Air Force provides leadership opportunities for MDG commander

by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs

3/21/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. - -- The Air Force pulled her out of her shell and gave her the sky as the limit to what she could do.

Col. Marina Ray, commander of the 42nd Medical Group, wouldn't change anything about her 25 years with the force.

"It's been a rewarding experience," said Ray. "I can see where I started out as a timid nurse, kind of unsure of myself to where I am now, a lot more self-confident, a lot more open. As I progressed in the Air Force, I've become more extroverted interacting with people on a daily basis."

Before coming to Maxwell in June 2011, Ray was the chief nurse for the 59th Medical Operation Group at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and has since moved from an advisory role to medical group commander, making decisions and being responsible for the clinic's budget, its 340 personnel and its patients' needs.

Ray makes a point to meet with the personnel, hear their concerns and focus on areas for improvement. Each Thursday morning, Ray visits with a section to overview its procedures and work with individuals one-on-one to better understand the duties they are performing.

"Leading people makes you get engaged," she said. "You can't sit behind your desk. You need to get out and mingle. It's an opportunity for personnel to really see me on a more personal level as they talk with me and show me things and as I meet patients and talk with them."

As a senior attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, not far from her hometown of Erwin, Ray did not envision her journey would to take her into the military. She thanks the female recruiter who visited her school during one of her nursing classes.

"She had been a flight nurse before, and she talked about all the great opportunities of being in the Air Force," Ray said.
"She was just so enthusiastic, that I was very interested, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do."

The Air Force gave Ray the opportunity to fulfill her dream of traveling overseas to England, Guam and Japan, train as a flight nurse, meet people from all walks of life, form lasting friendships and have the chance to learn a myriad of job responsibilities.

Her mother, another influential woman in Ray's journey, instilled in her confidence, Christian values and a mental toughness to work hard and achieve anything she set her mind out to do.

"For me, my mom is my role model just because she's been my biggest cheerleader," said Ray. "She's been there to say 'Marina you can do it.' I had four siblings, so my mom and dad always taught us to work hard."

Growing up in a home where a strong work ethic was rewarded, Ray passes that virtue on to those around her, sharing her motto to "bloom right where you're planted." She said the most important job is the current job and views the military as a place for women to grow, reach new heights and never feel hindered.

"I see it [the Air Force] as an opportunity for women to say, 'I can do it.' In the military if you do a good job and work hard you can one day lead an organization," she said. "Really, the sky is the limit to what we can achieve. I've been given many opportunities in the Air Force which I do not believe I would have had in the civilian sector. I'm very grateful for my Air Force career."