Page 103 - Cityview May-June 2017
P. 103

one of those days when the air is
clear and distant objects are easily visible. It’s a good day to reflect upon where you’ve been, where you are,
and where you’re going. As I sit with former U.S. Army Captain Ron Bridges and his family, I’m struck by the clarity with which he sees his life and his
role in it. “I had a plan,” he says, “and I actually followed that plan.” His vision stretches from life after high school to the present day and beyond.
We’re sitting at a table under an enormous wooden pavilion that
stands next to a large fishing pond at BeeRidges Farm, a 29-acre working farm, the Bridges’ home and a place that embodies the man’s goals. It’s in Clinton, off Bull Run—a narrow and winding road that meanders around and sidesteps up the rural hills. Duty and service are foundational to Bridges’ worldview and that of his family. His father and brother served in the Army. One uncle was in the Marines and another served in the Air Force. Seated at the table are three more veterans. Ron’s sons, Keith and Joshua, served
in the Marines and Army, respectively. And Joshua’s wife Kristen served in the Navy. Today, the entire family, including Ron’s wife Brenda, is deeply involved in community service and helping veterans find their place in
the world. They share the bonds of community, country, and God, as well as the belief that, with vision and hard work, problems can be solved, lives can be healed, and communities can be strengthened.
to prepare soldiers for combat. For example, while the soldiers practiced standard skills, such as crawling under wire, Bridges would toss a gas grenade into the field. He forced the soldiers to think on their feet (or stomachs),
a skill that would undoubtedly
save many lives. Bridges published his approach in an Army training magazine, getting the word out and helping to ensure others got the same experience and training. As he has done throughout his life, he saw a problem and fixed it.
Brenda, Bridges’ wife, gave birth
to their first son Keith there in Germany. They enjoyed their time there—seeking out and exploring abandoned castles—but after three years, Bridges was transferred to Fort Rucker in Alabama. They had a second son Joshua shortly thereafter. There at Fort Rucker, which hosts the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Bridges took action on the next step
in his plan. He began teaching in a classroom setting, teaching aviators how to defend themselves against chemical attacks. Then, in 1989,
he began training soldiers in the National Guard and attending Troy University, where he’d go on to earn a master’s degree in education with a concentration in biology.
But not all things go according to plan. Two months into the job, Iraq invaded Kuwait, leading the U.S. into operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In just the first eight months, Bridges trained 20,000 National Guard reservists using the techniques he’d
From chemical warfare to the college classroom, Ron Bridges has served as an educator his entire career
Story by Trent Eades • Photography by Hobe Brunson
The Plan
Dr. Ron Bridges has been a Biology Professor at Pellissippi State Community College since 1999. He says, “Most people when they leave high school don’t know where they’re going to go,” he says, “but I did.” At a young age, Bridges decided to go to college, serve in the military, and then spend the rest of his life helping others as an educator.
And that’s what he’s done. In high school, Bridges won a four-year ROTC scholarship to Florida Southern College where he’d go on to earn his bachelor’s degree in biology before being commissioned in the Army and sent to Giessen, Germany. He served there for three years as a chemicals officer and assistant operations officer, and talks fondly of his time there. “The Army sends you through a two-week orientation course; they teach you a little German. One of the guys was from southern Georgia. It’s funny hearing someone try to speak German with a strong southern accent.”
Upon arrival in Giessen, he was tasked with training soldiers to defend themselves against chemical attacks. But the situation he stepped into confounded him. During the training, soldiers knew precisely when they’d have to use their gas masks and when they’d encounter this or that threat. The training bore no resemblance to the reality of the deadly situations they would inevitably encounter. So Bridges rebuilt the program, incorporating the rigor and uncertainty required
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