RAF ALCONBURY, England --
In the month of March, the world recognizes the contributions of women, remembering those who paved the way for future generations. The 501st Combat Support Wing is highlighting exemplary women who light the way for the Pathfinders around them.
Mary McLean, 423rd Force Support Squadron deputy director, has been supporting RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth FSS members in any way she can. From digging bushes in the summer heat to unloading tables and chairs at events, McLean provides a variety of support so people can get their job done.
501st Public Affairs: What is your background? Every Airmen has a story….What motivated you to serve in the Air Force?
McLean: "Both of my parents were former Army Nurses and all of my uncles served in the Army or Navy. I was part of a Coast Guard Auxiliary unit all through high school and was going to join the Coast Guard but decided to put it off for a few years. I completed college with a business degree and was working in the civilian sector in resort hotel management at such places as the Grand Canyon, Mackinac Island and Nantucket Island but when the Gulf War occurred, I decided all I really wanted to do was serve my country, so though I was already over the maximum age, I pursued an age waiver and joined the Air Force, entering through Officer Training School. I requested to be a Services Officer due to my background, and served on active duty for 7 years. Upon the birth of my children, I transitioned to the Individual Ready Reserve and the DOD civilian world."
PA: How do you want to inspire younger generations of women to join you?
McLean: "The Air Force has provided me not just with job but with a purpose and family. I had a well-paying job but I wasn’t making a difference, I was only serving myself. The Air Force gave me the opportunity to do something for others…something for my parents, my neighbors, my friends….it gave me the opportunity to prove that I love my country and to hold a job with the core values that represent who I am. The Air Force gave me that opportunity as an officer and as a civilian. I was always proud to wear my uniform and I am always proud to enter the gate of our military installations each day as a DOD Civilian. I have three daughters I have encouraged to be a part of Air Force Junior ROTC and I hope that one day they will serve their country as military or civilians. My children love the military and live by the Air Force values. To me, being a part of the military was an easy decision. Like buying a car, the military can represent security in a job, medical care, housing, clothing, food allowances, but those shouldn’t be the reasons to join, they are just the extra features that come standard on the car you already love."
PA: How can you be a role model for them?
McLean: "I believe that society can only survive if we help others. If we are all out for ourselves, we will fail. As a Force Support member, we epitomize the core value of service before self. Force Support may not be flashy and we are often overlooked day to day. We provide the basic needs quietly behind the scenes for those in the spotlight and there is much satisfaction in knowing that our lodging, food, fitness, entertainment, childcare, personnel, postal, etc. is what makes a base a home. Sometimes younger people think you can only make a difference in the Air Force if you are flying a jet. I have been given opportunities throughout my career that others in the spotlight careers may never see, I was the guest of President of the United States for the State of the Union Address and had the Secretary of the Air Force pin my 1LT bars. My daughters are proud to represent America every day as DoDEA students overseas and as AFJROTC members, they know my Air Force history and see what the Air Force does every day. I am proud to be FSS and encourage the younger generations that all jobs in the military make a difference."
PA: What are your future plans/in or out of the Air Force?
McLean: "I am slated to depart Alconbury sometime this year to return to the US. I am hoping to continue working with the Air Force within FSS as a Deputy or in a HHQ role. Upon my eventual retirement as a DOD civilian, I would like to continue my military association as a volunteer for FSS events, the library, and base chapel."