It’s a memory just about any Marine would rather soon forget, the moment when niceties from the first moments at recruit training are quietly shoved aside when testosterone-driven drill instructors pick up their fresh prey and aim right for the jugular.
On one day in 1997 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Colin Burgos was a teenager facing a trio of DIs who roared like a tornado from the duty hut into the squad bay, barking incomprehensible orders at the then-17-year-old Brugos, a fresh-faced kid from Texas about to face leatherneck-style discipline like he expected from countless hours watching Full Metal Jacket. Among the DIs in his face was the most feared, the “strong-j,” then-Sgt. Michael Beltran, then the senior green belt DI.
On Training Day 1, Beltran ordered Platoon 3065 to do some calisthenics, and it didn’t take long when the young but physically fit Burgos caught his attention. “They were doing Daily 7s, and he was doing flutter kicks,” Beltran recalls of Burgos, whose short-lived independent spirit would earned him multiple thrashings over time at the recruit depot. It also was enough to spur Beltran to name Burgos as the platoon guide, the billet with both responsibility and burden of carrying the blame for other wayward recruits. Burgos didn’t want to let him down. While he was fired several times, usually by other DIs, Burgos would quickly regain the post, and he ultimately graduated boot camp as the honor grad.
Burgos and Beltran went their separate ways, but their paths crossed a few times over the years as they served and deployed with different units at Camp Pendleton, Calif. But Marines know that even once they hang up their uniform, the Marine Corps really is a small world. So funny things happen, like a recruit and his DI becoming, well, friends and business partners. After a 26-year career, Beltran retired on March 1, leaving the Corps as a Marine Gunner and chief warrant officer 4. But 14 years after barking orders at Recruit Burgos, these days he works for Burgos, who this spring hired his former DI to lead professional development for his growing tactical gear business called Combat Ready USA, a San Clemente, Calif.-based company and store he established after leaving the Marine Corps.
Both men couldn’t be happier. Burgos hired Beltran to upgrade their online presence with the goal of increasing web traffic and sales and help expand his company’s small list of proprietary products. Their most recent one is the NOD Retention Lanyard, designed to prevent night optical devices attached to helmets from slipping and breaking. The lanyard – they affectionally call the “NOD dummy cord” – uses a strap and clip that’s affixed to the helmet. Developed by a Marine buddy and handy do-it-yourselfer, it is a hot product, among Combat Ready’s best sellers, with large sales so far to Marine Corps units at nearby Camp Pendleton, Army battalions at Fort Carson, Colo., and National Guard units in Alaska, says Beltran. It’s the kind of product Burgos hopes will help his business develop more tactical products sought by Marines and other customers who venture into his store or shop online and also support a growing DIY Marines tweaking and tailoring their gear to make it work better for them.
Their partnership is also the kind of leatherneck networking that often helps those Marines who have left the Corps, but really haven’t gone that far from the field, carve out new paths for themselves – and make a difference helping their Marine brethren along the way. It is, says Burgos, “a very uncommon relationship, going from recruit to employer.” But with the newfound help, he adds, “we are at the point where we are expanding.”