Face of Defense: Teacher, Entrepreneur Chooses Marines
By Marine Corps Pfc. Katalynn Thomas
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif., June 15, 2010 Marine Corps Pfc. Patrick Collman, assigned to Platoon 2109, Company E here, could have gone to Officer Candidate School, because he has a bachelor’s degree.
Marine Corps Pfc. Patrick Collman crawls out of a tunnel at the 12 Stalls Crucible site at Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 3, 2010. The former teacher could have gone to Officer Candidate School, but chose to be an enlisted Marine. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Katalynn Thomas
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But the entrepreneur and former teacher said he chose to enlist instead, for the challenge.
Collman said he wanted to start from the bottom and work his way up, as he has demonstrated in virtually every aspect of his life leading to boot camp. “That way, if you do get into a higher position, you know what the lower positions are going through,” he explained.
Having grown up in the mountains of Colorado, Collman loved the outdoors. He became a Boy Scout, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout during his senior year of high school. But before he could lead scouts, he had to start somewhere. Just as Marines start as recruits, Boy Scouts must go through the ranks and start as Cub Scouts.
“I was never satisfied with stopping halfway,” he said. Earning Eagle Scout rank was just another challenge for him, he added.
Just as in scouting, Collman was not satisfied with just being a high school student in his teenage years. During high school, he worked for three years designing databases for a telecommunications firm. It made him realize that he didn’t like “suit-and-tie jobs,” he said, but it had its own merits.
Collman also was active in search and rescue, and he became a certified wilderness first responder. He participated in search and rescue operations, was responsible for saving the lives of many people, performed CPR and organized helicopter evacuations, he said.
After graduating from high school, Collman went to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He operated his own contracting and construction company and worked in the retail business during college to pay for tuition, books and his cost of living. He started his business on a whim during his sophomore year in college, he said, because job opportunities weren’t abundant. He performed tasks such as staining, painting and building decks.
“It was easy to do, and I like working with my hands,” Collman said. “There’s a craftsman’s pride to that line of work. When you paint a house and walk by it a year later and it’s not peeling, you can think, ‘I did that.’ It pays well, so I raided [a home-improvement store] to get myself started.”
He took out ads and walked around neighborhoods putting out flyers, and said he always had very competitive pricing. The business was mostly a “one-man band,” he said.
He graduated from the college with a bachelor’s degree in history and a secondary social sciences teaching license. He got a job teaching high school sophomore- and junior-level history and government classes in Erie, Colo., prior to joining the Marine Corps.
Collman said he hadn’t planned on becoming a teacher; he had started out studying engineering.
“With teaching, the success is measurable,” he explained. “When students go from C’s to A’s, you can see the change right in front of your eyes. A teacher educates his students not only on the subject, but on life. They teach ethics, morals and decision-making.”
Teachers can have a direct influence on their students’ lives, he said. Teaching history, he said, showed him he could turn something dreaded into something fun.
“I’d hear my fellow students saying, ‘History sucks,’” Collman said, looking befuddled and disgusted at the notion. “I loved history. I was tired of people bashing on history. It was like a little extra salt in my wound.”
Although he’d established himself as a teacher, Collman said, he had always planned on enlisting in the Marine Corps. In high school, he said, he initially looked into all the military branches because he wanted to serve his country.
“There’s just something [Marines] have that the other branches don’t,” he said. “They are different from the other branches. Part of it is in the way they carry themselves.”
The difference was obvious to him, he added, when he met his first Marine recruiter.
“I walked in, and there he stood,” Collman said. “He said to me, ‘So you want to join my Marine Corps?’ The way he said it was like, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’” Collman said he took it as a challenge.
Collman talked to his first recruiter when he was 16, and signed up when he was 22. He still remembers that first recruiter throwing that challenge at him.
That challenge was to become a Marine, and to defend his country, just as his grandfathers did before him, he said.
“I’ve always been a die-hard patriot,” Collman said. He was a freshman in high school during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, so that was even more motivation for him to join, he added.
“There is a threat and someone has to stand against it,” he explained.
Though he has been trained to be a teacher, an Eagle Scout, a contractor and a wilderness first responder, Collman said, he is a Marine first, and now that he has completed boot camp, he plans to continue to challenge himself.