Best-selling author discusses warrior spirit at WPAFB event

D.J. Vanas gives two presentations June 24 at base

During a visit to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on June 24, speaker and best-selling author D.J. Vanas encouraged military personnel and civilians to apply the warrior spirit as they further develop their careers or leadership skills.

Vanas, an enrolled member of the Ottawa Tribe and former Air Force officer, presented two interactive programs for base audiences. Senior leadership learned about Vanas’ principles in the morning, while an afternoon program at the base theater was open to the general public.

The events were “awesome,” Vanas said, with about 75 people attending the first program and 200 present during the second.

Growing up as an Air Force “military brat,” Vanas said speaking at Wright-Patt was like a homecoming.

“Being on base and seeing my brothers and sisters in blue was amazing,” he said, praising Wright-Patt for its hospitality

Based in Colorado, Vanas is a speaker for Fortune 500 companies, hundreds of tribal nations and more than 7,000 audiences nationwide. He has also spoken at the White House. Organizations such as Intel Corp., P&G, Subaru, Accenture, USAA, Walt Disney and NASA have relied on Vanas’ stories, humor and practical, easily implemented lessons.

To persevere on the path to success requires more than sheer fearlessness and willpower. It requires what Vanas calls the warrior spirit, the kind of strength that looks outward but comes from within.

Vanas introduced base personnel to the Native American warrior spirit. The tribal principles that led the first cultures in America, he explained, can be applied today to lead organizations with courage, clarity and resilience.

When faced with an important job, and people depending on you to do it, most of us will give and give until there’s nothing left, according to Vanas.

“But running on empty, even for a worthy cause, only sets you up for failure in the long run,” he said. “You can’t be a warrior if you’re falling apart.”

A true warrior is not the toughest or bravest person in the room, Vanas added, nor is he or she operating alone.

“That’s been an overly romanticized vision” of a warrior, he said.

True warriors commit to self-mastery, know how to navigate change, transform setbacks into opportunities, refuse to quit and, most importantly, always fight for something bigger than themselves, according to Vanas.

With a vast array of stories and examples, he showed attendees how warrior spirit principles could transform how they show up both for themselves and those around them.

He also talked about staying effective and leveraging such resources as time and energy.

Vanas, an Air Force Academy graduate, is author of the best-selling book, “The Tiny Warrior,” which is printed in six countries, and the novel “Spirit on the Run.” His latest book, “The Warrior Within,” is being published by Penguin Random House and will be available Aug. 2.

He is also featured on the PBS documentary “The Warrior Tradition,” which explores the warrior spirit traditions across Indian country. The show aired nationwide on Veterans Day. Vanas also hosted his own PBS special, “Discovering Your Warrior Spirit,” which aired nationally in 2021.

To learn more about Vanas, who is the president-owner of Native Discovery Inc., visit his website at

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