By Pfc. Harrison MooreJuly 18, 2019
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- It was not just another routine Parris Island graduation ceremony in October of 2013. Newly formed Marines proudly marched indoors to find their families after a ceremonial formation. It was at that moment when Stella Hundley, now an up and coming second lieutenant in the Kentucky National Guard, realized she wanted to serve her country.
She recalls the moment when she locked eyes with her brother. They found each other and she raced down the bleachers to embrace him.
"A few years ago, my brother graduated from the Marine Corps boot camp and I had the opportunity to go and watch. I think I probably made my decision at that point that I wanted to serve," she said.
Hundley spoke with a recruiter and decided to enlist in 2015 and soon found herself in Army basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. In March of 2016, she began Officer Candidate School in hopes of becoming an even better Army leader.
With an undergraduate degree in biology already under her belt and basic combat training, Hundley went into OCS as a specialist and left a freshly minted second lieutenant. She is now a qualified Medical Service Officer.
Hundley works full time for the 75th Troop Command in Louisville, Kentucky, managing personnel and logistics. On drill weekends, she serves as the first female platoon leader in the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry.
"When Officer Candidate Hundley found out that she would be going to the Infantry Battalion as the Medical Platoon Leader she knew that she was in for a challenge," said Maj. Jason Partin, current Operations Officer with the 1/149 IN and Hundley's Platoon Trainer at OCS.
"My advice to her at the time was to prepare for a physically demanding environment and that she did. In October 2018 she competed in the annual Mountain Warrior Assessment Program and did extremely well. We are excited to have a great young leader in the Infantry Battalion." Partin added.
Although Hundley could succeed in any area of life, she has found her niche within the familiar ranks of the National Guard and its' endless opportunities.
"You will meet some of the best people in the Kentucky Guard and they will help you thrive," said Hundley. "The Guard is unique because you can serve with the same people, almost your whole career and form lasting relationships."
Hundley said she stays involved in her unit and her brigade as she participates in combatives exercises multiple times a week. She practices on the mats with members of the 20th Special Forces Group to stay in shape and have fun. Both the 1/149th and 20th Group fall under the 75th.
"Another great perk of being in the Guard is being able to make connections that lead to opportunities like learning combatives," said Hundley.
Hundley has been in the armed services for four years and she is scheduled to be promoted to first lieutenant this spring. She has worked closely with several mentors and leaders as she has progressed in her career. One of those is Lt. Col. Tim Starke, Administrative Officer for the 75th.
"She identifies problems and finds ways to overcome," said Starke. "She is also proficient in the fundamentals of being a Soldier as she is tactically sound and physically fit."
Hundley realizes all of the opportunities the Guard offers its' members. As an officer in the Guard, there are numerous leadership opportunities throughout the state for qualified officers.
"She would excel wherever she went, but she is committed to the community that is unique to the Guard," said Starke.
One experience that makes her grateful to put on the uniform everyday occurred during an annual summer training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. Hundley said they had just finished a mission and troops were packing gear for the return home.
"One of my Soldiers and I just talked about life. Moments like that I truly enjoy. We talked about his decision to re-enlist or to get out of the Guard and it was great having that conversation."
The Soldier she spoke with is a medic who she doesn't see very often, as he is attached to a line company, but what happened next is what she remembered the most. Hundley said the Soldier told her that he was hungry. Then she reached into her rucksack and asked if he wanted her to make him the best chicken burrito he's ever had. He agreed and Hundley provided what she promised. He enjoyed the burrito and she enjoyed being able to connect with her subordinates, reminding them they are all members of one team. The Soldier decided to re-enlist.
Something that sets Hundley apart is she goes out of her way to let everyone on her team know she cares.
"One thing I knew when I was a Joe is I liked when people just talked to me like I was a human," she said.
Hundley currently serves as the Medical Operations Officer for the 1/149th. She is not the first female to serve in the battalion, but she is the first to lead a platoon. She tries to set an example for all Soldiers in the unit by actively living the Army Values and focuses on the mission at hand and being a good Soldier, regardless of gender.
"I try to be the best I can be. It doesn't matter if I am female or not. I want to be the best leader I can be for my Soldiers."
Hundley even has a first-place trophy from the 2018 Army Ten-Miler to help prove her motivation. Hundley and five other Soldiers, "Team Mountain Warrior" were the first National Guard team to cross the finish line last year in Washington, D.C.
It is Hundley's drive and determination that has brought her this far in her career. She advises anyone thinking about getting out of the Guard to reconsider their options.
"Education and healthcare benefits are a great reason to stay, but the biggest benefit to me is all of the opportunities to learn and better yourself," she said. "I feel like I have never been in another organization where if you come prepared to better yourself, people will find a way to make it happen."