HomeNewsPublicationsCE MagazineWomen in CE - Succeed with TLC

I'm an Airman Engineer: Succeed with TLC

By Brenda L. Roesch
502nd Civil Engineer Squadron

Any professional in Department of Defense civil engineering right now is deeply feeling the decade's long mounting pressure of reduced resources and increased demands resulting from aging infrastructure and assets. Yet those who choose to continue their service role in civil engineering within DOD, even while knowing we will continue to take risk in infrastructure and facility assets, are our nations fiercely loyal, real-life survivors.

Man or woman, all ages, all backgrounds, all mindsets and life experiences, civil engineers are a diverse team of humble servants. CE is a tremendously hard-working team, getting their hands dirty behind the scenes, cleaning up the messes, supporting all of the missions and without whom these missions come to a grinding halt frighteningly quick.

This daunting and inspiring fact is felt daily by our CE teams through the relentless, unceasing and passionate demands of our mission partners 24/7. There is no "day or night off" for civil engineers; lives depend on what we do. We share a privilege and joy to be these servants - I see this sentiment reflected in the faces and hearts of our team every day (and night); a proud service culture that has enabled the miraculous to occur amidst the impossible for over 50 years.

This crucial reliance upon CE puts our mission partners in a position of vulnerability; CE is the single looming critical path item of their missions tied to an under-resourced external function upon which they have little or no control.

The daily quality of life of everyone on the installation is tied to civil engineers; the unbreakable steel hub-of-the-wheel, connecting the multiple-mission partner and stakeholder spokes on and off the installation, enabling forward synchronized movement. Often this dependence translates to vehement vocal frustrations directed at CE and a misplaced sense of competition between mission partners for their "fair share" of limited CE care, time, attention and resources. But, despite the pressures, civil engineers continually astonish everyone with their ingenuity at finding ways to "yes" on behalf of the mission partners.

Unfortunately, very often the CE commitment to the mission partners is so strong, it is to the detriment of their own personal health and life balance. Civil engineer DNA just cannot allow something to break or stay broken for long, despite limited resources and deteriorating conditions. They themselves will break first ... and do.

Therefore, it has become clear to me my primary role as a servant-leader within this amazing civil engineering community is to care for this team of humble, hard-working servants. With just a tiny, radiant sliver of sincere, genuine, authentic teamwork, leadership and caring, the achievements possible from our civil engineers will continue to be unbounded. Civil engineers have only just begun revealing their potential at being innovative, creative and astonishing. 'Limited resources' is merely a gauntlet thrown down, a challenge we've always accepted, for we have repeatedly proven and know there is an as-yet-untapped way to "yes" -- we have merely to discover it within ourselves.

When civil engineers focus on the vision -- the bigger the better -- and not the illusion of boundaries defined within the terms 'limited resources,' we consistently reveal evolved ways of accomplishing heights previously unreached, as our minds and hearts truly have no limits. A few examples: right now our civil engineers aren't satisfied with reducing energy consumption, nor with Net Zero, but instead are focusing on the long term future and answering how we may collectively transform our installations and assets into sustainable energy producers, enabling mission health and independence but also contributing in meaningful ways to the health of the communities we live in. Our civil engineers aren't satisfied with reducing water consumption and patching aging infrastructure, but instead are focusing on the long-term vision, searching for ways to transform our installations gradually into water providers thru intelligent environmental water harvesting and collection, again enabling mission independence but also caring for the health of the surrounding communities over the 20-50-year horizon through evolved regional water management.

So, my personal quest, vision and challenge shared with the entire civil engineer community is to find ways to support each other, come together as a team, uplifting each-other in the daily insanity of too much to do, minimal real prioritization -- as everything is "hot" -- and not enough resources.

There is no doubt, only unshakeable faith, that CE can become an ever stronger team that leads, unites and inspires its diverse mission partners through teamwork and caring for each other first, and then ripple this out to all those within our ever-expanding sphere of influence, on and off base. The civil engineer community already has the right people on the bus. We know where we are headed, with a clear vision, with pure hearts and a fierce focus; it matters not that the bus is deteriorating and we have no fuel ... we need only teach ourselves to fly ... as we've always done.

I wrote this on Mothers' Day, as a mother of three, listening to my children play in the other room, a 3 year-old son, 6 year-old daughter and an 8 year-old daughter. As there is no day or night off for mothers or fathers, the CE mission suits parents perfectly; it's a seamless mind-meld. In July 2015, I'll have completed my 20th year as a member of the Air Force civil engineer community, having entered at Travis AFB, California, straight from Cal Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo with very little military history in my immediate family. In my early 20s I just needed a stable job with potential for assistance for further education, in the unstable economy of the 1990s ... but unplanned, the Air Force civil engineering community and service culture drew me in, assisted with my graduate education, taught me the value of teamwork, taught me to lead and ... kept me.

It is my hope that this article helps inspire all of us in the civil engineer community of today to remember our shared culture, our wondrous history of achievements, our meaningful service soul and may we continue to team, lead and care for everyone ... and in doing so, we can't help but lead our installations, partners and communities into an incredible future. It is in our power to do so.

(Editor's Note: This article is part of the "I'm an Airman Engineer" series for CE Online. The series focuses on individual CE Airmen to highlight their careers and the diversity, knowledge, career fields and people within our community.)