Brigadier General Patrick W. Burden from Picatinny Arsenal on Leadership and Careers in the Military

As the Joint Center of Excellence for Armaments and Munitions for the Department of Defense, Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey is responsible for the research, development, acquisition, and life cycle management of advanced conventional weapon systems and advanced ammunition.

Brigadier General Patrick W. Burden is a member of the Army Acquisition Corps at Picatinny Arsenal, responsible for the development of new systems and capabilities for the Army. He has served in positions across the Army where he has overseen numerous projects and contributed to the development of combat programs supporting areas such as intelligence, logistics and automated information systems.

General Burden holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Alabama A&M University and a Master of Science in Management Information Systems from Florida Institute of Technology.

In 1991 Burden deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operations Desert Shield/Storm, serving as the Assistant S-3; and the 210th Field Artillery Brigade at Fort Lewis, WA, serving as the Brigade Counter Fire Officer and later Firing Battery Commander for B Battery, 3d Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment.

General Burden has been awarded the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, and several other awards and decorations including the Parachutist Badge and Army Staff Badge.

General Burden became Deputy Program Executive Officer Ammunition and Senior Commander of Picatinny Arsenal on October 20, 2014. The Harlem Times had the opportunity to meet with General Burden recently to talk with him about his background and work at Picatinny Arsenal. Here are highlights from the interview:

HT: Tell us about yourself, your family, where you come from.

Burden: My Dad, from Blakely, Georgia, enlisted in the Army. I think he enlisted back in the late 50s. His first assignment was in Central America, Panama, where he met my Mother who is Panamanian. I’m number five of six children—two brothers and three sisters. Both my brothers are also Army veterans, they’re both retired now. My Dad, who lived in Alabama, also retired after 23 years in the Army, so I guess I consider my home Alabama…it’s where I finished high school and went to college. My Dad has since passed away. My three sisters they lived in Georgia near my Mother.  My younger sister passed away a couple of years ago from heart complications. I’m married. My wife’s a registered nurse. I have four children—twin sons, 28, who are electrical engineers, and I have two teenage daughters, 14 and 16, who are here at Picatinny with me.

HT: Please share with us something about your career.

Burden: I have 28 years of active duty in the military. I went to college at Alabama
A&M University. I spent my first tour in Germany during the Cold War. I was there when the Berlin Wall fell. I deployed with my unit to Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I then went to my officer advanced course at Fort Sill, OK and I commanded an Artillery Battery at Fort Lewis, WA. At that point I transitioned from my operational assignments to a field in research development and acquisition. I wanted to do something closer in line to my degree of study, and it’s allowed me to do that. Over the past 20 plus years I’ve been in research, development and acquisition.

HT: What have been some of your greatest inspirations?

Burden: It really starts at home with my Mom and my Dad, as well as my siblings, my brothers and sisters. My olderst brother he enlisted in the Army, spent four years, and then went to college, came back in as an officer. My other brother who is also an engineer — we’re pretty close, too — he’s been a pretty big inspiration as well. And then over the years, there are so many people throughout my life. My time as an ROTC student at Alabama A&M University. My Professor of Military Science there was a guy by the name of Colonel James Hayward, (he was) a big inspiration to me. We had another ROTC instructor, his name was Captain Compton. He was the one that convinced me to go to Airborne School as a cadet.

I later came on active duty, and had the pleasure of working for and working with a number of great soldiers. When I think back to my time in Germany my Battalion XO (executive officer) was a guy by the name of Major Barry Lineback. One thing he told me as I was growing up as a young lieutenant, in his office as a mentor, he said, “Pat, one thing to remember. Just be who you are, don’t change. Once we try to change who we are as a person then we run into trouble. I think he saw maybe some great qualities in me as a a young officer, and we’re all different…Another number of great soldiers and civilians over the years. I think of a good friend by the name of Major Ira Cradle…and Colonel Norvel Dillard….A number of role models too. We mentioned General Colin Powell earlier…Growing up in the late 60s, early 70s…Presidents and role models, the impact they had on our country, like John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. There’s been a lot of folks who have inspired me.

HT: How has the military positively affected your life?

Burden: I think I gravitated towards the military because of my Father and because of my brothers….It appealed to me as a young kid, it was always something that I wanted to do. I was in the Junior ROTC Program when I was in High School. So I’ve been wearing uniforms since I was in ninth grade. The Army has given a lot of positive things in my life. I think of the many areas I’ve lived in and the friends I’ve made. I’ve gone back to a lot of those neighborhoods, and there are some who have successful careers and there are some who are still struggling…The military’s allowed me to understand the importance of sacrifice, it’s allowed me to see the world and appreciate the country. It’s allowed me to understand the importance of working with people, being a team player. It’s instilled values that have guided my life in a positive direction.

HT: What advice would you give to young people who want to enter into the military?

Burden: First and foremost, our mission in the military is to deter war…If we can’t deter war our goal is to fight and win a war. In doing so, there’s a lot of preparation that’s required. And I think the military does a great job at preparing our troops to fight and win battles when they have to. But if you want an opportunity to see the world and interact with diverse cultures, both domestically and abroad, I think the military’s for you. If you want to serve in the most respected profession in our country, I think the military’s for you. If you want to learn tools that will benefit you in and out of the military and have a positive influence on your life, I think the military’s for you.

HT: What about careers in the military? Can some of them be transferred to the civilian world?

Burden: Without a doubt. First and foremost, one of the things the military does is make leaders. We make leaders, and I think every organization out there is looking for strong leadership. The military helped me develop as a leader and helped me become an effective leader. The military helps you stay committed to a cause. In the military there are multiple professions. Think about the Army, we are required to pick up and move to different regions of the world. We have to be self-sustainaing. So there are many specialties.  Almost every specialty you can think of we have it in the Army.

HT: How does Picatinny promote learning in terms of science education?

Burden: Picatinny personnel, they’re pretty active in our STEM programs. We actually have a partnership with the DoD Ordnance Technology Consortium. The STEM education office actually supports outreach and awareness of students K-12 in the local area. And they’ve formed alliances with organizations that promote learning in robotics and 3-D printing.

HT: On a more personal note, is there a roadmap to your success.

Burden: I routinely talk to young officers about a career in the military. I don’t think there’s a road map…I’m very fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to continue serving. One of the things you have to do is you have to work hard. You definitely have to lead, communicate, and work with others. Teamwork is very important for being an effective leader and to being successful. Not only in the military, but life in general. We’re a people-oriented business in the military. We’re all different, and it’s about understanding why that’s what makes us the greatest country in the world—it’s because of our differences.