USAMRMC Colonel Retires After 31 Years
Thirty-one years serving in the U.S. Army have flown by for Col. Karen Kelley, deputy chief of staff of logistics with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. As someone who left the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps after only her first semester in college because her summer school experience did not reflect the reality of the actual program, Kelley has surprised even herself that the time has arrived for her to retire.
As graduation from Indiana University neared, Kelley realized, in order to pursue a career in health care administration, she would need either experience or a master's degree.
A more mature and focused Kelley decided the Army was right for her again and she reentered ROTC and set her goal to become a medical service core officer. In 1984, her dad commissioned her as a 2nd lieutenant.
"My dad was my professor of military science and spent 30 years in the infantry," said Kelley. "He was always my biggest supporter."
As a typical Service Member, Kelley's career included several duty stations around the world to include Hawaii, Europe and Iraq. She also served in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, leaving behind a thirteen-month old baby boy.
One of Kelley's biggest challenges throughout the last 31 years included balancing her career and her family as a single parent of two. Workload, deployments and transitioning duty stations all provided challenges, but none of which she could not overcome.
"As a single parent, I managed my career to ensure I had balance between career and family. Without that balance, I never would have gotten to this point. A lot of credit goes to my parents and my kids. Every time I needed them, they were there to support me."
With the challenges came accomplishments and experiences that Kelley can proudly recall for the rest of her life. As a major assigned to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, Kelley successfully executed the first-ever Pacific Warrior exercise. With no assigned staff or equipment, Kelley was responsible for planning, coordinating and executing all of the logistics requirements and support for an unprecedented medical field training exercise in support of more than 2,000 participants, representing all services. Kelley pulled off the event so seamlessly that her boss assigned her the task again the next year.
"We're always given assignments, jobs, tasks and extra duties. Often times our duties are extremely challenging and complex. When you serve in these difficult assignments, it provides a great deal of job satisfaction. We do it all the time," said Kelley. "That's what makes the Army experience so exciting and rewarding."
Retirement itself seems like a challenge to Kelley because she has grown accustomed to the lifestyle and the job security the Army provides.
She plans to remain in the Frederick area to be close to her son who works at the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, and her daughter who is a freshman at Towson University.
"When I joined ROTC, it was blind faith. I absolutely didn't think it would lead to 31 years of service," said Kelley. "It's been an honor and a privilege to serve our great Nation with so many wonderful people along the way."