Military Precision: Brandon Collier's Veteran's Day Profile
Ed note: With Veterans Day this Thursday, we profile engineer Brandon Collier, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.
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In 2003, a young Collier was like many young men—bored with town life in Lenoir City, Tenn., and itching for some adventure.
“I had a favorite uncle in the Army and it’s like everyone; you have this whole war movie thing where ‘I’m gonna go do that and become an American hero.’ I felt like that, but I was also a kid too, so it’s easy for guys to feel that way.” He was scheduled to meet with an Army recruiter—who didn’t show for the duo’s appointment. A Marine Corps recruiter was across the hall, he struck up a conversation, and his path was set: he would become a U.S. Marine.
Collier started the Marines in military occupational specialty, with roles from welding and metalworking to repair of engineering equipment. For Collier, it was utilities, and he soon transitioned into engineering. He put that trained skillset to work on his first and second deployments to Iraq, where he did road repairs where improvised explosive devices had created craters in the road, along with building and reinforcement of bridges.
“I’ve always been a bit of a MacGyver person, always wanted to be able to fix things myself, or create a bypass,” he says. “In Iraq, it was that; we’d set up a cordon around a repair area with security, and we’d alternate between repairs and patrols.”
Collier left the Marines, returning to Chattanooga, Tenn. and faced a new challenge: finding work. He worked for the City of Chattanooga for a few years, but, as he says. “I decided I wanted to do more, to work in the actual engineering side of things.”
As it is for many in the military, transition back to the private sector was a rough one.
“It was tough—I tell my wife and she doesn’t believe it, but I went through a couple of rough spots, and if it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t be working here right now,” he says. With his wife’s encouragement, he returned to school to flesh out his engineering degree. With new experience in robotics, he transitioned to another job—before a chance with Obed's parent company, American Bicycle Group, awaited in 2018.
There, he began working with designer Brad DeVaney, and the two have become a dynamic duo, bouncing concepts and ideas off one another to see what’s worth bringing to the fore.
“When I applied here, it sounded like a great opportunity. I love creating solutions,” he says. When asked if he has to corral the ebullient DeVaney into more practical solutions on bikes, he said it’s quite the opposite. “Working with Brad has been great; I’ll come up with some off-the-wall ideas, and he’s the one that actually tamps me down.”
His work on designing Obed bikes is as detailed as it gets. From the smallest design cues, cable routing and tire clearance, it's Collier that grinds over his computer, making the math work... so that your ride does as well.
Today, Collier stays busy designing the newest bikes, while always remembering where he came from. And often, it takes him past a memorial, erected for 4 Marines and a sailor that were killed in 2015 in Chattanooga by a homegrown terrorist. The place along the Tennessee Riverwalk is called the Wreath of Honor Fallen Five Memorial.
“The Marine Corp’s birthday is November 10th, the day before Veteran’s Day, so anytime I see a fellow Marine that day, I say happy birthday,” Collier says. “ But any other day, there’s a run that I do from the office, and it takes me past the Reserve Center here in town, where there’s a monument to when a guy drove in and killed 4 Marines and one Navy sailors. It’s a nice memorial and if I run nearby at lunch, I run by the memorial. I pay my respects where I can and try to be humble.”
Once a Marine, always a Marine.