Our Team

Dan Ashe: Founder, Principal, Lead Trainer, Driver

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I started Challenge Applications shortly after departing active duty from the US Army in 1993. After serving in the First Gulf War, I wanted to do something that brought people together, like I learned to do as an organizational leader in the military. I am proud to have served and cherish every minute I wore the uniform.

After my service in the Army, I was teaching in Tacoma when parents who were chaperoning one of my rock climbing classes recommended I start a training company. That sounded intriguing, and so it began. The company was a side project up until 2002 when I ramped it up to full-time and started training nationally.

I am "mind-numbingly" passionate about working with people in small teams. The capability of a small group is extraordinary whether a squad of soldiers, high school student body leaders or executive team for a county agency, the power of 6-12 people gathered with a laser beam focus is where the tide of change and influence can happen.

Working with people is so rewarding. I hope you and I have a chance to talk about ways I can help your team become a better version of itself. Send me a message.

Our Associates

I have assembled a diverse community of facilitators, subject matter experts, designers and consultants to provide a deep well of knowledge and experience. This team stretches from coast-to-coast, and I am honored to have such talented people on-board.


Mario Villanueva, Senior Consultant. Mario handles sales, marketing and assists with coordinating special projects. He leverages his previous employment experience as the Director of Washington USDA Rural Development Program, an appointment by President Barrack Obama. Mario served in the administration for eight years, then launched his own business to support rural communities throughout the Pacific Northwest. He is a master at networking and getting things done.

Mario plays guitar professionally in his spare time, enjoys traveling with his beloved wife and visiting his wonderful grandchildren. He lives outside of Olympia, WA.


Linda Saarela, Master Trainer. Linda is a full professor at Pierce College in Puyallup, WA in the Business, Management and Marketing Departments. She has served as a senior consultant and corporate trainer for over 25 years specializing in leadership development. Linda designs hybrid and online learning programs as well as facilitates training, workshops and retreats for Common Ground Learning and Challenge Applications.

Linda loves reading, listening to educational podcasts and walking with her dear husband. She lives in Puyallup, WA.


Augie Lankford, Master Facilitator and Trainer. Augie has 25 years leading, facilitating and managing challenge courses in Maryland and Pennsylvania with extensive experience working with corporate, non-profit agencies, colleges, K-12 schools, military and sports teams using the challenge course and outdoor settings as a framework for group process.

In his spare time Augie coaches his sons sports teams and serves as a scout leader. He lives with his wife and two boys in Wilmington, DE.

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Jon Anscher, Facilitator and e-Learning Specialist. Jon currently serves on staff at the University of Washington as Director of UW Medicine Learning Gateway. His expertise spans e-Learning, corporate leadership, small team effectiveness and application of adult learning strategies.

Jon is an avid outdoorsman. He and his wife can be seen hiking the flanks of Mt. Rainier, especially in the winter months. Jon lives with his family near Seattle, WA.

Training Design Team

Because we custom-design training curriculum to match our clients goals, we use the power of our network to harness some of the most talented people in the training field. Our training team serves both as volunteers for informal input or they may be hired as subject matter experts depending on the contract. They include:

  • Dr. Howard Kutcher, retired US Army Master Sergeant | retired superintendent

  • Dale Elliott, retired Tumwater Police Officer | USMC veteran

  • Erica Gladmon, MSOT, OTR/L, CBIS | Certified Brain Injury Specialist | Advanced Course Practitioner

  • Deborah Hayes, retired Washington State Patrol | Commander, US Naval Sea Cadet Capitol Battalion

  • Scott Andrews, Policy Director for Government Relations, Association for Challenge Course Technology

  • Kema Geroux, Master Trainer | Partner Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium | Owner, Pivotall Ventures, LLC

  • Rick Deale, Business Consultant | Qualified Course Professional | Adjunct Faculty Wor-Wic Tech College

  • Dave Finnell, Active Threat Response and De-Escalation Consultant | USAF veteran

  • Barry Jacobs, Co-Director, Horse Powers | Master Trainer, Action Flow Labs: SME on Resilience, Performance and Response