SFC Charise Kelly
Sgt. 1st Class Charise Kelly.

HOHENFELS, Germany -- During her deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Charise L. Kelly was forced to make split-second decisions to save her Soldiers lives.

Now, as a sergeant first class, Kelly is tasked with providing Soldiers the tools to be able to make those same decisions - in a safe environment.

As a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) Observer Controller for Headquarters Company Joint Multinational Readiness Center Falcon Team, Kelly strives to make pre-deployment training as realistic as possible to ensure Soldiers will be successful at their mission downrange.

"In Iraq, I had four rockets land on my fuel bag farm outer berm," she said. "I got all my Soldiers to safety and lucky enough, not one of them detonated.

Kelly describes her OC style as a shock and awe start, but thorough and informative.

"When a new unit comes in," she said, "they think I'm hard core and I shock them a little bit. But I'm going to make sure that they know what to do in any situation I throw at them. I want them to come back alive and safe. I teach Soldiers how to react so if they can't find that NCO who outranks them, they can take charge in the absence of leadership," she said.

Her leadership style, Kelly says, is something that took her years to develop. Nineteen years to be exact.

"On Aug. 22, it will be 19 years," she said. "The Army has changed so much. It has evolved; it has been an exciting trip."

Over her career, she has seen the Army in a time of peace and a time of war. She remembers when males and females were segregated and didn't train together.

As a senior-enlisted female Soldier, Kelly said she has worked hard to earn the respect from her male counterparts. She dismisses those who say women's leadership style differs from that of men.

"I am a Soldier. I'm not an emotional leader, but I happen to be a woman. And I do have to work a little bit harder," said Kelly. "When somebody tells me I can't do something or a female can't do something, I am going to excel. I'm going to complete the task better than them and put them back in their place."

Her positive attitude is likely what lead many of the Soldiers she has worked with over the past 19 years to come to her reenlistment ceremony after she returned OIF in 2006. Kelly said the gesture from her Soldiers touched her heart.

"They always find a way back to you," she said of the Soldiers she has worked with over the years. Including those Soldiers she put in to the Army during her three and a half year stint as a recruiter.

The recruiting tour, Kelly said, helped mold her into the leader she is today.

"They didn't really have anything to look forward to," she said of the high school students she would meet weekly, "Some would leave high school to sell drugs, or work at McDonalds, or just not even try to go to college," she said. "If you could see some of the living conditions and situations some of these kids were in -some didn't have a place to sleep, food to eat or anything".

She wanted to make a difference, and to make things better. She said she learned to listen.

"Just remember, every Soldier just wants to be heard. Listen to them - it's our job to mold them, to teach them everything we know," Kelly said. "They will look back one day and say 'my NCO taught me that. That's when you know you were successful.

Page last updated Mon September 14th, 2009 at 10:21