Instructor Spotlight: Mark Lynn

Meet Mark Lynn, a renaissance man of machining. If you can think of something, he can probably build it. Heck, if you haven’t thought of something, he will probably get to it before you do. Mark owns an aviation service, writes for an aviation magazine, owns his own machining shop, works as a gunsmith and a blacksmith, and Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) is proud to have him as an instructor.

Mark came to Sonoran Desert Institute three years ago in the same way that most of its students do, he wanted more information. Despite being a gunsmith for 11 years, Mark has the continuous mind of a professional, always seeking to learn more information. After a few conversations, Sonoran Desert Institute recognized the knowledge that Mark possesses and instead of enrolling him as a student, took him on as an instructor for the program. Mark now teaches SDI’s FTT 231, FTT 111, and FAT 200 courses and he is very enthusiastic about the role he plays.

“I absolutely love how Sonoran Desert Institute has built its program. It’s the most in-depth online program I have seen, and the school is always working hard to evolve and better itself. You just don’t see that kind of thing with online schools,” said Mark. His favorite part about instructing students are those moments when, as he said, “You see the lightbulb go on. It’s a great feeling to hear a student suddenly get a concept you are trying to teach.”

One of the areas where Sonoran Desert Institute fields a lot of questions with hands-on experience. It is a logical question since the school is based online, especially in the area of machining. “SDI has done a great job with its program in giving the students as much hands-on experience as possible. My specialty is machining and there is a lot that I can teach students regarding concepts and the technical aspects of machining, but they really just need to get their hands on equipment. Outside of machining, the students at SDI really get a chance to do a lot,” Mark stated. He’s not without ideas on how to evolve the teaching of machining at SDI, some of which the program may see in the future. For now, Mark’s advice for aspiring firearms technicians in the program, “Go out and pick up the Machinist’s Handbook and look for local community college courses on machining. You must be proactive. A lot of the industry is moving towards CNC machines but to run these, you really have to have experience with manual machining. Luckily, most areas have a community college that teach these independent courses.”

In his spare time, Mark does what you would imagine he does from his resume. Mark flies and works on aircraft, turns out projects in his machining shop, works as a gunsmith and a blacksmith, is a firearms instructor, and is constantly trying to build his knowledge base. Mark’s hobbies look more like jobs, but that is the point with him. He loves what he does so much that it is not really work. “You know, I just love the transfer of knowledge. SDI is a great place for that,” he said. As a gunsmith, Mark stays especially busy taking on projects. Having worked for 11 years, he has built up a solid client and he has developed an affinity towards antique firearms, especially muzzleloaders.

Mark Lynn is passionate about Sonoran Desert Institute and it shows with the effort that he puts into his classes. He takes the approach of an instructor that is willing to learn and readily states, “Nobody knows it all, that is the point to working in education.” Sonoran Desert Institute is proud to have such qualified instructors as Mark on staff. Fortunately for the school, he is just one of the many highly qualified individuals teaching classes. To learn more about SDI’s programs and instructors, please visit or call 1-800-336-8939.

Following up with SDI’s scholarship recipients!

Last year, Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) awarded three students with scholarship opportunities for the Paul Jackson First Responder Scholarship, the EANGUS Scholarship, and the SGT Michael Beckerman Memorial Scholarship. Throughout the year, these exemplary students worked hard, kept up their grades, and pushed hard to achieve their educational goals. Sonoran Desert Institute followed up with these students to check on their progress in the program, to recognize their achievements, and to see what the future holds for these outstanding individuals.

Warren Scotter

Warren Scotter will be graduating from Sonoran Desert Institute in August 2018. He had this to say about his tenure so far, “I have really enjoyed attending SDI. The Paul Jackson First Responder Scholarship has been amazing for me and there is no way I could have attended school without it.” Warren is a hard worker and has turned in excellent grades over the past year. As with most students, his favorite parts of the course work are the labs, although he pointed out, “I understand that it can’t be all labs, but even the writing of papers has been fun. I’ve learned a lot!” Standout courses for Warren have been the muzzleloader build as well as the checkering lab. Warren is almost at the finish line for his program and he’s got big plans. “I’m not giving up my career as a firefighter, but I’m getting things in order to start a side business in gunsmithing.” He loves working with his hands and gunsmithing is the perfect outlet for him to pursue his passion as well as earn some income. His goal is to grow the business into something he can do in retirement and with the effort that he has shown in the program, he may be able to do much more than that.

Adam Purtell

Last year, Adam Purtell was awarded the EANGUS scholarship due to his exemplary background and personality. Adam is a highly driven individual and has been able to balance life obligations, academic obligations, and his vocation as an arms instructor. This past year, Adam was required to go on deployment and was worried how it would impact both his education as well as his scholarship. “The admissions advisers at SDI have been extremely helpful. I talked to them in advance of my deployment and they helped me get everything in order. I was able to go on deployment and return without any hiccups in my education.” Adam has decided to start using some of the gunsmithing training as well as the material he has accumulated at Sonoran Desert Institute to help his work as an arms instructor, and his goal is to improve performance in his instructional classes. What impressed Adam with the program was that despite working as an arms instructor and being trained with firearms, there was a lot to learn in the SDI program. “I really loved the books that were provided during the program and the cleaning kits we received as students were awesome!” Adam will be graduating in August and will continue to put his accumulated knowledge to good work as an arms instructor. There is no doubt that Adam’s students will benefit from his knowledge and the hard work he has put in at SDI.

Andy Howdyshell

Andy Howdyshell received the SGT Michael Beckerman Memorial Scholarship in 2017, and it has helped him immensely in the pursuit of his educational goals. “There is absolutely no way I could have attended school without receiving this scholarship,” stated Andy. He has been able to post excellent grades, fulfill his family goals, and maintain his professional career, all despite medical complications from his military service. Even with all the juggling of his obligations, Andy is taking on side projects with firearms to further improve his abilities. He hasn’t gotten to the point, though, where he feels comfortable seeking an income from working on firearms, which is a testament to the high standards he sets for himself. So far, his favorite class in the program has been Reloading & Ballistics. “I really enjoyed the information covered in this class. I have never reloaded before and I found that the information covered in Reloading & Ballistics could greatly improve my overall knowledge of firearms.” Andy is set to graduate Sonoran Desert Institute in 2019.

These students are true examples of what it means to attend Sonoran Desert Institute. SDI prides itself on helping students achieve their academic goals while pursuing their passions; but without hard work, sacrifice, and diligence, the school can only take students so far. Warren Scotter, Adam Purtell, and Andy Howdyshell embody these qualities and there is little doubt they will achieve their goals.

If you are curious about SDI’s scholarship programs, please visit

SDI’s wild crazy summer is just getting started!

Busy, busy, busy! That is how the schedule was for Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) in May of 2018, and June does not look much different. There have been weightlifting competitions, tattoos, and even a meeting with forensic scientists…CSI eat your heart out! Here’s how things have gone this past month and a taste of what we have to look for from SDI.

Summer Strong 2018

SummerStrong 2018

Watching somebody squat 645 lbs or do 700 lb deadlifts may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is impossible to deny that seeing it in person would make your jaw drop. This is how SDI’s chair of public relations, Garett Bischoff, and vice president, Wes LeMay, spent May 18 – May 20. SummerStrong is an event put on by Sorinex™, an exercise equipment company and industry leader. It is a showcase of epic strength and endurance, as Wes LeMay can attest. He put on the weight vest at SummerStrong and showed what he was made of in the Sorinex Challenge.



What better way to encore from SummerStrong than to go to the world’s only tattoo and firearms expo. Ink and Arms takes place every year in Wilmington, North Carolina, and this year it took place on the weekend of June 1–June 3. Garett Bischoff, who has been on the road since SummerStrong, was joined at Ink and Arms by SDI Field Team member Dustin Johnson. Both Garett and Dustin know plenty about ink and plenty about firearms, so they were deep into their element and extremely busy spreading the word about Sonoran Desert Institute.



This unique event showcased firearms companies such as Guerrilla Armament, Krause Arms, Keres Tactical, Osprey Global, The Rock Guns and Accessories, Tactical Sourcing, and the SDI team had the fortune of hanging out with Ryker Tactical. Headlining the tattoo artists of the event were Jasmine Rodriguez, Josh Payne, and others too numerous to mention (see them here)! Adding to the atmosphere was a lineup of events such as Best Tattoo Portrait and Best Leg Tattoo. This event has been so successful over the years that Ink and Arms is adding another event to accommodate the crowds twice per year. There will now be an Ink and Arms show in September in addition to their already successful June show.

Coming up, the SDI team will be traveling to Charleston, West Virginia, for The Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners 49th Annual Training Seminar. This event presents industry professionals with best practices and industry research results. SDI is a proud attendee of this AFTE event and will be communicating information on firearms troubleshooting, handling, and visual identification.

AFTE 2018

AFTE 2018

Having a busy events schedule is always exciting for SDI. As our resident road warrior, Garett Bischoff, stated, “The level of events we are attending really gets the energy and enthusiasm up at the school and the positive feedback we receive just reinforces the progress we are making in our curriculums!” Stay tuned for further updates from SDI and its upcoming events on its Facebook page.

Meet SDI’s Garett Bischoff!

While viewing the Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) Facebook page or Instagram account, you will encounter pictures and videos of Garett Bischoff. A man of his stature, sporting a mohawk and possessing the charisma of a television announcer, is something that you do not miss. Garett is SDI’s Chair of Public Relations and he has worked very hard to get here.

Garett grew up just north of Scottsdale, Arizona, in a small town called Cave Creek. He keeps his roots there but in the last ten years, Garett has traveled all over the globe. Mr. Bischoff began his professional career by attending the Motorcycle Mechanic Institute and graduating with certifications in Late Model Harley Davidson’s and VRods. This marked the end of his motorcycle mechanic career and the beginning of painting and construction. Starting out as a commercial and residential painter, it was not long until Garett was running his own crew. Garett’s family had a house in Cody, Wyoming, and this presented an opportunity to travel, so he found work there and began to run painting crews in Wyoming and Arizona. While working in Arizona, he met his wife, a worker on one of his paint crews. As he describes it, “She was stuck in a painting bucket with me one day and had no choice but to get to know me. The rest is history.” This story could end here, but Garett had other ideas for his career.

Although Garett didn’t live like the child of a celebrity, he is professional wrestling royalty. His father, Eric Bischoff, is the former president of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and former general manager of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Raw brand. He’s also notorious for being the guy that talked Hulk Hogan into going bad. Despite his father continuously trying to talk him out of it, Garett wanted to follow suit into the wrestling industry, and after years of training, he got his shot with KnokX Pro Wrestling Academy. Garett did not want to rest on his laurels and decided to change his name to avoid looking like he had a silver spoon in the wrestling industry. He wanted to prove himself and he did. Getting his first shot as a referee for TNA Impact Wrestling on Spike TV, he proved he had the right stuff to wrestle. Eventually, the story broke that he was Eric Bischoff’s son and it was time to step into the ring.

Garett’s wrestling career was a success and lasted five years. You can find his highlights all over the internet, and one of his favorites is of Ric Flair elbow dropping him while he was on a stretcher. Garett has traveled all over the world as a wrestler, including two matches in Wembley Arena in London. Sensing his career coming to an end after a five-year run, Garett stumbled upon Sonoran Desert Institute and kept in touch with some of the staff. After a few months of expressing how much he liked the concept of the school, he was brought on to the Field Operations Team and his career at SDI began.

Garett, as always, kept it blue collar in terms of his work ethic at SDI. Just as he had done in his wrestling career, he wanted to prove his mettle by working his way up and not relying on any name recognition that he had from wrestling. He traveled the country as a representative for SDI, talking to potential students for the school and educating the general public. This job required a lot of time and effort and it paid off. It was not long before Garett was managing the Field Operations Team, and eventually, it was decided that Garett should manage the external appearance of the school as a whole. Thus, his role as Chair of Public Relations was earned.

Garett can now be found at some of the largest events in the country, making the SDI name a known commodity. He is singularly focused on the reputation of the school. Some of his proudest moments while on the Field Operations Team have been watching students succeed after his initial conversations with them, and that dedication toward student success drives his approach to the SDI brand.

Garett’s role as Chair of Public Relations is relatively new but his approach is not. He will continue to grind and prove his mettle with the dedication and work ethic he has shown throughout his professional career, and SDI is glad to have him as part of the team.

Meet Ramsey Atieh, SDI’s New Advisory Council Member

Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) has made a new addition to its Advisory Council! Ramsey Atieh is currently president of American Business & Technology University, and while he has already been helping SDI with its curriculum, his influence and guidance as a member of the Advisory Council will be huge.

Ramsey attended Northwest Missouri State University as a football player on scholarship and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. His initial goal while attending school was to be a teacher, but Ramsey has gone on to do much more. After working for a few years as an advisor and mentor to student-athletes and as a coach on the football team, Ramsey decided to attend the University of Missouri, where he received his Doctorate in Education, focusing on educational leadership and policy analysis. Ramsey then stepped into the family business started by his father and brother—American Business and Technology University.

Ramsey’s role at the school initially was as the director of admissions, but it quickly expanded, and he now works as the university’s president. At American Business & Technology University, Ramsey has focused on student performance, dropout rates, and quality of classes, in addition to overseeing the philosophical direction of the school. One of the changes that he has made along the way is focusing on project-based learning over final examinations, which studies have found can lead to more retention of the material learned.

The role that Ramsey Atieh has played in the building of American Business and Technology University cannot be understated. In addition to focusing on his role as president, Ramsey developed the school’s enrollment processes, built tracking processes for student academic activity, and helped to develop individual programs. This dedication has certainly paid dividends as American Business and Technology University has become an impressively successful school.

Sonoran Desert Institute first sought Ramsey’s help three years ago. Since then, Ramsey has helped SDI with its enrollment processes and has personally gone through every single class offered by SDI in order to help refine its coursework. The overall goals and objectives of SDI’s program have become something of a labor of love for Ramsey and is something he is passionate about. “This is a really unique school with an excellent program and a fantastic student base. I really love what SDI has put together,” he said. Ramsey will continue to advise SDI into the future as the school seeks to stay ahead of the curve with the technology used to help students learn as well as with keeping the program updated to ensure student success.

The Atieh family includes Ramsey’s wife and 11-year-old son. They are a very active family and his son is a passionate trap and skeet shooter with his Mossberg® youth mini .410. When he is not working, Ramsey has been spending most of his time with his son, rebuilding a truck to haul his boat as the family takes part in their continuing outdoor adventures as well as turkey hunting in the mountains of Missouri.
SDI is lucky to have an expert of Ramsey’s caliber join such an accomplished Advisory Council and even more fortunate to have found such a good match for the school with his character and values. Welcome to the team, Ramsey Atieh!

SDI Attends 2018 NRA Annual Meetings

The president of the United States, the vice president of the United States, a new NRA president, a record setting crowd, more firearms than anybody could possibly count, and plenty of Texas hospitality. On May 3–6, ten team members from Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) travelled to Dallas, Texas, to represent the school and participate in the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings.

The 2018 NRA Annual Meetings marked the first time that a sitting United States president and vice president have both spoken at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum. (See their speeches here.) Previous attendance records were also broken, with NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch stating on Twitter, “New record attendance for #NRAAM: 87,154 law-abiding attendees over the three-day weekend in Dallas. #2A.” The NRA Annual Meetings also began with an invocation by retired Lt. Col. Oliver North, who, on Monday, May 9, was named the NRA’s new president.

The SDI team journeyed to the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings with a new trade show booth, games, prizes, and a jam-packed lineup of guests. The incredible lineup included Tim Harmsen of the Military Arms Channel, Hickok25 and Son, the We Like Shooting crew, 22Plinkster, Chris Barrett of Barrett® Firearms Manufacturing, WCW’s Eric Bischoff, and Taurus™ Firearms, who generously sponsored a handgun giveaway.

Helping with the consistent crowd at SDI’s booth, Hickok45 brought out a huge number of fans, the We Like Shooting cast put on a talent show, and a very large crowd gathered for a chance to meet WCW’s Eric Bischoff. SDI’s biggest celebrity of the weekend was its constantly clicking prize wheel, which gave the SDI team ample opportunities to chat with the public about the school as well as make sure they were loaded up with SDI gear.

SDI’s Jennifer McInnis had this to say, “This was far and away the best NRA Annual Meeting show that SDI has ever had. The booth was packed with people for four days and there was a lot of enthusiasm throughout the event.”

While SDI’s primary mission was to operate their trade show booth, the team also found time for several additional activities, such as attending a leadership board meeting which included firearms instructor Dan O’Kelly, shooting champion KC Eusebio, firearms trainer Rob Pincus, and shooting champion Jessie Harrison. SDI also held a student/industry mixer where students had the opportunity to network with each other as well as with industry professionals like Taurus Firearms and firearms instructor Dan O’Kelly. These activities were a resounding success with the leadership team in helping to decide the future of Sonoran Desert Institute, while the student/industry mixer was filled with food, fun, and smiling faces.

The 2018 NRA Annual Meetings represented an opportunity to spread the word about Sonoran Desert Institute’s accredited academic programs and to help the school continue its positive growth. The event was a success across the board and Sonoran Desert Institute looks forward to participating in it for years to come!

SDI Attends 2018 CCME Symposium

This year’s Council of Colleges for Military Education’s (CCME) Professional Development Symposium was held in San Diego, California, on March 26–30, 2018. Sonoran Desert Institute’s Walter Howard attended and had this to say, “I felt more prepared to attend this year than I have in years past, and there was a much-needed focus on what concurrent sessions to attend that will benefit organizations such as Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) as it continues to grow. Every day started with a keynote speaker, which consisted primarily of Navy Seals, and kicked off sessions to attend that generated small group discussions.”

Building Alliances for Veteran Support. This presentation discussed how the University of Phoenix uses alliances to provide support and resources in areas such as transitioning to civilian life, career readiness, and mental health, ultimately helping veterans to achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals.

Collaboration on Campus and with the Community: Epic Steps to Veteran Victory. University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) overcame obstacles and created solutions in serving student veterans. A lot of discussions took place on how they have engaged their student veterans in the community.

Engaging Student Veterans in the Greater Community. A variety of common obstacles are preventing student veterans from connecting to and engaging with opportunities. Transition theories were discussed as topics on the number of veterans that don’t transition from military service.

How to Best Serve Military Students. Participants reviewed military-connected student populations provided by the University of Oklahoma College of Professional and Continuing Education, which has developed a policy for deployed students and has resulted in the college being recognized as a “military friendly” institution.

Is it Hoo-ah, Hoo-rah, or Hoo-yah?: Military-Affiliated Populations as a Cultural Identity on Campus. The University of Northern Colorado made the UNC Veterans Services a cultural center on campus as part of the newly formed Office of Equity and Inclusion. This change has allowed Veterans Resources to focus more readily on the cultural issues that military-affiliated students experience when attending college. While college spaces for veterans differ in size and resources, it is essential to show colleges how adopting a cultural lens can benefit their student population.

Next Set of Orders: Best Practices for Colleges to Ensure Student Success and Military/Veteran Focus. University of San Francisco (USF) discussed their “best practices” that have developed a solid structure facilitating success for our military and veteran students, and included developing a military liaison role, recognition strategies, and “Boots on the Home Front” and “Got your Six” initiatives.

Virtual Green Zone: Online Military Orientation Training for Staff and Faculty. Among topics highlighted were the characteristics of the military-connected learner and the military experience, the transition process, and the role that institutions of higher learning play. The training is delivered using the Adobe Connect platform and is comprised of video testimonials from student veterans, military-connected staff, and faculty members. University of Maryland University College (UMUC) provides their faculty/staff with “digital badges” for those that complete the training.

SDI is continuing to grow as a school and with that comes an increased effort to ensure the success of its students. Conferences, such as the 2018 CCME Professional Development Symposium, help to give SDI the tools to make sure this happens. The attendance of these conferences is driven by SDI’s dedication to American service members as well as non-service member students. As SDI continues to grow and improve, stay tuned for updates on future conferences as well as new student programs!

Meet Tabitha Reynolds, SDI’s newest Field Representative

Meet Tabitha Reynolds, Sonoran Desert Institute’s (SDI’s) newest SDI Field Representative. She has a quiet and unassuming persona but don’t let that fool you, she is a twelve-year veteran of the United States Army. Tabitha’s service saw her as an MP for eight years and a career counselor for four years. This experience combined with one and a half years working in VA Outreach helping veterans adjust to civilian life has built someone who is passionate about helping veterans and steadfast in finding the best fit for potential students. In other words, she’s the perfect fit as an SDI Field Representative for SDI.

Tabitha has been around the military her entire life. Her father was in the United States Air Force and she spent most of her youth moving with her family to various bases. By the time she graduated High School, the military seemed like the most viable option for someone such as her, still trying to find her place. She wanted to figure out her future path and she wanted to prove herself as a strong and capable woman. She picked the right path. Tabitha did not quite know what to expect when she joined the United States Army and what she found took her by surprise. “All of a sudden I’m surrounded by commotion, tanks, and rifles. It was awesome!” She said. While basic training can be a chore for some, this was not the case with Tabitha. “Honestly, basic training was a blast. It was like one giant adventure camp. It was grueling, but I loved it.”

Tabitha found her way to the SDI family by accident. She was initially investigating it as a possibility for her husband to attend. Her Platoon Sergeant, Walter Howard, SDI’s Director of Military and Veteran Services, “who she refers to as her Army dad,” worked with SDI so she reached out to him for information. Having known of her background as a career counselor, it was not long before Walter offered her a job. In December of 2018, Tabitha started working for SDI and her husband is now a student. For Tabitha, SDI is definitely a family affair.

While SDI has many perks for Tabitha such as a family-like atmosphere and the ability to help find the right fit for potential students, her favorite perk of her job is the travel. As Tabitha stated, “I absolutely love how each region of the United States has its own culture, a way of communicating, and different interests. It’s definitely not boring.” So far, her favorite experience was the Arizona Game and Fish Department Outdoor Expo. “I got to shoot an M249 at the Expo. It had been a few years since I had operated one so it was great to know that I could still handle it!”

In her off time, Tabitha spends as much time as possible with her three children and her husband, “Also an Army veteran.” She takes a keen interest in her husband’s school work since he is enrolled at SDI. She enjoys camping, fishing, and target shooting. Tabitha see’s her position at SDI as full of potential with the opportunity to grow the school. Her driving ambition as an SDI Field Representative is to find a student that will take the program seriously in order to ensure their success. Her favorite question, “Do you really want this?” Tabitha has found several terrific fits for the SDI program and it can be a sure bet that she will find many more. Sonoran Desert Institute is lucky to have staff like Tabitha Reynolds!