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Reserve general comes full circle, inspires next generation to serve

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Bobby Pilch
  • 367th Recruiting Group, Air Force Reserve Command
Brigadier General Kelvin D. McElroy, Air Force Reserve Command’s Force Generation Center commander, took the stage at Northeast High School in Macon, Georgia to engage and inspire the next generation of potential service members and leaders during a GO Inspire event Feb. 8.
McElroy, a fellow ‘Raider’ and alumnus, shared his story of growing up in the local historic area of Fort Hill and how faith, determination, and education shaped his life and put him on a path to serving in the military.
“Growing up, my grandmother would always say ‘Our willingness is our wealth, God’s word is the seed and our soul is the soil’," said McElroy as he recalled reciting evening prayers just before going to bed. 
Following evening prayers, McElory found an escape from the confines of his bedroom, allowing him to visualize a future of serving in the military.
“Back in the early 80s, when I was around 12 years old, I would watch a show on Sunday nights - just before the National Anthem would play and the station would sign off,” said McElroy while describing his early childhood. “I would say my prayers and then watch a show featuring Robins Air Force Base. That show made me imagine and exposed me to a life outside of Fort Hill. It made me wonder ‘Where can I go to serve my nation?’”
While television sparked his curiosity and allowed him to see a bigger picture of life beyond the neighborhood boundaries, pursuing sports and educational goals came into focus. 
“My teachers and coaches saw something in me during my senior year,” McElroy said. “They made the alignment and relationships that allowed me to attend Fort Valley State University on a football scholarship. I had the desire in my mind that I wanted to be something great, serve our nation, and continue to grow and mature.”
It wasn’t until a chance meeting at the college student center that McElroy would find himself navigating toward his path in the military through the U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps
“I was asked, ‘When you graduate college, how many of your classmates will have a career vs. a job?’” said McElroy during his conversation with the ROTC instructor. “The instructor said ‘If you complete ROTC and get through the course, I can guarantee you - on the day you walk across the stage and raise your right hand - you will have a career.’ I said, ‘Sign me up.’”
Now, nearly 30 years later, he credits his achievements in part by taking action.
“I had to come to class, I had to be disciplined, I had to show up every day, I had to study, I had to struggle and fail, and yes…I had to cry, at times,” said McElroy. “I was confused and wondering what I wanted to do but I had to take action - and I did.” 

McElroy concluded the event by fielding questions from curious cadets representing several JROTC and Junior Leadership Corps programs from the area and promoting engagement with recruiters from the 351st Recruiting Squadron, Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia. 
“We had a lot of interest after Brig. Gen. McElroy spoke to the cadets,” said Chief Master Sgt. Marcus Kirksey, 351 RCS senior enlisted leader. “Hopefully, we can keep the engagement and interest going over the next several years. Engaging our young people early is beneficial in helping them paint a picture of what their future can look like.”
This opportunity could not have been possible without the coordination and support of the local JROTC leadership.
“This was a phenomenal day for the kids to see someone who came from the same place where they are from,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Brown, senior Army instructor at Northeast High School. “To be able to hear the general’s story of how he rose to where he’s at now is inspiring not just to the kids but adults, as well. It inspired me!” 
The Air Force GO Inspire program is a Department of the Air Force recruiting initiative designed specifically for General Officers to seek out and conduct outreach engagements to engage youth and youth influencers from Underrepresented Groups (URGs) to increase the diversity of the applicant pool in the rated community, as well as the broader Air and Space Force of the future.
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