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"The Path We Don't Know Yet"

Article and Interview by Jessica Walton

Brian Street admitted that when he first enlisted in the military just after high school, it wasn’t for the sake of any grand ideology or thirst for adventure. It was for the money. He was working two jobs to make ends meet in San Antonio, Texas and wanted to expand his opportunities. When his friends started joining the Navy, he decided to “rebel” and join the Air Force.

 

“The Air Force recruiter was just next door to the Navy,” joked Brian. “He sat me down for the ASVAB [aptitude test] and I did very well in the mechanical section, so that’s how I started off as a dirt boy.”

For those who are not fluent in the military vernacular, “dirt boy” is an affectionate term for the folks who make pavement and run heavy machinery. In this position, Brian gained valuable experience in standard construction and roadway techniques, including learning how to design and build complex facilities. He didn’t know it yet, but this path was preparing him for something bigger down the line.

 

Expanding Horizons

 

One of the benefits Brian enjoyed in the military was being deployed all over the world and experiencing exotic locales. He spent a few long stretches on desert landscapes, during which time he enjoyed a growing camaraderie with his fellow soldiers over a near beer.

 

“In the service, we’re all generally aligned with a common goal,” explained Brian. “It’s something you don’t necessarily get in the civilian world. I realized, though, that if I ever worked outside of the Air Force, finding that shared sense of purpose with a team would be important to me.”

In the meantime, the military kept Brian busy. He served as a member of the prestigious 819th Red Horse Squadron engineering unit and was deployed numerous times, including into Iraq and Afghanistan. During his travels abroad, he started thinking more seriously about the future of his education and what might lay beyond military service.

 

“There was a lot more to civil engineering than I realized,” admitted Brian. “I started to really love what I was doing and wanted to learn more.”

After 12 years of service in the Air Force, Brian obtained his BS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas Arlington and then went on to study for his Masters in Manufacturing Systems Management at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. As he advanced in his studies, he also learned how to be a better leader in his unit while taking on several project management roles. Gaining experience in how to see and communicate the bigger picture of a project and then motivating his team to the finish line would be a skill that served him well for years to come.

Between his BS and MS degrees, Brian enrolled in Officer Training School (OTS) in 2013 as an opportunity for upward career mobility. On Active Duty, he explained, you are in control of your own career as long as your evaluations are on par and you continue to do well on tests. In the Reserve component, you need to find a career path with openings for progression.

 

Today, Brian can see clearly how his experience in the Air Force and higher education prepared him for his current role as a senior staff facilities engineer at Lockheed Martin. “It’s important to be able to show your team the big picture and then move everyone in the same direction. School and the military gave me not only a strong foundation in facility design and construction. It also gave me both formal and informal training in leadership and management.”

 

“Management to me means making sure all your numbers line up and that you’re following through on the action items needed to deliver a final product to the customer. Leadership is about inspiring a sense of purpose – that grand vision, if you will – and showing each person on the team how they fit into that bigger picture.”

Coming Together for COVID-19

 

Brian first joined Lockheed Martin in October 2014 as a senior construction engineer in Fort Worth, Texas, supporting Aeronautics and the F-35 assembly line/flight line with facility design, construction and operations services. In July 2017, he was promoted  to a facilities engineer staff position and by the summer of 2019 he transferred to Enterprise Operations and assumed a senior staff facilities engineer position.

 

During this time at Lockheed Martin, Brian also continued to serve in the Texas Air National Guard. It turned out to be a fortuitous placement when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early 2020 and reinforcements were needed in Brian’s own backyard.

When Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced his initiative to assess all potential locations that could be transformed into overflow medical centers for COVID-19, Brian, who was now a captain, was ready to join the relief efforts through the National Guard. He credited Lockheed Martin’s training and flexible work environment for allowing him to jump into action immediately.

A major challenge Brian and his team faced during the relief efforts was finding a platform where all the information gathered on the sites could be shared in real time with multiple organizations, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Department of Emergency Management and the National Guard. In the end, Brian and his team found a civilian solution that permitted sharing information across a platform that also allowed direct uploads from personal phones.

 

“One of the key benefits I had during this initiative was the talent level of my team,” said Brian, with pride. “My ‘plumber’ works in the field of robotics, another teammate who has activated works for Missiles and Fire Control in Grand Prairie was able to troubleshoot emergency generators that had not been serviced for months or years.

 

“Basically, I had no reservations splitting the team into smaller groups to assess facilities to cover more area, so that we could ‘divide and conquer’ and assist more efficiently with COVID-19 efforts on the ground.”

 

The Next Steps Forward

 

It takes many people to support an army, but sometimes it also takes an army to support a person. According to Brian, Lockheed Martin understands the need for multi-layered assistance and has responded by creating the Military Veterans Business Resource Group (BRG) and providing allowance for leave for its active service members. “Knowing that you have your company backing you up creates the space to focus on other responsibilities.”

 

Speaking of which: Lockheed Martin is currently assisting Brian with his transition as he embarks on his last military deployment abroad before his retirement from the Air Force. After 20+ years of service, Brian is satisfied with the contributions his teams have made and the support he has received over the years so that he could focus on the things that matter.

“I couldn’t have transitioned as smoothly as I did from the company to military service and back again without the support of my great manager and team,” said Brian. “I am extremely thankful to work for a company that supports service members as much as Lockheed Martin does. It will be interesting to see what the next steps on the path will be.”