Nate Moreno served in and deployed with the Pennsylvania National Guard. After returning, he's worked in a number of positions and recently became a Bunker Labs City Leader, a VFW Post Commander, President of ADP's Military Strong program in Pittsburgh, and started a veteran outdoor apparel company called Ridgeline Ruck Apparel Company.
Ridgeline Ruck Apparel Company is teaming up with Drive On Podcast to offer you a chance to win a free t-shirt from Ridgeline Ruck!
Links & Resources
- Ridgeline Ruck Website
- Ridgeline Ruck on Facebook
- Bunker Labs
- USO Pathfinder Transition Program
- DOD SkillBridge
Scott DeLuzio: 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast, where we're focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community, whether you're a Veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast we'll share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio. And now let's get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:00:24 Hi everybody today my guest is Nate Moreno. Nate served in and deployed with the Pennsylvania National Guard. After returning, he's worked at a number of positions and recently became a Bunker Labs City Leader of VFW post commander, president of ADP's Military Strong program in Pittsburgh, and also started a Veteran outdoor apparel company called Ridgeline Ruck Apparel Company. And if that wasn't enough for any one person, Nate has also offered to come on the show and share his story about how he's been able to live, what he calls a profound life. So welcome to the show. Nate, why don't you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background?
Nate Moreno: 00:01:07 What's up, Scott? Thank you for having me on the show, man. It just kind of subtly slipped into the Veteran guest system. I mean, I guess it really puts it in perspective when you list all those things out, it's like, no wonder I'm single and just a plant dad. I keep myself busy, but I was in the Pennsylvania National Guard from 2012 to 2019. I was a combat engineer in the 876 Engineer battalion. I love it, much love to the engineers. It kind of started in 2009 when I graduated high school. We were surging in Iraq and Afghanistan and I knew I wanted to go to the military. I'm an Army brat. I was born overseas. My dad was in the 82nd.
Nate Moreno: 00:01:58 So I'd always had that influence. My grandfather was in and I just wanted to follow the legacy that was always in the cards honestly. So in 2009 when I am not a good student and I'm just not a good conventional student. I suck at taking tests. I hate school. So I went in and just hot dogged and took the ASVAB, but I just completely blew it, but I still passed. So it was just kind of in this moment of like, I didn't know what direction I wanted to go. I just needed some structure. So it was like screw it, I'll go be an 88 Mike; no offense to any truck drivers. I was a truck driver. So he ended up talking me out of it. He was like, look, just study for it. You know, go back, take the test, see how it comes out.
Nate Moreno: 00:02:41 That translated to me as Nate you should move to Sarasota, Florida, not knowing anybody and live at the beach. So I packed a bag of clothes in my 89 Jeep Cherokee and went and cut up in Sarasota for about a year or several months to a year. And, you know, that really got a quick shot of reality into me. And I was like, okay, I have to go do something with my life. So I drove back up to Pittsburgh. I got into the ROTC program at the University of Pittsburgh. I was going for Army ROTC and I was working full time at Flinch tire a local tire shops. I was working in the garage full time. I was waking up at like 4:30, going to PT, doing military science, going to work an eight hour shift and going back to community college to take classes there and earned credits.
Nate Moreno: 00:03:31 It was just a hustle. After year two in ROTC, they were like, Hey, if you want to continue with the program, you're going to have to sign a contract in. And you know, you have to have a required amount of credits a year and God bless my parents. I come from a blue collar family. I didn't have a fund set up for my school and I was just doing the best I could. And they were like, we're sorry you can't continue with the program and I couldn't quit my job. You know, I was paying all my bills. So we had a National Guard liaison there and our detachment and he put me in the guard, he sold me to a combat engineer thing and I was super excited about it.
Nate Moreno: 00:04:12 He doesn't want to blow shit up. So I went in and enlisted in the summer of 2012. I shipped out to Basic Training in September of 2012, and I got home and I just stayed working for the same job. I was driving a tire truck around the city, perfectly fine with the blue collar life. That's what I knew. Then I got orders to deploy, and this is actually kind of a screwed up part of it. And you know, my grandfather, God rest his soul, Dominic Choffee. He was the only one that knew that I got a call and got put on notice that I might be deploying. What happened was I was actually driving the tire truck around and I got the email on my phone and it says, Hey, HHC company is taking one combat engineer from the platoon to deploy to Kosovo for a multinational battle group with NATO, first name to hit my desk, gets the spot.
Nate Moreno: 00:05:10 This is my HO. So I just jumped straight over to the chain of command to call everybody. I'm like, what do I have to do to get to go? At this point, I'm like five years into my contract. All of our deployment notices got canceled, no one got Title Xs. I mean, we were going through the train up and then they canceled the deployment. We were supposed to go on a few and I started feeling that pressure, damn like, “Hey, you know what? I was never going to be a lifer in the military, but I wanted to do my job.” I wanted to get in it. I was surrounded by Iraq and Afghanistan Vets at the time that had all deployed from my unit. So it was like, I had these guys who I look up to, I'll never measure up to them even after the deployment to Kosovo. I could just never see myself measuring up to these guys who went so hard in combat. So, one thing led to another. I put my name in and I was second on the list. Somebody beat me by like 15 seconds. I was heartbroken. I was like, God I don't want to wish death on this person, but you know, a fractured leg will heal.
Nate Moreno: 00:06:12 I don't want them to die but get sick so that I could go on the appointment is super fucked up, but it is what it is. So fast forward a couple of months, I only told my grandfather this was occurring and he's a Navy Vet. So we talked about it a little bit. And then unfortunately, a couple of months later he passed. I still didn't know if I was going or not. I was still in the hopper behind one person. And we're getting close to that far where SRP is starting and you're starting to get all your affairs in line to go over. It is literally the day of his funeral, we’re getting ready to put him in the ground and my phone starts going off. And it's my readiness NCO.
Nate Moreno: 00:06:57 And he goes, Nate, the guy that was supposed to go ahead of you, he's like a tier three dental, a dental thing. You know, his teeth were rotten. It would have taken surgery. So he wasn't going to make it through SRP. And then he says you're going, we need you at the unit tomorrow to start going through SRP. So, my heart just drops through my chest. You get that news and it doesn't matter where you're going. It's just the most exciting thing for a young soldier. Like when you find out you're going and, I was like, well it's already arguably one of the worst days of my mom's life. I might as well just pile it on now while the wounds are fresh. So I walked up to the limo and turned my head in and I said, “Ma, I can't let you heal from this and then drop more bad news on you. So I'm going to tell you now I just got orders. I'm going to be deploying. And it was just, God bless her. My Italian mother is just a disaster. Just throw it all on at once.
Nate Moreno: 00:08:04 I had to leave after the ceremony. And after dinner to head back from Youngstown, Ohio, that's where my mom's side of the family's from. So I drove from Youngstown, back to Washington, PA to start the SRP process. I got slated and got through SRP. It was time to go. We started training in the fall and then deployed right after new year's. So that's where I went from there. I told my job that I was going overseas. So that's how that first phase started. And it was like, finally the big break I was looking for, I know it's kind of a shitty thing to like, say, oh man, I hope I can get deployed because terrible things happen overseas.
Nate Moreno: 00:08:46 At the same time I looked at it like, this is the adventure you've been waiting for. Well, this is going to change you, I don’t know how but it's just going to change you. So I went through SRP, we got the train up in January, like the 12th or something. And we left for Fort Bliss from there we trained up, we flew into Germany. It was my first time in Germany since I was born in 1991. I was in JMRC in Hollandfeld, oh my God, I wouldn't send my worst enemy there. But JMRC was a lot like Pennsylvania, but we were there, we were training with our multinational partners, NATO partners. And then it was time to go to Kosovo.
Nate Moreno: 00:09:36 So my job actually was to fill in for an E 6 slot as an E4 over there. I don't even know why, but I was one of two American combat engineers in country. We were the American contingent of our multinational battlegroup, on the Eastern side of the country. So, the two of us, me and another captain who was also a combat engineer, we worked with probably nine or 10 other countries as engineers, deconstructing fobs and building up some air pads there in country. So, I got to go on a couple of missions with EODs. They busted my balls into oblivion because I was a combat engineer. They were EODs. They used to do some cool stuff, but you know, it was a good experience.
Nate Moreno: 00:10:27 It was a good life experience. It was my first time outside of the continental North America. Since I was born, I'd never seen Europe. And I surely like when I would tell people I'm going to Kosovo, they're like, what the hell is Kosovo? Like the people older than me would know what Kosovo was because of the conflict there. We sent our first wave of troops there in 1999 and then 2001 happened and it completely overshadowed what the mission was in Kosovo for those of you listening. It was ethnic Serbs against ethnic Albanians and they just hated each other. 15 years later, when I went there, the wounds were still pretty fresh in the country, but there wasn't that much infighting, they both respect each other's boundaries for the most part.
Nate Moreno: 00:11:23 So it wasn't crazy like that. But our humit guys, I mean, those are some bad-ass dudes man our humit crew. Whatever they did in plainclothes, they caught like 14 or 15 ISIS fighters going through Kosovo trying to make their way up to Germany. They had planned an attack in Germany and we were coordinating with the KSF intelligence, Kosovo security forces and through our sneaky squirrel shit, they ended up catching them. So that was pretty crazy. Fast forward a little bit longer and got some shit overseas that was trouble, took into motion. We were drinking with officers on Ft. When we got home, the civilian contractors in Fort Bliss told us they were gonna stay through Thanksgiving Eve to out process us.
Nate Moreno: 00:12:18 So we got Thanksgiving with our families and they ended up bailing on us. So we were stuck at Fort Bliss with nothing to do. We got a pass, so I got a hotel room and it was kind of a unique deployment, the sense that there were good officers over there. And us junior enlisted guys worked very closely with them. It wasn't your conventional platoon element and led by a Lieutenant led by a captain; that wasn't really the dynamic. Like I was an E4 and I'd worked every single day with a captain as a combat engineer. So you get really close with these guys. You still respect the rank and respect the military command structure, but you're riding around in a vehicle with somebody all day, every day.
Nate Moreno: 00:13:03 You start to break it down a little bit and get to know each other. And Mike, if you ever hear this, you're the man. I know we bumped heads, but I still love you. When we got back and we were watching college football and passing around a bottle and that for anybody that knows that was in violation of general order, number one, we got 'em out now. So I don't care. I don't have to save any face. We got dimed out by our chaplain. He went next on the command team where there were junior enlisted trench officers. So they came and talked to our whole room and the commander of our company. He just doesn't know how to deal with troops. He's a very poor leader.
Nate Moreno: 00:13:42 He ended up passing the investigation on to the fifth armored division down there. So he could go home with the main body because he didn't know how to discipline us. So we all got left behind at Ft. Bliss while the rest of the unit went home. There were six of us. One of them, a good friend, passed away a couple of months after in a tragic accident, God rest his soul. We were down there together and it was just misery unknown. When you get stuck there and they don't tell you anything and you're just inside of that room all day, just watching YouTube. And just like, when the fuck is somebody going to tell him to take my rank date, my page, let me go home. Like, we're so close to the finish line.
Nate Moreno: 00:14:25 All we did was again, it's fraternization, but come on, like you're drinking when you come home from a year on deployment, you're on American soil. It's Thanksgiving, give us a freaking break. But I took a bump in rank. It was super embarrassing. I got back to my unit and there's all these new dudes and I'm back to E3. It sucked because they were like, we got an E5 spot, wait, like we were holding the spot because we wanted you. We were going to promote you as soon as you got back to the unit, met all the prerequisites and went back into E3 and all that, all the new guys are like, Hey, this is the new guy.
Scott DeLuzio: You’re the new guy with a deployment under his belt.
Nate Moreno: 00:15:08 It was very mixed signals. I was just absolutely disgusted. I guess I'm more old school. So I think that the military should handle certain situations differently. Maybe they do get handled differently from my unit, remind you, I was an augmentee. So I'm a 30 ass combat engineer rolling with a headquarters first company. And they treated me as such; a lot of good officers and I respect a lot of them. And if any of you hear this, you know exactly who the hell I'm talking about. So we'll just leave that one there. I get home and I live with my mom. And you get entitled to unemployment
Nate Moreno: 00:15:58 once you get home for the amount of months you were gone. So I just did every bit of busy work I could and fixed everything I could on our family farm at the time in Ohio. And I was just going stir crazy. So I had to get back into the workforce. So, after about four months, I flew back to Pittsburgh, I got an apartment and it was kind of at that moment, I was like, I know I could go back. It was very good. I rode with them for a long time. And they were very good. But you know, now I come back and I'm a deployed soldier. I've earned Veteran status for whatever my deployment was. And I'm not trying to be a quarry hound because I know the difference between what I did and what men who took Fallujah and Ramadi I know what they did, so I'm not out here waving my banner as if I'm some kind of hero, but you know, you get the title.
Nate Moreno: 00:16:50 Now, you're a Veteran, you're DD 214 jacketed up with some stuff I got, I was able to take a lot of cool schools over there and got my shoots and snears with the German armed forces. I got the Edelweiss, climbed a mountain with the German, Alpine infantry. I mean, I got to do more there than I ever thought I would. And it made me a better soldier and made me a better engineer. So, I decided I'm not going to go back to driving trucks. I need to try something different. I know I can go drive. There's nothing wrong with driving a truck. But if you feel confident that you have more to give back to society, then that's the whole point of me being on the show is just not pitching on yourself and in saying, Hey, I'm just a combat engineer.
Nate Moreno: 00:17:36 I'm just a motorman or I'm just this, right. There's so much more than that. You gotta make the military work for you when you get out. And that's what I really tried to do was use all of the things that I had learned on my deployments and learn throughout the years and apply them to the workforce. And I really didn’t. I just turned 25 years old. I didn't know my ass from a hole in the ground. I'm like, what do I do? Like, what am I eligible for? I still don't have a degree, but I have an appointment now. And, so I went into contracting, it was just a private security contracting. And I worked in, got my ACT 243, which is the credential
Nate Moreno: 00:18:20 you need to be able to carry a firearm as part of your job. So it's like below a cop. I don't have any arrests, but I can carry a gun as part of my job. So I'm going back and forth this and that, doing just small side gigs for armed guard work. And then the guy that I had served with, he was my first Lieutenant in the military and then he rotated out into a different leadership position, but we'd always stayed close and had a lot of respect for each other. He hits me up one day and he was like, Nate are you in love with your job right now? And I'm like, ah, no, I'm not married to it. I'm just figuring out what I'm going to do next.
Nate Moreno: 00:19:01 And he's like, all right, I got to get for you. I do engineering work for this guy and he's kind of crazy, he owns a manufacturing plant and he lives like a Playboy, but he wanted to know from me, if I knew any guys in the military that would be interested in bodyguard work. So I was like, oh shit, that's pretty cool. Like yeah, executive protection. Let's do that. So meet the guy for Christ's sake. This dude was absolutely unhinged. And I mean, this was my first glimpse on how, like some elements of the other side, like I'm sure like you and the listeners kind of wonder sometimes like, I'm wondering what George Clooney's day-to-day is like, I wonder what do they do when they're not on the screen? And then I got just the absolute exposure of what it really was.
Nate Moreno: 00:20:01 To make a long story short. I rubbed this guy for just under a year and it was one of the craziest freaking things. I mean, Hey, it really opened my eyes. No wonder, so many really rich people end up in rehab. When you have no limits to what you're able to do, because you have the money to do it, that opens up a can of worms. Like that really exposes a pure good person or not. And this dude had me do some crazy shit, but I was just getting paid hand over fist. Like he didn't care. I was getting paid cash just to come and hang out with him. Baby-step, he'd get loaded at the bar and try to start fights. He thought he was a karate master, which was super embarrassing. When he would try to practice martial arts, I'd be like, Hey, let's move it along here. So I always put it like I wasn't protecting him from anybody. I was protecting everybody from him because fucking nightmare in public.
Nate Moreno: 00:21:06 I'm doing that for a while. I mean, he was just a crackpot man. I've never seen anything like this in my entire life, but this man is a very successful multimillionaire and I'm going to work for him and we'll see what happens. Let's see where it leads to. It was cool because I was sitting in on a lot of very executive business meetings and hearing the things that they talk about and how they function on that plane. And just how the environment of the room was, it gave me the right kind of exposure. That's why I say no matter how crazy he was, I've learned so much working with him because of somebody that had a nose for business, but didn't realize it yet.
Nate Moreno: 00:21:51 I started learning and started picking up on the things that were important and what drove progress in business. It was just too taxing working for him. I mean, he would call me in the middle of the night and be like, right now. And I'm like, oh, fuck sake. Like, what am I walking into? You know, it was always like a domestic argument. Yeah, I'm doing that. And then I had an account on clearance jobs.com. And if any of you listening have your security clearance, whether it's secret TSI, whatever the case may be, make a profile there, if you're into contract work, because that's how I was approached by a recruiter for a private contracting company out of Northern Virginia called Accelerate solutions. And they reached out to me on clearance jobs because I had an active security clearance through the Army
Nate Moreno: 00:22:42 and I never even knew it. I was carrying, I had clearance to be in certain places in Kosovo, I had a carry card. So that meant I was okay to carry secret plans, stuff like that. And it didn't connect. I didn't understand what was going on until they reached out to me. Because I was like, I have security. Why, I am a combat engineer? Like we sleep in dirt, we blow things up. Like we stick buggers on each other. We're just dirty cavemen living out in the woods. Like what the hell? I didn't knowI had security plans that could be applied on the outside. I thought it was military. So they reached out and they were like, I talked to the recruiter, they've reached out to me and they were like, Hey, we saw your profile online.
Nate Moreno: 00:23:33 Our company just won a contract with the Department of Justice. We need people with security clearances as program analysts in the biometrics division of the department of justice, CJIS, Clarksburg, West Virginia. That's a mouth full of acronyms that just stirred my brain like a flood. I was like, whoa, whoa, what do you want me to do? What biometrics are like, I'm a bodyguard. Like you want me to go work at a biometrics division? They churched it up. I mean, I thought I was about to be like Jason Bourne but anything was better than the situation I was in at that point because it was just going nowhere and I was making good money, but I was miserable. So this was a part of that journey, getting out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself with something you had no idea what you were doing
Nate Moreno: 00:24:25 and that was a big challenge. That was a hill for me to climb and a decision to make, because I didn't know shit about computers. I was one of the last ones in the country to have a smartphone. I pushed it off as long as I could, but I was like, Hey what, if you're willing to train me and if I could utilize this clearance that I have, yes, let's go. The money is right. I'm willing to move to West Virginia because if I want to continue contracting and getting into government work at a different level, how many people get the call? Like, Hey, do you want to get a contract for the FBI?
Nate Moreno: 00:25:03 Not really knowing what to expect, I talked to a buddy from high school. Also went into the army, started out as an engineer. He was a Lieutenant and we are just as close as could be to this day, his name's Cody Newsome. He runs battle born training. So, I call him and I'm like, Hey man, I got called by the FBI or this contracting company. Like they're filling a contract right now. And they need people who are smart and have security clearance. You'd have yours. He said, yes. So I was like, if you want to apply with me, man, we can be roommates in Fairmont, West Virginia, that's where I'm going to move. He was like, yeah, let's go.
Nate Moreno: 00:25:51 So we went down and we went through intake with the department of justice. It didn't take very long for me to be down there to realize like, holy shit, this is exactly like the military, from the leadership to the demagoguery and just all the jockeying to get up top. Like it was exactly like being in the military and it turns out that that's how most government contracting is. It made itself very clear to me that this isn't bad. I'm very secure. I'm good at my job. They liked me. I'm starting to get mentored by the director of FBI operations for the company, because my goal was to learn how to pursue film contracts for my company. The selfish part of me was like, I hate living in West Virginia.
Nate Moreno: 00:26:39 I want to move back to Pennsylvania. Let me see if I can find somebody who could use contractors up there. So he started mentoring me and the more I got exposed to it, the more I was getting hungrier. I was like, oh yeah, I don't need to feel as though my only qualification is to carry a gun for my job. And there's nothing wrong with that on the side of a police officer, but I started picking up that I had a niche and just how business functions, how you win a contract, what to look for if it would teach me things. So, another year goes by and I'm getting ready to be promoted. I'm in the promotion docket to go up from mid-level to senior program manager analysts for my company.
Nate Moreno: 00:27:28 And that's a pay raise. I'll have a small team. And again I met with this crossroads, do you stay here and take this route to success? It's right there for you. We were one of the first ones to fill that contract. There were like four or five of us from my company. And then he eventually built it up to like 20, 25, 30. This is very comfortable because everything that I'm seeing around was what I saw in the military for the most part. And I know I have a future here, and I'm afraid, but again, I just wanted more for myself. I wanted to really apply this acumen. I was building in the world of business. So, a couple of buddies of mine worked for ADP up here in Pittsburgh. For those of you who don't know, it's automatic data processing, we're not the security company. We're the nation's leading payroll processor.
Nate Moreno: 00:28:25 They're just killing it up here. I mean, they're making six figures. They have their whole game plan laid out and they're just really good at it. I didn't know what human capital management was. I had no idea what they did at ADP, but I started questioning two of my very close friends, Hey, what do you guys do up there? Do you think that'd be good? Do I have a personality for it? They were like, oh, hell yeah. A lot of the hires that come through ADP are by word of mouth, it's all referrals. They gave me a referral and I came and I interviewed for the first time and didn't make it through, which was a blessing in disguise for the division that I was going through. They didn't want me, so they kicked me back and then I came up for an interview a second time.
Nate Moreno: 00:29:10 I got the job and that was super exciting for me. I told my company, I'm sorry, guys, I'm gonna have to take off. And it's okay. You know, that was a stepping stone to me. And again, I learned a lot, just part of the journey. I went there and it led me to something better. I came back home and then my plan was to buy a house, but I didn't want to buy a house with a two week window. So I was like, Hey, I'm just going to get this apartment, get a six month lease, start working. And then I'll have plenty of time to get my affairs sorted out, get a house. So I started working for ADP and their small business service division. And what we do is we consult with small business owners.
Nate Moreno: 00:29:55 It's like 50 employees or under the business sizes that we're working with, we consult with the business owner and then set up their payroll and their human capital management. So making sure if they need benefits for their employees, that the company needs a workers' compensation plan that gets taken care of, just the whole HR element of a business, plus primarily being the payroll. So I started working for them and immediately, it just snapped like my very close friend, Joe who inspired me to come and work for ADP. And he was like the ADP champion of the world. Like he's the number one sales person in the entire company, countrywide, he's just a stud. And one of the biggest, one of the most valuable pieces of advice he gave me, as soon as I started there, it was like, mate, don't drink the Kool-Aid, think outside of the box. That's what the company doesn't want
Nate Moreno: 00:30:48 somebody who just sits in the chair, doing the nine to five thing. Think of ways that you can create business because they encourage that. So I was like, cool. All right, that's great. I want to know what my boundaries are because my mind is constantly moving. If I have a hand in something I always want to innovate something. So I started taking a look at Veteran owned businesses as a way to generate a business for myself. I'm like, dude, I could talk to Veterans all day. You know, we just know how to talk to each other. You know, it's not like talking to the older experienced HR lady, and telling her like, oh fuck man. I got the rash so bad over there, like walk right for a week, get away with that shit with Veterans.
Nate Moreno: 00:31:36 So it was like, that's an easy conversation, so I could add it with Veterans. So what I did was I started developing this plan in my head as, my long term vision was to have a division of ADP that specifically serves Veteran owned business. I start mapping it out in my head like, Hey, how could I develop an ecosystem using Veteran service organizations in Pittsburgh,who handle Veteran owned businesses for these people. So I started talking to a lot of Veteran organizations and in bunker labs, approached me. I actually reached out to them because I had heard they had an eye on Pittsburgh for a next chapter. So I called them and I was just like, Hey, I just wanted to get information when you guys plan on opening up a shop in Pittsburgh, because I provide a service here.
Nate Moreno: 00:32:30 I'm trying to take care of Veteran owned businesses, payroll needs; I just want to be a support structure for you and turns out that they've liked all the pre-work that I did, everybody that I met, the director of every Veteran service organization in town pretty much. And just to try to figure out like, Hey, when a Veteran approaches your organization and wants to start a business what do you guys have for them? And the answer was nothing for the most part; the SBA was trying, but it was like two people trying to handle all of Western Pennsylvania's too much.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:33:06 Just to stop you right there for people who don't know, could you explain what bunker labs are all about?
Nate Moreno: 00:33:12 Yeah, absolutely. Definitely. Bunker labs is just an incredible Veteran nonprofit. I mean, just the coolest people ever. These are the people that you want to be around. What it is, it is a networking organization that brings Veteran entrepreneurs to network with other Veteran entrepreneurs. And they bring in successful business leaders who were Veterans and every chapter has three leadership positions. One is entrepreneurial. One is the community, a city leader, which that's what I am. And then one is a planning operation, like a first Sergeant role right there. They're doing all the planning for the event. So, just to take you through a short walk and what a bunker labs event is, and it all changed, because of COVID, but I'll talk more about that here in a second. But they set up a chapter and then every month, or whatever the need dictates, we get together, we drink beer, eat pizza, and talk about how our businesses are going, what it is we need, what resources, what pitfalls to avoid.
Nate Moreno: 00:34:14 And that's how we support each other. I usually buy from Walmart or whatever the department store is, if that's better and sell it, I'm buying it from them if I need it. So it is just this swelling organization that has a national presence. You know, it started out of Chicago with just a couple of chapters of just Veteran business owners getting together or Veterans that wanted to go into business, getting together and then figuring out what that path is like for them. So it's a super awesome organization. They have virtual, online training set up and the number one step is called launch lab online. So if you have an idea, Scott DeLuzio, I want to do a podcast, but I don't know the first thing about podcasts. You go through yourself, you put yourself through the launch lab online, which is pretty sure it's about three hours and you can stop and go whenever you want. But what it's doing is vetting your idea and challenging you with questions. You might not have asked yourself about your idea, and then when you graduate and come out on the other end, you're realizing things that you hadn't realized before about what it's going to take to have a successful business.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:35:28 I totally could have used that about two years ago when I first started the podcast, I had no clue what I was doing. I didn't know where to go, how to even do a podcast or anything. And once I got it set up and running, I made all sorts of mistakes. And so, I know that that would definitely have been useful.
Nate Moreno: 00:35:51 Yeah, absolutely. And you know what, it's not too late. We have this online ecosystem, aside from your city chapters just called bunker online. And when you join that, it runs off of a tap system. If you are a Veteran that wants to get into agriculture, there is a networking channel for agriculture. If you're going into an e-commerce networking channel for all Veterans that are doing e-commerce. So it's like any question you could possibly ask, there is a Veteran just like you, that has either done it, going through it, or thinking about doing it too. And just the opportunities are endless from there. Like you don't know when the next Bill Gates is going to be like Elon Musk inside of bunker labs. Like that's the coolest part of it is where you would never interact, at least directly with a Veteran business owner from California.
Nate Moreno: 00:36:39 Now you're all being cycled through the same Veteran business ecosystem. So you're meeting all of these awesome people from around the country and the leadership is awesome. They're really in tune. They support us city leaders with anything we need. So if you're listening and you want to check out bunker labs, because you have a great idea, see what's the closest chapter to you? I think the last time I checked, I think we were closing in on 50 chapters nationwide. So there are chapters all over the place and just start investigating it and become involved in the network community. Because it's invaluable at this point. No one else is going to do for you what bunker labs are going to do for Veteran entrepreneurs. So you know that they're awesome. Check them out.
Nate Moreno: 00:37:25 But just continuing along, they asked me, Hey, would you be willing to be a city leader for us? You know, when we open up shop, I'm like, what the hell? I don't know. I'm like a leader. I have no idea what you're asking me. I work in human capital management. I don't know shit about being a business or I can sell you payroll that'll help. But it's not an experience like that. It's exactly what we're doing now. It's just having the soft skills, how to have emotional intelligence and banding people together. And that's what I had done preemptively. What, I didn't know, bunker labs was going to approach me with this offer to volunteer to do this. But you know, on this ride where I was really digging my heels in, I don't want to bounce around from job to job.
Nate Moreno: 00:38:15 I want a good professional career path and this is going to be great for that because you never know who you're going to meet. So we launched bunker labs in August of 2020. But you know, I started ADP in October, 2019 and I'm piecing together what would you know, this Veteran's program from the nation's leading payroll provider, because I saw the value in it. You convince the right people and we said Harris Morris, who's the director of Veterans initiatives for ADP is like I'm Robin, he's Batman. I mean, we just worked really well together in tandem to develop this out. You know, there are very few people in this world who care more about Veterans, so we were just going straight into it and I'm like cooking with gas and then boom, the pandemic hit and no one could have seen it coming.
Nate Moreno: 00:39:13 And I mean, that was such a huge challenge because not only I'm sitting here loading an AR when it first broke thinking I'm going to have to take my family and live in a forest community up in the mountains, when a man comes around playing as I'm loading my gun, like a psychopath, but the society is a delicate balance and could fall apart easily. So when the pandemic hit we didn't know what it was really going to do. You know, that was pretty freaky, but you know, things subsided and we started game planning virtually and coming to know it. Yeah, it was a blessing in disguise because now you have the ability to talk to everybody, you're not in the office where there's all these conversations happening and all this chatter and people running around now, I'm having these intimate conversations with how to develop this project, what is needed, what works and what doesn't work, you know?
Nate Moreno: 00:40:13 So from there, I was the VP of ADP's military strong business resource group and then eventually became the president. We're developing it out from there. And then we start forming a Veteran sales team at ADP and you're starting to see your hard work finally take form. And it was like, holy shit, man, what a wild ride. And then eventually I got nominated as post commander of the old VFW, Vietnam Veterans, a couple of world war II guys. When the pandemic hit and all the bars shut down in Pennsylvania our restrictions up here were no joke. When the bar closed down, a lot of those guys who were officers for our VFW post stopped coming back, they'd just got old and they're like, our time is over.
Nate Moreno: 00:41:03 So we got approached by the manager once everybody opened back up, and asked me and a very close friend of mine, do you guys want to be in the officer Corps here? And I was like, hell yeah. Like, whatever keeps this place on the rails. We love it here. Now he'll play bingo and watch the penguins lose in the first round of the playoffs. So that's our spot. So I'm just whatever, whatever it takes. So I didn't know that they were going to need to be the post commander. So I'm like, holy shit. Okay. I'm postmaster now. Like what starts planning events. So I guess I got done with that just this month, with me and the same guy.
Nate Moreno: 00:41:46 I'm just talking about Nick, he's my business partner at Bridgeline rock. I saw an opening in the market that wasn't targeted, the thing that I want to target and that being a Veteran subculture about the word life if you end up following me on any kind of social media, I'm in a river, the boat I'm climbing up a mountain. I live like Tarzan. There's many Veterans like me who are avid hunters and outdoorsmen and fishermen. And I didn't really see a lot of apparel that was targeting that stuff, that's the culture of Veteran life. So I was like, I asked him and a diner was in high school with brilliant free hand sketch artists.
Nate Moreno: 00:42:34 Hey, do you guys want to go into this stuff with me? You know, it was kind of like a side gig. We'll do bunker labs. You start seeing all of these people try their hand at entrepreneurship. You just call them, we call it the bug. I got the bug. I was like, hell yeah, let's do this. You know, there's an opening for it. Let's go for it. So we started Ridgeline rock. We had launched the company in March of this year, right before trout season. And we made a lot of patriotic old school, historical patriotic inspired, outdoor apparel design. And, like I said, we had just launched. But for this contest, that running start, I sent you some pictures of her, but we want to give away a t-shirt to have somebody that wins the contest.
Nate Moreno: 00:43:22 And we put through our best sellers there that specifically target a white tailed deer hunting, and then fishing inspired by the Gadsden flag, hunter dye and Fisher die, with the original colonies. So you can either choose one of those or you could choose any t-shirt on the website and we will send it to you free of charge. If you want to take a picture of you wearing it out in the wild, we'll put you on a website, but if you have somebody in your family, who's a Veteran or they don't even have to be a Veteran, honestly, if they love the outdoors, that's, who we're targeting. We got some pretty cool stuff. So, it's been the business owner, the post commander, the project manager forming a Veteran thing, a Veteran community at work.
Nate Moreno: 00:44:14 It's all of it, man. I just immersed myself in the Veteran life. And like I said, I'm going back to it. Make the military work for you when you get out. Because I know it's different for me being a National Guardsman and working a civilian job and knowing a lot of these guys, I've never seen depression in somebody's eyes like I saw in those poor soldiers out at Ft. Irwin. If I had to live there, I would volunteer to go to prison. There's no way, if you're hearing this and you have an option to go to Ft. Irwin just don't and if you do you are a sucker because that is one of the hardest training sites I'd ever been to, the heat there was ungodly, there were guys stuck there for their whole contract.
Nate Moreno: 00:45:02 And I'm just like, holy shit. How would this change things by disposition? If I was getting out from this active duty post, what is going to be available to me on the other end of that? You know, we're living in a time now where you get to recreate yourself because this pandemic has changed our country. It's changed the world through all these different opportunities open to Veterans right now. And I don't want to say if you're a Veteran, don't wait for somebody to do something for you. You know, we're resourceful people and we're cutting edge and you just have to tap into that and own it and use it and make it work for you. Because my journey in particular, going from just being a tire truck driver, and being involved in all these things that I'm involved in now, it's just such a blessing.
Nate Moreno: 00:45:51 You know, I give all the credit to God and my family for supporting me for this wild ride. You know, half of the shit I told my mother, I can't believe she's not in her grave yet from private contracting, to being a bodyguard, to doing all this stuff. And I've taken my family on the ride with it. But you know, the whole point of it is it's really take a deep look at where your strong suits are and develop a plan around them. And there are so many organizations that help Veterans nowadays for anything from hiring USO, Pathfinder, helping, transitioning soldiers that get acclimated to civilian life, helping them get a job, DOD skill bridge, you could get paid by the army to go work a civilian job during your contract and intern; it's a paid internship and there are companies doing it like ADP.
Nate Moreno: 00:46:43 So if that's something that you would want to take a look at, if you're still in, there's all these great programs emerging and all of these Veteran service organizations that their whole lives revolve around helping Veterans become comfortable and successful and challenging them with new industry. So that's my cliche message of hope to anybody getting out or anybody who's gotten out. If you were miserable, it's easy for me to say because I'm single, I don't have kids and I can really go in whatever direction my heart desires. You know, my family doesn't play too much into it, but no Veteran, no service member of this country's military should have to live in misery because they don't think they have options.
Nate Moreno: 00:47:32 You know, that couldn't be any further from the truth. You just have to have the courage to attack it from the front, get out in front of it, try something, you might fail, but God knows I've failed plenty of times. I might still fail with all the enterprises that I'm in right now, but you know, every failure teaches something, you stand up and you keep going at it headstrong. And that's my message to everybody else. Like Scott said, my name is Nathan Marino. You can look me up or do whatever, even if it's just to have a chat like we're having right now. And if I could try to motivate or point you in the right direction or introduce you to somebody in an industry that you want to get into. That's another big part of bunker labs, man.
Nate Moreno: 00:48:12 It's just that every single industry resides there. There are not all business owners and entrepreneurs. There's people like me who are just good at human capital management, and they wanted to be a leader there. And there's a lot more likely to work full-time jobs. And then next thing you know, we have e-commerce, we have an established LLC. Now that paperwork comes in and it says official LLC in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you're like, holy shit, man, here we go. We're doing it. Look at this. This is amazing. We created it. So it's just been such a fun ride, man. And I hope I get to keep going and staying out of trouble. Now I'm just having fun.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:48:55 Well, I think that that's an important takeaway too, is that if you're not happy with where you're at or what you're doing, try something new, try to change something. My own background was very similar, where I graduated college, I had an accounting degree. I worked in accounting and finance for a few years. And, I was also in the National Guard. So I was doing that while I was also training and deployed and all that kind of stuff. But I found out that I just didn't like it, that wasn't the right work for me. It wasn't the right job for me. So I tried something else and that wasn't the right thing for me either. And I got into entrepreneurship, I started my own business and that seemed to fit and I've been doing that ever since. And so it's like I just kept changing things and I kept trying things. And fortunately my wife was very supportive of all of these changes but she also saw that I wasn't happy with what I was doing. So she could say well stick with a stable job, but be miserable, but you know, how good is that going to be for me? So, she stuck with me and she supported it.
Nate Moreno: 00:50:12 That's such a huge part of it, just realizing like even if you're not happy, if you have to go through another struggle, it's so worth getting out of that unhappiness. I blinked and turned 30 years old. My seven years in the military went by, it was like, I remember my first day at my unit. And then I remember my last day at the unit and I was like, what the hell happened, man? Listen, life is short. You get a few short years where you're sure you're really out there hustling. And if you don't find that good fit, you're just going to let time pass you by being in a place of misery. And that's not what you want to do. Remember you're a United States service member. You know, you go through the hardest training, you're entrusted with some of the most expensive equipment even at a combat engineer level, they let a dumb ass touch, all kinds of things and go beat and boop so it's like, don't undervalue yourself.
Nate Moreno: 00:51:04 You were trained by the United States government and they made an investment in you. So never think that you're just some broke Dick. Talk to me, talk to people that are in this ecosystem, they will guide you the right way, man. That's just as easy as that, I decided on a dime that I was going to make a change in my life. And next thing I knew I'm happy and I'm helping Veterans. That's all I could ask from them.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:51:33 Yeah. I mean, it's all about having the right attitude and looking for the opportunities that are out there and looking to improve yourself; if you're just content with where you're at, you're not going to move anywhere after that. You're just going to be in that same position. So, hats off to you for making those changes, seeing the opportunities and tackling them and going after those things.
Nate Moreno: 00:51:56 Yeah, for sure. You have to have courage.
Scott DeLuzio: For sure. So to close out this episode, you briefly mentioned it earlier, but I wanted to officially announce this giveaway competition that we're going to be hosting jointly through Drive On Podcast and Ridge line rock apparel. We're hosting this competition and like Nathan said earlier, the winner is going to be able to pick a shirt from their website and especially if you're into the outdoors, you're a Veteran into the outdoors, the shirts that they have are awesome. Great sayings, great designs, everything like that. They're really, really awesome. So, if you're listening and you want to enter this competition head on over to DriveOnPodcast.com/Ridgeline ruck giveaway, and this link will be in the show notes too, of this episode.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:52:52 So, once when you enter you'll be entered in for a chance to win some great shirts, opportunity from Ridgeline Ruck. And I think it's a great opportunity for everyone to enter into this, like you were saying before, even if you're not into the outdoors, but maybe someone else, enter into the competition and see if you win, you got nothing to lose, it doesn't cost you anything. So I think it'll be a kind of a great opportunity for everyone.
Nate Moreno: 00:53:22 Oh yeah. Man, support Veteran owned businesses, for sure. That's my only ask, if anybody is listening, it is not hard. It's not hard to buy something from a Veteran or a spouse. Let's support each other, man. We're the ones that are gonna make this work as Veterans. You know, Jeff Beasus has got it all. You don't need to jump on it off Amazon man.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:53:50 His fortune isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He's doing just fine.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:54:00 Yeah, no, that's okay. It's really been a pleasure speaking with you today learning about your story and kinda how you've transitioned out. I think it's really inspiring for other Veterans who might be out there, who are struggling with their own situation where they're not having a great time with the job that they're doing or the career path that they're taking. And they want to make a change. They just don't know how to do it, but I think you offered some really great advice, just jump in there and try something new to jump on opportunities. Don't be afraid to try something and fail, it's okay. It's part of life. We all fail at something at one time or another. There's no one who's perfect who just goes out and you know, pissing excellence constantly. So I think anyone out there who's trying to make a change in their life, just do it. I think that's the best way to do it. It's just to get out there and try something new. So, thank you again for joining me.
Nate Moreno: 00:55:08 Absolutely no doubt, Scott. Yeah, no doubt at all, man. It's been my pleasure. If anybody wants to reach out, talk, hang out, reach out to me via social media. Scott has a couple of my handles and we'll start from there, but thank you so much for having me on the podcast. I had a great time, man.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:55:30 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website DriveOnPodcast.com. We're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.