MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
Stars and Stripes awarded Col. Dave Burton the Black Engineer of the Year Military Service Award during a ceremony Feb. 10, in Washington, D.C.
Each year, Stars and Stripes recognizes an exemplary senior military officer who has served with distinction supporting the service’s efforts in mentorship, diversity and value-based service to the nation. The recipients also serve within commands responsible for procuring, developing or employing new technologies and systems. As program manager for Intelligence Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command, Burton manages the development and acquisition of intelligence systems and equipment for the Corps.
“My career as a Marine is impactful because not only do we develop systems, but we also have to make sure they are constantly updated with the latest software and cybersecurity updates,” said Burton. “We are always supporting new capabilities while sustaining existing ones. As a Marine, I take my job very seriously because I have the lives of other Marines in my hands.”
The BEYA Military Service Award also recognizes recipients’ advocacy for advances in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—or STEM—and STEM education.
Burton developed a passion for math and science as a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps cadet at Morehouse College. His instructor encouraged him to pursue higher thinking, so he majored in pure physics.
“Because of my foundation in the NROTC program, I’ve learned over the years the importance of developing relationships and learning from others while always seeking self-improvement,” said Burton. “You should try new things and always be yourself.”
Burton said he hopes his receiving the Black Engineer of the Year Award will inspire more minorities to pursue careers in the STEM field.
“Diversity in the workplace offers different ideas and broadens perspectives to better achieve the mission at hand—making the country and Marine Corps stronger,” he said. “Often in the acquisition business, we are consumed by processes, which causes us to lose sight of our mission to help the operating forces keep our nation safe. In order to always remain relevant, we need to continue to use diversity to our advantage and develop relationships with Marines to gain useful feedback that makes our mission at MCSC more impactful.”
Burton recognizes the importance of diverse talents and thoughts to improve any task. He said it is important to have the courage to also acknowledge what you do not know.
“When you are a leader, it is sometimes not advisable to show uncertainty because you have to project a certain level of confidence to build up your Marines and keep them motivated,” he said. “We should humble ourselves to use the knowledge and experience from those around us, regardless of rank, and celebrate diversity because it makes us stronger.”
As a Marine for 29 years, Burton has held a variety of positions with diverse men and women who have helped shape him into the acquisitions leader he is today.
"Col Burton is a dedicated acquisition professional who exhibits intellect and resilience,” said Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander of MCSC. “It is a pleasure to work with him and see the ground intelligence community equipped with critical systems under his leadership. I am very glad to see his dedication recognized through the Black Engineer of the Year Award."