Our People - Dan Burge

Citizen, soldier

Dan Burge, administrative assistant at UCP's Visiting Scientist Programs (VSP), is known around the office for being warm and friendly. At a holiday party last year with colleagues at the Hotel Boulderado, he dressed as Elf, comedian Will Ferrell's warm and friendly movie character.

Ferrell's character possessed an innocent charm in the 2003 holiday movie. Burge, a former Marine and current Army reserve, attended Columbine High School during the 1999 shooting rampage. He believes it's part of his job to help preserve innocence. He cites a passage in an intense book – Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell – about Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan: "As American warriors, it's our obligation to protect the innocent. And that means, sometimes, that we're the ones who need to be put on the disadvantaged side of the threat cycle."

Dan Burge honored by VSP group
A U.S. Army representative (second from right, front row) recently came to VSP to honor managers Meg Austin and Hanne Mauriello (holding certificates) for supporting Dan Burge (second from left) as he prepares for his military deployment this summer. UCP Director Bill Kuo (far left, back row) took this photo using a delay timer.

The 35-year-old Burge already has served four tours as a Marine and one as an Army reserve. In June, he will be deployed again.

Recently, a representative from the U.S. Army came to VSP's offices to present awards to managers Meg Austin and Hanne Mauriello for supporting Burge as he prepares for the one-year deployment.

A Littleton, Colorado, native, Burge has been married since 2007 to Erin Burge, who works as a preschool director for Jefferson County schools.

Where are you being deployed?
I can't say because of security operations.

Can you say what you will be doing?
We will be supporting forward operations in the combat theater.

What inspired you to go into the military?
I graduated from Columbine High School in 1999 and my best friend and I decided to go into the Marines. (Both lost friends who died in the shooting.) He changed his mind and went to the Navy. I went in the Marines and we wound up in the same unit together, which was phenomenal. I think going from one tragedy to the next highest level of fear inspired me to go into the military.

What did you do in the Marines?
I was a radio operator with the infantry, then went through basic reconnaissance. I had two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. I transferred out and moved over to the National Guard in 2007. (Dan's high school friend who went into the Navy, Charles Luke Milam, was killed in a firefight in 2007 in Afghanistan.)

How hard is it to be going again?
Not too bad. It's just a different scenario. I'm used to it. The downside is that I've been home many years. Leaving again isn't easy. Getting everything in line with work isn't easy. (Employers are required to grant a military leave of absence).

How long have you been at UCAR and how did you wind up here?
About five years ago I attended a Veteran's Job Fair (at UCAR) and met Kerry Slaven and started with his group in Logistics. I moved over to Contracts two years later, and then to VSP two years after that.

Dan Burge and his wife
Dan and his wife, Erin. (Photo courtesy Dan Burge.)

Did the skills you learned in the military help you here? And, if so, how?
Yes. Being able to communicate well is really a big thing. Also it has helped having HazMat (hazardous materials) training, and a good work ethic.

What do you do for VSP?
Administrative assistance. I help the postdocs get their trips set up, organize their travel arrangements. I also do a lot of the tracking of the postdoc publications, past and current. (Burge also does database management and is a Google+ and Hangouts coach).

What do you enjoy most?
The people. I enjoy helping people.

Burge skydiving while a Marine
Skydiving while on active duty in the Marines. (Photo courtesy Dan Burge.)

What's the most significant accomplishment of your career?
Reintegrating myself from military to civilian life and being able to work at such a great place and environment as here at UCAR. 

What do you like to do when you're not working?
I play ice hockey (pick-up games that include Joey Knittel from Contracts) and hang out with buddies from Contracts. We are a pretty close-knit group and live in the same general area (around Arvada).

What do you guys like to do?
Watch football, brew beer. I've brewed beer for seven years. I make a California Steam Ale. I also make a really good grapefruit wheat.

What does it mean to you personally to serve your country?
Ever since I can remember I have always wanted to be in the military and wear the uniform proudly. I chose it as a way of life, to endure the pain, hate and discontent of many situations and the "fog of war" so others don’t have to and can wear a blanket of freedom and feel safe.

Jeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information Officer