their relentless dedication to maintaining strength and conditioning.

“The Marine Corps wants you to do things when you’re tired,” Stann says. “It puts pressure on you. When you’re run down, you don’t want to shoot straight, you don’t want to do this or that. But when you’re fatigued in combat, you still have to operate efficiently. So our workouts are tough. It’s about shared misery, shared sacrifice, and shared suffering, because that’s what war is. Every single Marine can understand that he has to do this for the guy next to him, at the very least.”

War put fitness into perspective for Stann, but the Pennsylvania native prided himself on physical excellence long before he was leading some of the world’s toughest men into battle. And in the years after leaving active duty, he marched boldly into the Octagon, for combat of a different sort. For Stann, in one way or another, punishing, character-defining workouts have always been about survival.


Stann, 32, played ironman football (offense and defense) for Scranton Prep School, but was primarily known for his athletic dominance at quarterback, where he set school marks for passing and rushing. Then, in the first game of his senior season, he dislocated his throwing shoulder, forcing him out of the pocket and onto the line. Despite the injury and the fulltime move to defense, he received serious recruiting overtures from Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale. Stann, however, had a different destiny, and enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.

After four years of suiting up at outside linebacker for the Midshipmen, Stann graduated from the Academy and headed to Quantico, VA, for Marine Corps Officer Candidates School. As a high-scoring officer-in training, when it came to selecting his military occupational specialty, or MOS, he had plenty of options.

“Infantry was the only place I belonged,” says Stann of his decision to pursue the most hazardous job available. “The training is really difficult. And even when you’re not deployed, you’re out in the field—no showers, out training all week. As an athlete, you’re used to making sure people are accountable for their assignments. A lot of your maneuver warfare is similar to what you’re doing in football. It was considered the toughest way to go, and for my buddies and me, that was part of the attraction.”

By now, he was accustomed to intense training—but nothing could have prepared him for the physical rigors of the months ahead.

“There was lots of field time, very little sleep, and very little food,” Stann says of his eight-week stay at Quantico. Desert training in Twentynine Palms, CA—home of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center—was next, followed by one of the most grueling assignments in the military: mountain warfare training in Bridgeport, CA. With elevations reaching 11,000 feet and temps falling below freezing, Bridgeport offers a stiff wakeup call for Marines who previously flourished in more temperate weather.

“You really appreciate how detailed you need to be as a leader in that kind of climate,” Stann says. “You’re in snowshoes. Normally, in full gear, hiking three miles will take about 50 minutes. In Bridgeport, that could take four to five hours. But when you move you start to sweat, so you stop to take of some clothes, then hydrate, then layer up again so you don’t freeze. Your feet can go to hell in a handbasket quick.”