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Airman creates Connections Course to improve communication, relationships

Tech. Sgt. Lee Rimell, Schriever Comptroller Squadron quality assurance manager, practices briefing an annual violence prevention and sexual assault prevention training, July 24, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The Secretary of Defense sent down new guidance solidifying the Department of Defense’s zero tolerance policy on discrimination and addressing new ways to combat discrimination in the workplace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely)

Tech. Sgt. Lee Rimell, Schriever Comptroller Squadron quality assurance manager, hopes to help Airmen build better bonds with his Connections Course. Rimell created the Connections Course in June to teach Airmen how to effectively communicate and learn more about each other. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Tech. Sgt. Lee Rimell, Schriever Comptroller Squadron quality assurance manager, hopes to assist Peterson-Schriever Garrison Airmen build better relationships with their Wingmen.

To do so, Rimell created the Connections Course in June teaching Airmen to effectively communicate with other wingmen and learn more about each other. Rimell currently teaches his program at Airman, noncommissioned officer and company grade officer’s performance enhancement course.

“My goal is to get people to be better humans and look beyond the camouflage to see people for who they are,” he said. “Some people can tell you about their family down to the smallest detail, but when it comes to co-workers, do we know what they like to do? My training goes into that, and illustrates ways we can be a bigger family and know the person behind the uniform.”

Rimell highlights how Airmen, including himself, become casual when having conversations and why it’s important to improve those interactions.

“Sometimes when we’re walking down the hallway we’ll say, ‘hey, how’s it going?’” Rimell said. “And the other person also says, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ No one answers the question. We have to do better. Chief [Master Sergeant Boston] Alexander will look people in the eyes and ask, ‘How are you doing?’ and the person responds, ‘I’m good.’ He won’t stop there and asks for more from the Airman. This is what we all need to do.”

Rimell said he wants to teach Airmen how to have fruitful conversations in the halls. He also wants to help Airmen build deeper bonds to help notice potential issues.

“Something I brief in the training is, every Friday, we always ask ‘what are you going to do this weekend?’” Rimell said. “On Mondays, everyone says, ‘What did you do this weekend?’ On Friday, they told you what they planned to do. Listening helps us understand people, especially when red flags arise. If someone tells you they love fishing and suddenly they say ‘I don’t like fishing anymore,’ you may know there’s an issue.”

Senior Master Sgt. Cory Shipp, 50th Force Support Squadron and Schriever Staff Agencies superintendent, said he’s noticed the difference in those Rimell has talked to about the course.

“Rimell is using [the Connection Course] inside of the Comptroller Squadron and the Airmen I’ve spoken with – they’re already a pretty connected bunch – it reminded them about conversations they’ve previously had and how to improve those in the future,” Shipp said. “Rimell has put action and a platform behind his program and provided a tool everyone can use. For people who may have become distant, this can help them to get back into the fold.”

Shipp also said the Connection Course helps Airmen avoid monotony and ensures they understand their importance.

“You have to apply [the course] because if not, we get stuck in our silos and focus on the tasks of that day,” Shipp said. “No task is bigger than the person who is accomplishing it. I think the current environment will provide an opportunity to re-energize the effort of connecting and making sure we’re deliberate and genuine about our interactions.” 

Ultimately, Rimell hopes to inspire Airmen to have interactions beyond work and build friendships where both parties benefit from the conversation.

“If I can get one person to turn to another and say, ‘I knew you were married, but what’s your spouse’s name? What are your kids’ names?’” Rimell said. “If they do that, and remember on Monday to ask, ‘How are the kids? Did you do anything cool with Emily and Joe?’ I’ll feel like I’m on top of the world.”

For additional information, email Rimell at lee.rimell.1@us.af.mil.

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