An award-winning former U.S. Air Force survival instructor has for decades successfully equipped leaders from all types of organizations – military, corporate, government, community, and family – with the mental attitude, key knowledge, and essential skills needed for survival under the most arduous conditions.
A graduate of and an instructor at the world-renowned U.S. Air Force Survival Instructor School (known as “SERE” School), Reggie received multiple awards for his work-preparing airmen for survival in any possible climate and terrain. Following his distinguished military service, Reggie has developed a reputation as a pioneer in bringing the key lessons of survival and related skills to the general public.
For over a decade, Reggie’s acclaimed Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School has strengthened and inspired people from diverse backgrounds with the expert skills and knowledge necessary to cope in the wilderness. Because of Reggie’s unrivaled technical expertise, passion for teaching, and dedicated human touch, Mountain Shepherd continues to prepare the nation’s warriors for survival. And this same experience and approach has made Mountain Shepherd a sought after survival and leadership development resource for public, private, and non-governmental leaders alike.
Scott Smith is Mountain Shepherd’s VP of west coast operations and brings over 20 years of training and operational experience in areas of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape and USAF special mission aviation program management and training development as well as more than ten operational Combat Search and Rescue deployments in several military areas of operation.
Scott’s contributions to the development of USAF battlefield rescue tactics, techniques and procedures are still in use in today. He specialized in the areas of standards and evaluation and training program development.
He lives in Portland, Oregon with his family and enjoys all things outdoors.
A Retired SERE Specialist with over 26 years of military experience. As a Master Instructor, he planned, developed and led the Air Force wartime-only captivity renovation by merging three formal Air Force classes into one Full Spectrum course. In 2006, Mike was selected as motivational speaker for over 4,800 USAF Academy Cadets during a two day peacetime detention engagement. Certified in all aspects of SERE, Mike also specializes in Conduct after Capture MTTs, apprehension avoidance, escape enhancements, personnel recovery, urban survival, and owns two degrees in Communication & Survival Instruction.
Jeff graduated with Reggie Bennett Class 90-02 as a U.S. Air Force SERE Instructor in July 1990. The job title reflects what they both were trained and certified to teach, global Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training. After 20 years of teaching survival to military and other government agencies he retired from active duty and continues to teach survival at Mountain Shepherd. Jeff is dedicated to providing global travelers with specialized survival skills.
Team Building, Women’s Courses and GEMS Camp
Dina Bennett was born in California and raised in Chicago and Roanoke, Virginia. Her career began in the corporate world, where she trained and coached sales staffs around the country. In 2006, a new door opened for Dina as she completed her first survival course taught by Reggie Bennett (now Dina’s husband). Motivated by this challenging experience, Dina set out to open this new door for others, too, and especially for other women.
During that introductory course, Dina realized how many parallels existed between survival skills in the backcountry and social or professional situations in the “front-country.” She dove deep into these connections, and she came back to the surface feeling more self-aware, confident, motivated, and courageous – empowered.
Dina is now Vice President of and instructor for Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School, and a co-creator of Girls Empowered by Mountain Shepherd, both in Catawba, Virginia. Her greatest satisfaction comes from sharing her own drive for adventure and journey to empowerment with others. Her unique curriculum based on those same parallels has changed the lives of all of her students, who range from corporate professionals to young families and from empty-nesters to college undergraduates.
Dina’s most recent endeavor is the GEMS summer camp program, which fosters courage, confidence, and compassion in pre-teen and teenage girls through the exploration of the same seven survival priorities taught to adults at Mountain Shepherd. Girls discover the great outdoors and their own great personalities while at GEMS, and they emerge as confident leaders, prepared to help others and achieve their own goals. For Dina, GEMS is the result of 10 years of dreaming big and digging deeper.
Jon Guy Owens
Jon Guy Owens is a native of western North Carolina and has been working in adventure recreation for just over 20 year. Jon Guy graduated from Western Carolina University in 1997 with a degree in Recreation Therapy, and went on to get a Master’s in Experiential and Environmental Studies at Radford University in 2000. He started his journey as a raft guide on the Nantahala River in 1994 and has since worked teaching rock climbing, canoe and kayak paddling, caving and fly fishing to name a few. For the last 15 years Jon Guy has been working as the Director of the Hollins Outdoor Program at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA.
Dani Derringer was raised in Roanoke, VA. She earned a Bachelors Degree in Math from the prestigious College of William and Mary. Graduate school led her home to Roanoke at Hollins University. While earning her Masters of Arts in Teaching, she learned from and worked with the Hollins Outdoor Program (HOP). Dani quickly started working as a trip leader.
Dani’s first job took her to the Chesapeake Bay area to teach at a boarding school. She taught math class, facilitated study hall on dorm, coached swimming, and co-lead River Immersion. Dani enjoyed spending time after school teaching students to canoe and fish in the Rappahannock wetlands.
In addition to teaching and exploring the outdoors, Dani loves to travel. She had the opportunity to travel to five continents on a variety of personal and professional trips.
Growing up camping and spending time outdoors in Kentucky, Susan Powell realized she wanted to have a career working with people outdoors. She earned a degree in Recreation and Park Administration from Eastern Kentucky University and also a Master’s degree from the University of Georgia in Recreation and Leisure Studies. Susan is a Wilderness EMT who has worked in outdoor and adventure recreation for over 15 years in a variety of areas ranging from summer camps to residential centers for teens to campus outdoor recreation. She has over 10 years of experience facilitating groups of all ages and enjoys helping groups function as a more cohesive unit. Her favorite pastime is long-distance backpacking, with Appalachian Trail, John Muir Trail, and Long Trail thru-hikes under her belt. Her favorite quote is “The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences. “ – Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild.
Kayla has called both Norfolk and Wise County, Virginia “home,” though she feels at home wherever she can be outdoors.
Kayla is a member of the Class of 2016 at Hollins University, where she will soon graduate with a B.A. in both Environmental Studies and Sociology, along with a certificate in Leadership Studies from the Batten Leadership Institute. At Hollins, she has participated in the Hollins Outdoor Program, the campus community garden, student government, and the equestrian program, to name a few.
Outdoor experiences for girls are near and dear to her heart, as Kayla has been a Girl Scout and a two-time counselor at an all-girls camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Inspired by many recent experiences, including Dina Bennett’s “Survival for the Modern World” course for Hollins students, a life-changing study abroad experience with the School for Field Studies, and completion of a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification course, Kayla has a passion for empowerment and education in outdoor spaces, and she enjoys bringing those lessons into the “front country” whenever possible.
Maria Vest is from southern Maryland and pursuing a Biology degree at Hollins University. During her first year, she became involved with the Hollins Outdoor Program and has since become a trip leader and member of the downriver racing team. She has led many hiking trips and the wilderness orientation trip for incoming freshman students at Hollins. As an experienced rider, Maria is also a member of the equestrian program. Maria earned her Wilderness First Aid certification in March 2018.
First Aid Team
Mike is an avid outdoorsman, Board Certified Psychiatric Pharmacist with over 16 years of experience in healthcare. He earned his Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 1996 from Campbell University School of Pharmacy. He serves as a preceptor for several pharmacy schools including VCU College of Pharmacy, Appalachian College of Pharmacy, Shenandoah University School of Pharmacy and University of Florida School of Pharmacy.
- Fundamental Critical Care Support Provider
- Emergency Medical Technician Basic
- American Heart Association Advance Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) Instructor
- Pediatric Advance Life Support (PALS) Provider
- Prehospital Trauma Life Support (PHTLS) Provider
- AHA Basic Life Support (BLS) for Healthcare Provider
- ASHIBLS, ACLS, Basic First Aid and Wilderness First Aid Instructor
- Basic Disaster Life Support
Keith is an avid outdoorsman with many years of wild land fire fighting experience.
He is a member of the Craig County Search and Rescue, Craig County Rescue Station 9, Craig County Fire Station 5, Craig County Wild Land Fire Team, Craig County Board of Supervisors, Craig County Tap Board Member, National Forest Medical AD.
- Emergency Medical Technician –E –Advanced Life Support
- Advanced Cardiac Life Support
- Pediatric Advanced Life Support
- Prehospital Trauma Life Support
- Tactical Combat Casualty Care
- American Health Safety Institute Instructor: Advanced Wilderness, Wilderness First
- Responder, Wilderness EMT Upgrade, First Responder, CPR/AED, First Aid
- CPR/AED6 Workplace, Pet First Aid
- National Forest Red Card: FFT2,6Emt6E,6S212 Saw Operator.
- Advanced Burn Life Support
These Are Our Dogs!
Hi my name is Scout. I’m really the one in charge around here, but Reggie doesn’t want anyone to know. So let’s just keep that our little secret, okay? I love people and enjoy helping out with the classes. If you need someone to steal…I mean, relocate your kindling to another location, I’m the dog for the job! Looking forward to seeing you soon!
Hey there, I’m Holly! You can’t miss me, because I won’t let you.:) I’m actually pretty talented and have advanced color-changing technology. I can change from white to brown at the drop of a mud puddle! And I somehow manage to change back without a trip to the dog wash. Bet you can’t do that!
Well, now that Scout and Holly have finished tooting their own horns, let me introduce myself. I’m Levi…at your service! And while my four-footed sisters have bragged about their very non-useful talents, I will humbly share my very useful one. I am the best darn bug-digger-upper you’ll ever find! If you’re hungry and need some grub… you know, the big, fat, white variety that can be found under rocks and stumps…I’m the one you can count on so you can fill your belly full! What, Scout? What do you mean I’m going to scare away the students with that kind of talk?
Hi I’m Riley, the newest addition to the family. I can run fast and jump high so you may think I’m part reindeer and part rabbit. When you come to Mountain Shepherd to visit me, I’ll be sure to spend some time in your lap and I may jump in your car because I’m always ready for a ride!