By Senior Airman Timi Jones, 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 09, 2019
HORSHAM AIR GUARD STATION, Pa. -- Every military member has a different story about why they joined, experiences while serving and the reason they stay - or chose to separate. But the narrative of Senior Airman Kelly Dozier, 111th Attack Wing command post senior controller, is even more original than most.
Dozier returned to the Air National Guard after an 11-year break in service and the return was seamless.
“She fits in perfectly, she gels well and we couldn’t have asked for a better troop who could just come in and hit the ground running,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Kaiser, 111th Attack Wing command post NCO in charge.
Dozier’s initial reason for joining in 2001 was similar to why many enlist: excitement and education benefits.
“[When I was younger] my mother was dating a Marine and I had always thought that being in the military would be really interesting. And then we watched the movie Full Metal Jacket,” Dozier said. “And I thought, ‘I could do that!’”
The idea of joining the military never left Dozier. She knew she would join, but she wasn’t sure if it would be after high school or college.
“When I was in my senior year of high school, I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go and how to pay for college,” she said. “I was speaking with my cousin who was active-duty Air Force.”
While Dozier stated that she wasn’t sold on the active-duty route, the information her cousin told her about the Air Guard sounded perfect.
“He told me as much as he knew about the Air National Guard, so I took that ball and ran with it. The February of my senior year in high school, I swore in and had my mother sign me up because I was only 17.”
Dozier served six years here.
She said that during her first enlistment in the military, she grew as an Airman and as a person. In 2006, she met her future husband. And after deciding they would start a family, she concluded that leaving the Air Guard was best.
There was a caveat to that conclusion though.
“Even when I was separating, that desire to serve was still there,” said Dozier. She always knew that this goodbye wasn’t forever.
While a civilian, her family grew and she graduated from Bucks County Community College with a degree in nursing.
Having met many of her personal and academic goals, last year she decided it was time for her military homecoming.
She had several conversations with her husband about returning to the Guard while she was out, but other aspects of their lives had taken priority. Finally, her husband agreed that she should talk to a recruiter; but, he stressed the importance of her remaining local during her service.
More than a decade after her first enlistment, the Pa. ANG once again offered Dozier the opportunity to serve close to home. This time, she found the perfect balance of matrimony, motherhood and military.
“When everything fell in line with my old job being available and not having to go away for additional training, I went home and there was no way my husband could say no,” Dozier said. “Every box was checked off.”
Her readiness made her a huge asset to the command post.
“Her experience and previous knowledge enhances the mission,” said Kaiser. “And it helps because we just lost a seasoned controller and gained a seasoned controller. We just had to bring her up to speed on a few changes.”
Dozier said that she is happy to be back and feels fortunate her passion profits her family, which includes her husband, two daughters and a son.
“Being in the military is a little self-serving because it is something I enjoy,” Dozier emphasized. “At the time I left, being there for the kids was a priority, but now that my kids are older and able to do more on their own, it’s the right time to come back—plus it benefits them also. The only thing I would have done different is probably cut the time in half. It was a good break, but a little long.”
For Dozier, donning the uniform is like being back home.
“I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I was back,” she said. “And then I thought to myself, ‘Why did I leave for so long? This is my family.’”
If Airmen are finding it difficult to balance their personal lives with their military career, speaking with recruiters and shop supervisors is very important.
“There is support available,” said Staff Sgt. Tariq Fladger, 111th ATKW production recruiter & retainer. “If it’s family-related, you can reach out to Family Readiness or your First Shirt. If it’s an issue with the job you have, you may have the option of cross-training into something that would make you happier. If it’s an issue with scheduling, you can talk to your supervisor about an alternate schedule.”
Anyone who feels that their circumstances may hinder them serving should be candid about it, because the situation may not be as unique as they think.
“The big thing is just making it known what you need. If you don’t talk to anyone here, then we’re catching you at the end when you’ve already made your mind up that you’re getting out. With us being able to get out to the squadrons more, we can catch people early on and say, ‘ok, well this is something that at this time we can probably still fix before it becomes a huge problem.’”
Referencing an inside joke at the 111th ATKW, Fladger laughs that, “it’s a juice worth a squeeze.”