James "Jimmy" Hintzke (right) explains to Caelan Connors, parameters for a specific plot they are going to need to create for an upcoming product for a customer.
For James “Jimmy” Hintzke, retired U.S. Navy SEAL, Valhalla’s Forge isn’t about the money or notoriety.
Valhalla's Forge LLC is about letting every single person—whether military, police, or first-responder who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice—and their families know that a group of sincere and motivated individuals pour their hearts and souls into creating a token of gratitude for their loved-ones' service.
Hintzke is the chief executive officer and mentor within Valhalla's Forge LLC, a company that hosts a “High-Performance Team” or HPT composed of young kids under his tutelage.
From his mentorship, these kids are empowered to build their own machines, employ in-house AutoCAD technologies and learn key craftsmanship to methodically create plaques, memorabilia chests and custom flags for veteran communities as teammates.
As a former naval special warfare operative, Hintzke relates the core values of high performance he learned throughout his 30 years of military service to these young men in Virginia Beach, Virginia, he said.
“The ‘kids’ I get here are very talented and smart," said Hintzke. "But, that’s not enough. They have to prove if they really want to be on our HPT, so I guide them like they were a ‘new guy’ in my SEAL platoon. I know they've met a certain expectation and can do incredible feats. But, I want to see if they can give more and show humility simultaneously. I have really high standards. And if they can exceed those standards consistently, things will be fine."
"I also know that they will make mistakes. It’s a part of human nature. But, I am going to watch and see if they can correct that mistake without my help at first. If they can’t, I’ll step in and make necessary adjustments. One thing is for certain; I'm not going to 'ride' a potential employee for every mistake because that can cause them to shut-down and not learn. And that's counter-productive,” said Hintzke.
Within the HPT program, Hintzke utilizes several mediums to instill leadership, confidence, and critical-thinking skills for the young men, employing both physical and mental methodologies for prospective employees under his mentorship, according to Hintzke.
Adapting from his high-performance evaluations underwent at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training, Hintzke has created a sort of Psychological Screening Test or PST within his business to help him choose and mold his employees into a High-Performance Team, he said.
Hintzke said that there is a method to his "madness" when it comes to verifying or refocusing the mindset of a prospective employee.
“At Valhalla’s Forge, I mentor teenagers into men every damn day,” he said. “The training they receive is pretty aggressive. I start with the task of having them sweeping the floor which they may think is menial. But it isn’t. It imparts the notion that if they can demonstrate they are capable of doing a boring job with pride, professionalism, and precision while other employees are doing cool stuff on the machines, they too can eventually move up to the next level of tasking."
That being said, Hintzke says that he treats his employees with respect and courtesy. But he clarifies that he's not going to let them "run-wild" just because they have the skills to do the job.
Workers like Caelan Connors, an industrial design student at James Madison University who passed Hintzke’s PST spoke of Hintzke's ways of maintaining order in the shop. And the honor code system Hintzke put in place at Valhalla's Forge.
"Without really saying it, (Jimmy) Hintzke wants to know if you really want to be there," Connors said. "You prove that to him by consistently working hard, getting better at your and other team members' jobs and bringing ideas to the table so that the shop can work even more efficiently."
On any given day, Hintzke and his HPT work tirelessly from the early morning hours to late into the evening, Hintzke said.
"Typically, we can work seven days a week right out of our shop in my home," Hintzke said. "I'm up at about 3 in the morning; the guys come in around 7 or 8 [if they don't have academic or personal commitments] we brainstorm and then go to work. I have a great group of guys. Some veterans and some children of fellow Navy SEALs. We are constantly making great material for people who do 'bad-ass' shit for our great nation like Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr. and critical personnel from the White House."
At the core, Hintzke instills the same dogma held within the Naval Special Warfare Community, “You have to earn your Trident every single day,” said Hintzke.
"Jimmy doesn't make it too easy or too hard to become a member of Valhalla’s Forge," said Connors. "He's pretty strategic about everything that goes on in the shop. Jimmy notices everything, even when you think he doesn't notice, he's already taken a mental note. Once, you’ve proven yourself to Jimmy; the sky’s the limit on what amount of autonomy he'll allow you to have when creating your work. That in it of itself is pretty awesome."
According to Connors, Hintzke's philosophy of "earning your Trident" is the same axiom that is told to him by his father, who is also a Navy SEAL and applies it similarly to working at Valhalla's Forge.
“Jimmy wants you to do the same at Valhalla’s Forge, but in instead of earning a Trident he wants you to earn your ‘spot' on Valhalla's team continually," he said. "So, right before walking through that tried, tested and true white gate leading to Jimmy's shop, I put my mind in one mode: 'I want to be here. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself. I want to be a part of Valhalla's Forge."
For Hintzke, anyone with the encouragement and development from HPT can craft memorabilia if they have the tools and the time, he said.
"Any [special operations] operator will tell you that he cannot get the job done alone," Hintzke said. "He's going to need the help of the person in front, to the right, to the left and behind him to exceptionally exceed completing the mission. And that's what I have here at Valhalla's Forge, a High-Performance Team that will put the same amount of love and respect into a product that I can when I'm not here and runs on auto-pilot if needed because they too want to honor those who are no longer with us."
Hintzke served in units assigned under the auspices of the U.S. Joint Special Operations community in locations such as the Middle East, Bosnia, the Caribbean, and eastern Africa. Elements under his direct innovative leadership were comprised of operators from the U.S. Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Groups/Squadrons, U.S. Marines Special Operations Command (Marine Raiders, Force Reconnaissance Marines, and Scout Snipers) and most importantly, special operations support personnel
Within the small but industrious confines of the modest two-story workshop of Valhalla’s Forge LLC in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a team of artisans meticulously created several tokens of appreciation for President Donald Trump and Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Britt K. Slabinski, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL.