Aaron Styborski served in the United States Marine Corps for four years before starting his full-time career in the construction industry. During his time in the military, he was stationed both stateside and abroad, including a prolonged stay in Cuba. In 2016, Aaron joined the Blythe Construction team as a grading foreman, and is currently involved with a facilities-expansion project taking place at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Aaron says his Marine Corps training continues to inform his career in the construction industry, especially his leadership style, which emphasizes teamwork, accountability, and personal as well as professional development.
Q: What originally motivated you to join the military? Was it something you always thought of doing, or did you happen into it unexpectedly?
A: I joined, first and foremost, to serve my country and make a difference. I also come from a long line of military family members, and growing up it was unspoken that I would join eventually. It’s just what you did. But being from small towns—Mooresville, NC and northwest Pennsylvania—I saw the military as an opportunity to spread my wings and get the heck out.
Q: Had you worked in the construction industry before joining the military? Which aspects of your military experience led you to consider a career with Blythe? At the time, were you aware of any similarities between the two institutions?
A: Actually, I got started in construction while I was still in the Marine Corps. When I got back from Cuba—I had about a year and a half of service left—there was a company working on Camp Lejeune, building a new landfill. Reading the paper one day, I saw they needed help, so I responded and started working weekends. And I very quickly realized, you know, I really enjoy this. I enjoyed working outside, enjoyed the challenge. I thought this really was my best bet for making a life, and just started from there. My first project was widening Highway 17 from Holly Ridge to Jacksonville, NC.
“I ask my team, do you know what the definition of integrity is? It’s doing the right thing when nobody else is around to see. I challenge my guys on exactly that point, and I think I probably get that from the military.”
Q: Military life is known for being highly structured and organized, with a clearly defined hierarchy of leadership to manage operations—not unlike a construction team. In what ways do you think your experience in the military prepared you for success in a construction environment?
A: Without a doubt, that structured military lifestyle carried over. Everything that you learn in the military goes straight into civilian life. For example, I’m an early riser. My co-workers give me a hard time about it, because I’m the guy who’s always here early. Most days I show up at 5:30 in the morning. Most people aren’t even awake then. It’s just how I’ve been trained, to be prepared. You could get a flat driving in, or be held up in wonderful Charlotte traffic. I get here early, and use the time to plan my day.
In the Marines, we had a General speak to us once who said, if you do only one thing every day, always make your bed in the morning. That way, he said, you accomplish something every day. And no matter how the rest of the day turns out, even if everything else goes wrong, you’ll at least have a made bed to climb into at the end of it. That advice stuck with me. To this day, that’s how I get started every morning.
Q: Blythe operates according to certain core principles—leadership, teamwork, innovation, problem solving. Can you describe how veterans might be uniquely equipped to uphold and enhance these company values?
A: I don’t think veterans have any advantage over non-veterans, honestly. It’s a proven fact that people can and do succeed in this industry without military backgrounds. I think it boils down to the inner human being. I try to help anybody, as much as I need help myself. I try to do the best that I can each day. Some days are easier than others, but tomorrow is new day.
Of course, there are always some who, you know, work really hard when the boss is around. I ask them, do you know what the definition of integrity is? It’s doing the right thing when nobody else is around to see. I challenge my guys on exactly that point, and I think I probably get that from the military—you know, building a team and not just a working relationship, seeing the big picture, growing and becoming better as people, outside of work. Some are receptive and some aren’t, but that’s how it is.
Q: Veterans face numerous challenges upon returning to civilian life, for example finding meaningful work, a sense of purpose, and a community of peers. In what ways has your career with Blythe provided a solution to those challenges?
A: One of the hardest adjustments for me personally, after I got out, was no longer having the bond and the brotherhood and friendships that you form in the military. They’re like nothing else. The only thing I can compare it to is family. You laugh together, cry together, love each other, hate each other. All of it. Coming to the civilian world, it’s more dog-eat-dog in general. People are less likely to form strong bonds or friendships. That was the hardest thing, getting out of that mindset.
That’s one thing I appreciate about Blythe, I will say. No matter who you’re talking to, and what their position in the company is, they’re always willing to talk and work with you, 100 percent. They listen. I tell other people about that more than anything, the compassion and caring from our superiors. Their willingness to teach. They’re very open minded, and that’s huge.
Q: As a veteran, what does this national holiday mean to you personally? By comparison, do you see the need for more recognition of roadway construction workers and the service they provide? The hazards of their profession?
A: I don’t think about it, honestly. I’ve never thought about Veterans Day because, working in construction, I never had it off. It’s just another work day. I think it’s a good thing for people who may be looking for recognition. But I think if people really wanted to show their appreciation—and again, I can’t speak for every veteran—but if people would just try to be better Americans and better people, that would be a bigger tribute than a day called Veterans Day. Pass it forward, be better to your fellow man. That’s the biggest appreciation.
As for construction, it would be nice to have more appreciation for what we do, of course. Because what we do is important, number one. When you think about building roads, infrastructure. Number two, it’s dangerous. These machines we work around every day, they have no mercy. Blythe recognizes the importance of safety. That’s maybe the most important form of recognition. There’s the stereotype that this kind of work takes someone less, but the level of focus this job requires is beyond what many people understand. If it was easy, everyone would do it.