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The Team

Who We Are

Klay South

Owner & CEO

Klay South grew up in a family that was in the construction industry in Indiana, but one day he decided he wanted to serve his country. Klay promptly joined the U.S. Marines and suddenly found himself fighting in Iraq. One day in Fallujah, Klay and his team raided a building. He was tasked with searching room to room and upon opening a door he was shot, point-blank, in the face with an AK-47 during operation Phantom Fury. He returned home to Indiana a two-time Purple Heart recipient. He started USA Up Star with just one employee — himself — and now he has an ever-expanding force of military veteran professionals.

David Hale

Chief Operations Officer

Mr. David Hale grew up in Grand Prairie. TX and enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17. He served in various types of units ranging from Armor, ADA, INF. MPs to his last assignment in the Joint Personnel Accounting Command (JPAC). He joined DynCorp International after retiring from active-duty after 24 years of service in 2012. Spent over 9 years with DynCorp International overseeing operations and maintenance in CONUS and OCONUS locations before joining USA Up Star in September of 2021. David has been the Chief Operation Officer (COO) since February 2022. 

Richard Cheek

Sr. Dir. of Business Development & Emergency Management Solutions

Mr. Cheek grew up in New Haven, Indiana and enlisted in the US Army serving in Airborne, Infantry, and Civil Affairs units, retiring as a Major. As an Emergency Manager, Mr. Cheek served in the States of North Carolina and Florida, with the CDC and FEMA in the areas of planning, training, Deputy Chief of Logistics, and Chief of Operations.  He is a Certified Executive Emergency Manager and a Demonstrated Senior Logistician.  Mr. Cheek has over 15 years of experience providing Responder Support Camp services and disaster logistics consulting in the private sector. Mr. Cheek currently serves and has served as a Subject Matter Expert to multiple Urban Area Security Initiative jurisdictions.

Kenny Fruits

Director of Staffing & Field Operations

Kenny was born and raised in the GREAT STATE OF INDIANA! For the past 18 years, Kenny worked in the corporate restaurant world. During that time, he held multiple upper management positions while working with a single company for those 18 years. Looking for something new he found USA UP STAR and is proud to call it his new home!  As the Director of Staffing & Field operations, he is responsible for all recruiting and staffing needs the company may have, while also being responsible for managing the daily activities of contract sites and ensuring performance / operational efficiency for multiple departments.


Keith Gates

Director of Operations and Logistics

Keith was born and raised in Clinton County, Ohio. At 18, he joined the United States Army, where he spent over 20 years, and retired as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer. During his time as a Military Policeman, he completed multiple CONUS, OCONUS, and Combat tours with distinction. Upon retirement, he instructed leadership to ROTC Cadets at the University of Dayton. Upon completion of his contract as an instructor, he ran a trucking company that specialized in delivering materials in austere environments in addition to warehousing operations. As the Director of Operations and Logistics, he oversees the operational and warehouse staff and directs logistical support for USA Up Star National and International Contracts.

Ryan Purdy

Senior Program Manager, Tents and Events

After graduating from Eastern Illinois University, Ryan commissioned as an army officer and led cross-functional teams in both Infantry and Intelligence.  In that time, Major Purdy earned the Ranger tab, Airborne, Pathfinder, and Combat Infantryman’s Badges, while completing four combat tours and an Embassy mission.  After service, he managed myriad projects for music festivals (Lollapalooza, RiotFest, North Coast, Spring Awakening, etc.) and other special events (NFL Draft, COVID drive-in events, live venues, foot races, etc.).  As an expert on clear span structure, tents, flooring, and event operations, Ryan now helps USA Up Star build special events and multi-purpose base camps. 

Andrew Bond

Senior Operations Manager

Andrew is a lifelong resident of the Indianapolis area who served as a 63B light wheel vehicle mechanic in the 249th Signal Battalion in Waeguan, Korea.  He returned stateside to the 82nd Airborne unit out of Ft. Bragg, NC.  After his honorable discharge as E-4 SPC, Andrew served in a number of managerial roles such as Special Projects Manager at Arrow Container LLC, and more recently as Corporate Inventory Auditor and Purchase Agent for Koorsen Fire & Security.   He now serves as Senior Operations Manager at USA Up Star LLC where he is responsible for coordinating warehouse operations for large-scale and small-scale global disaster relief.

Brooke Tunny

Administrative Assistant

Brooke is homegrown in the good ol’ Hoosier State, Indiana! She began her working career with a passion in creative arts which led to cosmetology school where she excelled.  She successfully freelanced in the cosmetology profession for five years before receiving an associate degree in animal science.  Her lifelong love of animals kept her in the Veterinary Emergency field for 10 years. She now currently serves as the Administrative Assistant where she is responsible for coordinating trade shows that display our equipment and services, as well as scheduling appointments and maintaining databases for the executive staff.

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