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Happy Veterans Day!

For Veterans Day this year, we decided to do something a little different. With our own veteran on staff, Charles, we wanted to dive a little deeper on his background in the military and how that has translated to his career in civil engineering. Charles joined Cunningham in 2003, while he was still a student at UC Davis. Sixteen years later, Charles is a company shareholder and serves as project manager on some of our largest and most complex projects. 

Without further ado, here is Charles:

Q: Before we begin, thank you for your service! How did you come to join the military and what branch did you serve in?

A: The military was a part of my upbringing. I come from a patriotic family, with a father who flew Huey helicopters during Vietnam. When I graduated high school, I was not ready for college, but also wanted to experience life outside of east Texas. The military seemed like the natural next step for me, so I joined the US Marine Corps immediately after high school.  

Q: What was your job or specialty while you served? Was it something you enjoyed and wanted to pursue when you became a civilian?

A: I served in an infantry unit, with a specialty in anti-tank missiles and explosives. Although I enjoyed it, unfortunately, this is not a skill set that translates well into the civilian world.

Q: While in the service, did you always have dreams of becoming a civil engineer down the road? How exactly did you go from military service to engineering? Were there stops in-between?

A: While in the Marines, civil engineering never entered my mind. In fact, I planned to enter the US Marshals after getting out, but before having a chance to pursue that career path I had to work full time to support my wife who was finishing up her college degree. During that time, one of the jobs I worked was as a security guard at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore.  While there, I met a lot of the engineers which got me interested in pursuing a career in engineering. Ultimately, I settled on civil engineering while working construction as a residential framer.   

Q: What would you say to other enlisted men and women who are looking to join the workforce after they complete their time in the service?

A: Just as the first day of boot camp was your first step to your career in the military, the first day after you get out of the military is the first step to your new career in the civilian world. Use your skills of discipline, perseverance, and mission accomplishment instilled in you during your time in the military to identify a new career path and be successful.

Q: How much, if any, of a crossover is there from your time in the service to being an engineer?

A: Not much in the sense of direct job skills (not a lot of enemy tanks that need to be blown up or the need to set off C4 explosives at Cunningham Engineering), but a lot in the sense of work ethic. In the Marines, we were constantly pushed to our limits while being driven to complete a mission. At Cunningham, I am pushed to a different type of limit and mission, but the type of drive and pride of accomplishment is the same. In addition, one of the topics we were constantly quizzed on was the 14 leadership traits: justice, judgement, dependability, initiative, decisiveness, tact, integrity, endurance, bearing, unselfishness, courage, knowledge, loyalty and enthusiasm. Although, admittedly, I do not live up to these 14 traits as much as I wish, I do reflect on them when I have a challenge I am trying to overcome.


Charles puts the leadership skills he learned in the military to good use each day by mentoring staff, solving problems, and supporting his clients' success. Cunningham Engineering would like to send a big thank you to Charles and to all veterans. Happy Veterans Day!