Building bridgess can help Airmen down the road

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE -- As a civil engineer, I've always been fascinated by bridges. Many kinds of bridges come to mind, such as a suspension, cable-stay, cantilever and even pontoon. 

However, the kind of bridge that is most important on my mind is the one that deals with relationships. These are the bonds, or bridges, that people build between one another, and for the nearly 18 years of my Air Force career, I've been building bridges of this kind. 

My experiences at bridge building began at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, when I was fresh out of ROTC. Establishing a positive working relationship with everyone in the squadron from the start paid huge dividends, not just at that assignment, but even at future assignments. As it turns out, my paths have crossed time and time again with people I've either worked for or with from every one of my eight assignments. 

One of my most significant working relationships was the one with my first squadron commander - my mentor - who gave me plenty of opportunities to excel as a community planner and then as the chief of construction management. I made such a positive impression because he led me on a career progression that helped me get to where I am today. 

When it was time for a MAJCOM assignment, he recommended and helped me get there. After accomplishing a multitude of MAJCOM programs and initiatives, he recommended that my next career move be at the Air Staff. 

My three-year tour was cut short when my mentor called me and asked if I wanted to become the commander of one of the civil engineer technical schools. I, of course, had to jump at the opportunity. All of this never could have happened had it not been for that positive working relationship I established years before at Goodfellow. 

Besides the positive working relationship I developed with my mentor, there are countless other bridges that I've built along the way. As it turned out, I've ended up working alongside people I worked with, for or even supervised at previous assignments. I'm now the commander for a handful of people, even my former technical school students, who remember me when I was a lieutenant, captain or even a major. 

All of my follow-on assignments couldn't have been productive and successful without the positive working relationships I developed in the past. 

So, after leading you across my bridges, there's a moral to the story. Just like the suspension or cantilever bridges that can stand the test of time, so, too, can bridges built between people. Positive working relationships enhance the mission and create a more productive environment. After all, once a person burns their bridge, they can never go back. 

The key is to always build a positive working relationship with everyone you encounter. You never know when that person could be your supervisor or commander one day.