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Service Can Be a Lifelong Career

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In the military everyone does their part, and Kelly McFee is an example of an administrator and councilor who turned her service into a lifelong career. Kelly is a member of the Osage Nation who was born in 1957 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She joined the military after going to college for a couple of years. Though she volunteered for Desert Storm, she was turned down for combat because they needed her position back at the home based, however while serving for more than two decades, she saw the world and learned from her experiences.

“I graduated in 1975 and went to Oklahoma Baptist University for two years, I was Pre-Law,” McFee said. “I was raised to do what our elders say and my mother told me ‘You can’t be a lawyer, you’re a girl. The best you could do is secretarial work.’ I never questioned what she told me, so I quit college and went to business school. However, I have a brother-in-Law who was an Air Force recruiter who retired in 1974. I have always admired him, and the man who helped raise me was shot in the Korean War, he was a Marine and a paraplegic. Between the two of them I had a great amount of respect for anyone in the military. After I went to business school I moved to New York. I was already married and had a child, but I went ahead and joined the Air Force.”

McFee started out in administration but eventually got involved in training. “I’m a firm believer in education and training because I believe it’s the backbone of any organization,” McFee said. “I got transferred to the Azores Archipelago where I was still in administration and I had the additional duty of training manager. I did that for a few years, and then I was stationed at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. I was pregnant with my second child so I retrained for what I consider to be the best job the Air Force ever offered; career advisor. I got to council active duty members and I got to help the command section, the different squadrons, maintain a quality force. I got to help both people that we didn’t want to keep and those who couldn’t be kept with their education or help them find a job. That’s why I think it was the best job, because I got to help the Air Force as well as the individuals. Then around the same time that President Clinton downsized and deleted the career field, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. My career field was on the list to be cut so I volunteered to separate so I could spend my last days in the Air Force with my mother. I was on the road headed for Oklahoma for about four hours when she passed away.”

After leaving the Air Force McFee went directly into the reserves; there was no break in her military service. “I was stationed in personnel in South Carolina at base level, and then I worked with a flying squadron as the First Sargent. Eventually I took a reduction in rank in order to move back to Oklahoma, where I was stationed in Tulsa’s Air National Guard, I was in a maintenance squadron, but they didn’t have that much for me to do. So I transferred back to civil engineering, where I spent three years as the training Commanding Officer, then I went back into personnel at base level in Tulsa, where I retired in 2001.”

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McFee says that she loved every part of the military. “I got to serve my country and as a woman, rather than being home with my arms around my babies, I can be out there on the forefront if needed. I think that’s what got me through it; I didn’t have to stay home, like women used to have to do. I could do something more. I loved it because I got to represent America. I learned a lot and met a lot of wonderful people, not just Americans, but people in Germany, Iceland, and other places. You grow as an individual when you get to meet others and you learn to appreciate diversity. We have it in America, but you appreciate America more once you’ve been to other countries.”

Now that she’s retired McFee works as a Veteran’s Service Representative for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. “I would recommend military service for young women who are looking for a career, but I would recommend that they not believe everything that is said, make sure they read the fine print, and if they are considering a job talk to individuals who are in that job, both people who are their age and people who have been in that career field for many years, so they can truly find out what it is. There’s a reason the military gives bonuses, and it’s not because it’s a great job. It’s a career field with the remote tours and there’s a lot of stress that goes with some jobs. It’s not all in that pamphlet they give you at the recruitment office. Anyone who wants to join the military should join it for the experience, the opportunity to serve your country, and to be able to grown yourself as an individual.”