The North Springs graduate, Roswell native and former Navy SEAL is on National Geographic’s “Ultimate Survival Alaska,” in which four teams — woodsmen, mountaineers, military veterans and endurance athletes — battle to see who lasts the longest. Its 12-episode second season ends March 9.
In late May Ogden, who lives in Farmington, Mo., south of St. Louis, was driving a chase truck for a friend in the Baja 500 three-day truck race when he got an email via the social media website LinkedIn.
“I was contacted by a Nat Geo producer [Kevin Hoban]. I thought it was someone else at first but I was mistaken,” he said, adding he believed one of his Navy SEAL friends played a joke on him. “I thought it was hoax. I got a LinkedIn email with a signature block. I called the guy. After a couple of phone calls, I realized it was legitimate.
“After a couple of emails [and calls] I asked the guy, ‘How did you find me?’ He said, ‘I saw the speech you did on YouTube.’ I said, ‘I don’t have any speeches on YouTube.’ … I YouTube'd myself and realized [U.S. Sen.] Johnny Isakson’s office did a video of a pro bono speech I did in the spring of 2012. Every year he hosts an Academy Day at Dobbins Air Force Base [in Marietta].”
Hoban asked Ogden to join the show that week and the timing worked out.
“He said, ‘Here’s the situation, Jared. It’s kind of urgent. We go into production in three days and can you fly to Alaska tomorrow?’” Ogden said. “What happened was whoever they casted had to bow out at the 11th hour because of a family emergency. They were in a bit of a scramble, hence the YouTube search.
“Honestly it was a little bit tough because it is a … three-month commitment. Professionally it worked out because I was in between jobs. Personally I would pay money to go do this. I’m told it’s an survival adventure race through Alaska. I trained with the Navy Seals in Alaska. We had a detachment in Kodiak Island and it was cool to be able to go there while on the show.”
Brian Catalina, the show’s executive producer, said National Geographic was drawn to Ogden because of his background and his Academy Day speech.
“For Season 2, we wanted to assemble a team of former U.S. special operations members,” Catalina said. “Getting a Navy SEAL on the team was a top priority, given their high level of training, specifically in survival situations. Jared holds special training in cold weather survival, and has undergone SEAL training on Alaska’s Kodiak Island in the dead of winter.
“What struck us about his speech was his confidence and the thoughtfulness of his remarks. His passion for the U.S. Armed Forces was clear, and he was able to convey that powerfully. We knew we wanted someone on the military team who would represent the U.S. military appropriately and could express what it means to be a part of that community. Jared also possesses a keen sense of humor that was apparent throughout his speech.”
Ogden spent June through August in Alaska while the season was filmed.
Though he could not divulge much information about what happened on the show because he’s not allowed to, he did say, “One of the hardest things was I had to swim across an iceberg lake. I was only in that water for about three minutes but the water was about 32.5 degrees. It only hurts for about 30 seconds or so, but after that you go numb.”
Ogden said he will never forget the experience.
“I didn’t learn anything new but I did get to apply old tactics in new situations,” he said. “But the greatest takeaway was several friendships of having that experience together. At times it was miserable. You’re freezing cold, hungry and with good people, those are bonds that last a lifetime. I consider myself good friends with about half the guys on that show.”
Ogden, founder of the Phoenix Patriot Foundation, a nonprofit a charity to help severely injured veterans transition from active duty to civilian life or even return to military service, will host a fundraiser April 26 at the Dunwoody Country Club. He said Dallas Seavey, the youngest Iditarod race champion and a fellow competitor on the show, is auctioning off a weekend getaway package for two at his dog operation in Alaska. Sean Burch, another show rival, has volunteered for the foundation.
“Really the tipping point for me to go was this is going to bring incredible exposure to the charity and ultimately that’s why I did that. And it has,” Ogden said. “It's been great for the foundation. I hope more people who watch the show would make a $5 donation to the foundation.”
Catalina said the network was thrilled with having Ogden on the program, which airs new episodes Sundays at 10 p.m.
“We could not have been happier to have had Jared on the show,” he said. “His level of ingenuity and endurance far surpassed our expectations. Although out of his element in certain topographical environments, he exemplified a SEAL’s ability to quickly adapt, and was able to overcome any obstacle in his way. We were constantly impressed by the way his positive attitude lifted up the members of his team — as well as the members of our production crew — even when faced with the harshest of conditions.”
Ogden added, “Overall the experience was fantastic both in terms of seeing a beautiful state as well as the friendships I made. If I had the chance to do it again, I don’t know if I could. It was a unique time in my life. We’ll see what the next step is.”
For more information on “Ultimate Survival Alaska,” visit http://bit.ly/1btgJVb. To view Season 2 episodes, visit www.itunes.com or www.hulu.com. For more information on the Phoenix Patriot Foundation, visit www.phoenixpatriotfoundation.org.