Admiral Scott Sanders : Pirate Fighter to Distillery Admiral

Admiral Scott Sanders : Pirate Fighter to Distillery Admiral

Admiral Scott Sanders : Pirate Fighter to Distillery Admiral : RR : Was there a Naval event in history that has inspired you as an adult? 

Admiral Scott Sanders : My dad was a navy carrier pilot, he was 20 when he joined the Navy in WWII and ended up flying/fighting off of escort carriers in the Pacific. I always wanted to be a carrier pilot, never thought of anything else.

RR : Was there a Naval event that inspired you as a child to become the genesis for your maritime career?

Admiral Scott Sanders : I was part of the December 1983 strike against Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. It was not a well-executed event. The lessons radically changed the way the U.S. Navy conducts carrier operations.

RR : Where did your love of ships come from?

Admiral Scott Sanders : I’ve always loved history and when I attended the Naval Academy was immersed in world maritime history from the collapse of the Bronze Age (“Sea Peoples”) to the present day.

RR : Do you have a favorite battleship? Or are you a carrier guy? 

Admiral Scott Sanders : I’m a carrier guy, USS John F. Kennedy was my first ship so my heart is attached to her.

USS John F Kennedy

RR : Civil War naval history doesn’t get much love, is there any part you think is worth studying?

Admiral Scott Sanders : I’m of the opinion that the U.S. Navy got to “sit out” developments during the Civil War. Mainly river boats and blockade ships. We got to avoid a whole “development cycle” like the Royal Navy did with HMS Warrior. Kind of like less developed nations bypassing landline phone service and going straight to cell phones.

RR : Do you prefer the Battle of Jutland or Tsushima?

Admiral Scott Sanders : I’m a Battle of Midway fan. It’s impact on world history cannot be underestimated. Jutland was a “fumble” by the Royal Navy in that they didn’t win despite overwhelming numbers. They also didn’t use a new technology that was confusing to them – Radio.

Jellicoe was left in the dark despite his very capable fleet. That and the fact blast doors were left open, resulted in horrific losses to the Brits. I’m not a student of Tsushima, but know it did not bode well for the Czar (and his family) for the future and set the Japanese Empire on a more aggressive path.

RR : What is your favorite Naval history to study?

Admiral Scott Sanders : As an Economics major, I like looking at how world navies historically have been intertwined with national policy and development. We live in a post “Bretton Woods” world now, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

Throughout world history, the open seas have been a dangerous place and nations that had navies, tended to develop technology and capabilities that spurred growth of their populations. At several times during British history, expenditures for the Navy exceeded 25%. But it also created vast technologies and industries. It really was the “Military Industrial Complex”, but with iron, wood and scientific advances.

RR : What was the toughest hurdle you had to climb in your naval career?

Admiral Scott Sanders : My toughest hurdle was landing an E-2C aircraft on the USS John F. Kennedy at night in bad weather! They did a study during the Vietnam War on carrier pilots, the most intense heartbeat and stress to the pilots was not during bombing runs and being shot at in combat, but rather landing aboard the carrier.

Admiral Scott Sanders : You may like this, but I think the future for aviation and space exploration is all about Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning. I wish I had that technology to help me land back in the day. This nation is going places and those technologies will be key once we get them integrated across our emerging innovations and mature technologies. If we can fly a helicopter on Mars…..we can do anything!

RR : Did you ever work with General Petraeus?

Admiral Scott Sanders : Yes I did work with General Petraeus. Below is a photo of him with a small batch rum I made. He was the Commander of Central Command when I was off the Coast of Somalia. Years after combat in NYC during a dinner on the Intrepid the General remembered me as his “Pirate Admiral”.

Admiral Sanders is an active entrepreneur and started a craft Bourbon distillery (Tobacco Barn Distillery) in 2014 with two other partners. They have been making Bourbon for over six years now and have been featured in “Whiskey Advocate” magazine. His distillery is one of the few in America that grows the corn it creates a Bourbon from. A true “single farm” distillery.

Mr. Sanders is a seasoned Executive in the Aerospace & Defense industry. He was a Senior Vice President at Wyle/KBR for over 26 years, was President of Asley Associates for 6 years. He is currently employed by Envistacom, one of the nations leading technology companies for advanced satellite& terrestrial communication systems. Mr. Sanders has held a variety of technical & management positions, from Engineering Test Pilot up to the company Presidential level. 

Mr. Sanders retired (Oct 1, 2013) from the Navy with the rank of Rear Admiral. He was a “drilling reservist” meaning, he held a civilian job concurrently with his military assignment. His last assignment was to the Joint Staff as Reserve Deputy Director, Force Development. He held previous Flag assignments as: Vice Commander – U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and Deputy Commander – U.S. Second Fleet. He commanded International Counter-Piracy operations (Coalition Task Force 151) off the coast of Somalia in 2009-2010.

Mr. Sanders holds a degree from the U.S. Naval Academy (1980). He has completed Wharton, Keenan Flagler, Sloan and Darden Executive Business courses. He is a 2011 MIT Seminar XXI fellow in International & Strategic Policy and a 2020 graduate of Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business (Johns Hopkins Cohort 10).