Her Air Force career, plus education and discipline, makes this woman a role model

Crystal Tyson Bridges joined the United States Air Force 21 years ago. She also earned two degrees from Union, a Bachelor of Science in Business Management in 2016 and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership in 2020. She is proud to be a role model for women and minorities.

“I found Union to be an excellent university. The professors listened to me. They encouraged me,” Bridges said. “The curriculum is founded on world experiences, and I have been able to apply my learning in both my personal and professional life.  I perform at a higher level because of my studies and through the application of what I have learned.  This has made me very proud to be associated with a university that delivers an excellent and relevant academic experience and takes a stand on social justice.”

She has attained the highest noncommissioned rank in the Air Force, a feat only one percent of enlisted personnel reach.

Bridges said, “When I first started telling friends I was thinking about joining the Air Force, I didn’t have much encouragement or backing.  There were several naysayers that said I could not make it in the military. They said I wasn’t athletic enough and that I could not take direction.  However, today I am often stopped by civilians when I am in uniform, and they thank me for my service. Women especially tell me how proud they are to see a woman serving her country.”

A military career requires focus and discipline, but faith has been a key element in Crystal Bridges’ rise and success.

“My career has offered me the chance to grow in all aspects. In the military, we work as a team. We learn to appreciate and work with people from different backgrounds, levels of education and beliefs.  But we are expected to set our differences apart, celebrate what binds us, and focus on the job at hand.”

She has deployed overseas twice.

“Deployment is challenging. I have served in Iraq and Kuwait. When fear sets in, I trust in my training, but I also depend on my faith that God will take care of me and those around me.”

Her current job is as the Senior Enlisted Leader for the Mission Support Group at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina.

“My role is to build a bridge between the enlisted members and the Commander.  I relay and ensure an understanding of the Commander’s goals, intent, and priorities to and for the enlisted force.  Likewise, I relay the needs, concerns, and challenges of the enlisted force to the Commander.  I also offer mentorship, guidance, and support to everyone within my group.

What does the future hold for the 40-year-old?

“I have three more years on my enlistment and may even stay for 30 years. Serving in the Air Force gives me a sense of pride in serving our country that cannot be duplicated in any other career, and it has become my family.  I strive to exemplify the Air Force’s core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do. Having attended Union has given me some more of the tools I need to be an effective leader.”

You too can find the right degree program to make your career journey come true. Visit myunion.edu and discover the right career for you.