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Photo Information

Capt. Billy Barefoot is pictured above at the 2023 MCA Acquisition Awards Dinner in Alexandria, Va., where he served as the evening’s awards narrator. The yearly dinner is a joint MCSC-MCA effort that provides a formal venue to recognize the professional achievements of the top performers in Marine Corps Acquisition. (Marine Corps photo by Jim Van Meer)

Photo by Jim Van Meer

Introducing Capt. Billy Barefoot: The Devil Dog of Wall Street

9 Jun 2023 | Johannes Schmidt, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication Marine Corps Systems Command

In order to appreciate the commanding global presence the United States has maintained since the close of the Cold War, it is important to consider the strong, symbiotic link between America’s economic prowess and its military strength.

For this reason, within the annals of American history, individuals like J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie are often lauded alongside military stalwarts such as Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller and James Mattis, all bathed in the same patriotic light.

But from this rich tapestry of American exceptionalism emerges a man who left the promises of a financial career on Wall Street to serve the country he once vowed to support and defend. Meet Capt. Billy Barefoot—the Devil Dog of Wall Street.

Barefoot was born to an All-American family in the Texas heartland and raised in the vibrant city of Fort Worth, where his childhood was imbued with the values of community, patriotism, and a deep sense of duty. From a young age, Barefoot knew he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his family members who joined the Corps, but recalls that it was watching the transformation his close friend experienced after boot camp that helped make up his mind.

“The transition was swift,” Barefoot recalls. “We graduated high school on a Friday, and by Monday, I was already at boot camp. It was a fast-paced introduction to a whole new world.”

Shortly after enlisting in the Marine Corps in June 2007, Barefoot left for boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California. The rigorous training and demanding environment of boot camp provided him with a swift introduction to the world of military service. During his tenure in the fleet, Barefoot made a strategic decision to chart a unique path that aligned with his call to serve and his interest in the business world. Rather than pursuing a conventional combat arms role, he opted for the Supply Admin and Operations Specialist military occupational specialty, focusing on the fiscal aspects of supply management.

This decision would ultimately help prepare him for the world of acquisition, and the work ethic, leadership, and values he picked up while serving in the fleet have helped make him into the officer he is today.

According to Marine Corps Systems Command Chief of Staff Col. Devin Licklider, “Diversity of thought and experience lends adaptability and flexibility to any team.  Billy’s breadth of life experience, passion and dedication to the Marine Corps and its mission strengthen the Marine Corps Systems Command team.”

After receiving an honorable discharge as a Sergeant in June 2011, Barefoot quickly found his way to one of New York’s Ivory Towers, being accepted to Pace University’s Lubin School of Business—a well-regarded institution located in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district.

Although Barefoot remembers considering other programs across the city, Pace’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program allowed him to attend tuition-free—ultimately allowing Barefoot to focus his energy on his studies and immerse himself fully in New York’s dynamic world of finance. As he pursued his studies, Barefoot was supported by his loving wife, a fellow Marine veteran who was just starting law school in the city.

“I swear, she's a big part of what's motivated me along the way, always pushing me to do better. We were always very competitive, you know, like, who's going get Corporal first, who's going to get sergeant first,” he recalled with a grin, adding, “It really helps having a like-minded partner in your corner.”

While at Pace, Barefoot capitalized on his proximity to Wall Street and secured a prestigious summer internship with a Swiss bank renowned for its service to ultra-high net worth individuals. During his four-month tenure, Barefoot was assigned to the alternative investments division, focusing on hedge funds, private equity, and non-traditional real estate investment strategies. The dynamic, fast-paced environment of alternative investments captivated him.

After graduation, Barefoot received an offer to work at the Swiss bank’s Portfolio Strategy Group, a leading independent wealth management firm. The next year, his career would lead him to Boston where he received an offer to work with another prestigious trading facility, whose services include proprietary data, investment analytics, data management, portfolio modeling, and electronic trading and clearing.

Yet, even as he navigated the exhilarating waters of finance, a longing for a different kind of challenge gnawed at him. The world of high finance was undeniably exciting, but Barefoot found himself yearning for something more. Although he found comfort and camaraderie in various veterans organizations, such as Team Red, White & Blue and American Corporate Partners, he knew that ultimately he longed to serve, yet again.

“I came to the realization that, yeah, the money's great and it's an exciting field to be in, but what I truly missed was the mission, the sense of purpose that the Marine Corps and the military as a whole embody,” Barefoot said.

“On Wall Street, companies have carefully crafted mission statements. But at the end of the day, it’s always about the bottom line; that’s the focus. I missed having a mission, being part of a command that prepares for deployments, supports them, or returns from them. I longed for that continuous planning, working together towards something worth more than a dollar sign,” he added.

Barefoot ultimately applied—and was accepted to—Officer Candidate School, where he initially entered as an aviator with a flight contract. Although he enjoyed his time in flight school, he recalls being unable to shake the feeling that something was still missing, echoing his experiences in finance.

But like many individuals with a calling, Barefoot would find clarity while attending Sunday service at his local church. He remembers the pastor spoke about finding purpose in various roles—such as being a spouse, parent, or police officer—and how we are all called to serve in our own way.

“It made me reflect on my own situation and it struck me that my true passion lay in working with and leading Marines, but in a different capacity—one that allowed me to leverage my past skills and experiences effectively,” he recalled.

Ultimately, he would re-designate from flight school to become a manpower officer—a role in which he excels today at MARCORSYSCOM.

“I love the MOS, I'm passionate about it, and I’m able to leverage those things that I had previously picked up and put in my tool bag from both my enlisted Marine Corps experience and on Wall Street,” Barefoot said.

Yet, that passion isn’t just a talking point; it’s something palpable to anybody who comes across Barefoot and hears his story.

According to Col. Raymond Feltham, military assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research, Development and Acquisitions, “I was able to learn more about Capt. Barfoot’s time as a civilian through a number of MCSC sanctioned social events at the O Club. His excitement about his experiences on Wall Street was only dwarfed but his passion to be back serving in the Marines.”

Today, Barefoot is the principal advisor to the commander on manpower staffing and administrative issues that directly impact unit readiness. This summer, he will leave the command for a one-year post at the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, Virginia.  

But he won’t leave his current post without leaving a deep mark on the contractors, civilians, and Marines with whom he tirelessly works to equip the warfighter.

“He's not just a good dude; he's a hardworking, top-rate officer,” said CWO3 Khosbayar Rentsendorj, a personnel officer and data systems engineering officer at MARCORSYSCOM. “Personally, I admire his qualities, especially in this job where being a good dude matters. In our line of work, we need individuals who make important decisions for others without hesitation, decisions that impact their well-being. When it comes to combat, having good dudes on your side is crucial, especially in leadership roles. So, in my book, he's a good dude, and I'd be honored to serve with him in battle.”

As he continues to forge his unique career path, however, he is quick to offer sage advice to other Marines hoping to leverage their Marine Corps experience in the civilian world.

"The best advice that I can give is to make your decisions based on the opportunities available to you at the time. Always plan ahead, have multiple backup plans, but remain open to deviating from them. The key is to keep moving in the right direction."

Barefoot’s life highlights an unconventional journey from military service to the world of finance and back again, illustrating the profound sense of duty that drives the American warfighter. His story is not just about personal ambition or financial success, but rather an exemplification of dedicated service and an unyielding quest for purpose. As he continues to chart his own path in service of his nation and the Corps, his example continues to shine as a beacon of inspiration for others, reminding us all of the value of purpose, the richness of diverse experiences, and the power of an unwavering commitment to service.

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