Written by Olivia Burke
E.J. “Skull Crusher” Snyder is a U.S. Army veteran, extreme survivalist, motivational speaker, and an all-around loveable guy. He is best known for his survival success on the Discovery Channel’s, “Naked and Afraid,” and is the only man who has completed the challenge three times! E.J. is also the host of, “Dual Survival” – a show that follows him and Jeff Zausch as they take on the world’s most wild and unforgiving places.
E.J. learned his survival and outdoor skills from the formal training he received in the U.S. Army. He also honed his skills through being a survival instructor for 20 years; it’s what led to him dedicating his life to becoming the best survivalist he can be.
In addition to having these impressive qualifications and skills, E.J. is also a husband, and a father of two. I sat down with E.J. and talked with him about his career, upbringing, life advice, and more!
Can you tell me a bit about your life, what you do, and how you got into it?
“I joined the army after I grew up in North Jersey. My parents divorced when I was very young. Joining the army was probably the best thing for me. I spent 25 years in the Army. I saw combat in the Gulf War in ‘91, and in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004-2005. When I retired from the Army, I went into being a survival instructor for the United States Army as a contractor for about six years.
My dream as a child was to be an actor and a stuntman. My mother didn’t support my choice. She thought I’d starve and wouldn’t make it. Right before I retired from the Army, I started doing TV; different things – producing, independent films, acting, stunt work, and trying to figure out how to be a military tech advisor – a new career from the Army. I moved here (Fayetteville) with my family. My wife’s folks retired here at Fort Bragg – this was my first duty station. Her mother got sick, so we moved back here. That’s when I found work as a survival instructor – my two worlds collided.
Discovery channel happened to find me. They recruited me for a show called, ‘Dual Survival,’ where I was to be the replacement for the host. They ended up picking another guy over me. I wound up going on a show called, ‘72 Hours.’ When I came out of that race, we didn’t find the money, but I got a phone call from Discovery saying that they had a brand-new show called, ‘Survival’. I had no idea about the naked part.”
How do you teach the lessons you’ve learned to your family, kids, etc.?
“I’m a people-watcher, so what I’ve learned through the military was by watching these leaders. What I’d witness in their leadership, I’d adapt the good stuff into mine. You can lead in three ways: first is by example. I tell [people] to watch me, then mimic what I do, emulate it, and when we’re sitting down at dinner having a beer, ask questions.
I’m bound by God to help anyone who asks for it – I believe that firmly. If they’re open to receiving that message, and applying it, I just ask that they repeat that – give it to somebody else. You can do it by example, your own mentoring, teaching, and ask others to do the same. The other way I do it is by [motivational] speaking.”
Do you ever talk about politics or faith on your platform?
“I speak about faith all the time. I’m a Christian and I hear God’s voice loudest in the wilderness. I don’t like the bonds of rules – church should be happening wherever. I can disciple to people in a way they don’t even know, because they don’t see it coming. I don’t have to mention God’s name, but I give glory to God all the time. For me, I’m very spiritual. I’m not confined to a church, although I find it to be very awesome. I see God in people, and in the birds that sing in my backyard; that’s where I really connect to God.”
Can you tell me about your family?
I have a wife. We’ll be married for 25 years in a couple weeks. We’ve been roller-coastered, but we love and stay true to each other. I value her and thank God every day that she’s in my life, because I’d be lost without her. I have two kids; a 22-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter. They’re two of the greatest gifts in my life. They’re so kind, mature, and helpful. They’ve been very supportive of my dreams. “
How do you balance the things you do work-wise with the things you do with your family?
“I’m always working, so I learn lessons, and pass them along – that’s my gift back to everybody. When I come home, I take my phone and put it in a basket (I’ll go back every now and then and check it to see if I get an email or something). I do that as a symbol of how I’m not at work anymore – I’m home. I make sure that when we’re together, we plan fun events. It’s quality over quantity.
What’s your favorite thing about your current situation?
“Inspiring people – especially kids. If I make a positive impact on at least one person, that’s a win. Knowing I helped somebody in this world – that’s my favorite thing about it all, because that’s why I’m here. To me, that’s very fulfilling.”