FSS commander trades classroom for country

by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs

3/29/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- From English lesson plans, geography and algebra to mile runs, push-ups and pull-ups, Pensacola High School teacher Natalie Jolly would surprise her students by joining the Air Force and becoming commander of the 42nd Force Support Squadron.

Growing up and working alongside strong women, whether it was her mother working at her elementary school, the French teacher down the hall who had been an Air Force B-52 mechanic or the retired Army reservist for securityforces teaching art alongside her, Jolly was inspired to not only be a successful career woman, but to also give back to her country.

After discovering during a Veterans Day observance that many of the instructors she had worked with and looked up to for eight years were also prior military, Jolly gained a deeper admiration for their service and began investigating how she could be a part of such a legacy.

"I wanted to join the Air Force because I had always admired the military service," said Jolly, who is now an Air Force major. "To make a contribution for our national interests and especially to be able to do that as a woman, really inspired me."

An only child, her mother instilled in her a strong work ethic of excellence, whether it was folding the laundry, raking the yard, doing well in school, teaching students or taking care of Airmen.

"She always said, 'Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time.' If it was folding the laundry and I didn't do it right the first time, I would have to redo it and get it right," Jolly said. "I think that really became a lifestyle for me and is the precursor to excellence in all you do, which is an Air Force core value."

Since stepping into her journey with the Air Force until now, it has always been important for Jolly to either meet or exceed the standards that were required of her as a woman. She said she never wanted to out-do the men, but rather strove to do her best and earn respect from those around her as a qualified leader.

As commander of the 42nd FSS, Jolly manages a team that she is proud of and one that helps her juggle the many responsibilities needed to ensure Airmen are well taken cared for. Her team's mission is to develop combat-ready Airmen and leaders, care for their families and maintain a world-class installation through lodging, dining, fitness and recreational services, childcare, education and training.

"We handle most of what touches Airmen on a day-to-day basis," explained Jolly. "I enjoy all of it. Our motto is 'We care a lot!' and I'm incredibly proud of my squadron's ability to consistently provide world-class programs and service to our Airmen and their families."

Jolly also credits her military success to her husband of 22 years who, she said, has sacrificed much to lead their family and support her career. Together with their two daughters, they enjoy simple, family fun at Maxwell, taking advantage of FSS offerings such as fishing at the base lakes, walking their dog, riding bikes, running, swimming, golf and bowling.

Stationed at Maxwell since July 2010, Jolly is excited to go on her first deployment in July and hopes to make her family and team proud as she deploys to Afghanistan for a year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In the future, she hopes to retire from the Air Force and pursue a career in politics. After seeing the Department of Defense's recent struggle for funding under sequestration, she feels compelled to use her experiences as a leader in both public education and the military to positively influence the nation's budget and laws.

"The political climate is uncertain for what the future holds for the Department of Defense," said Jolly. "It makes me nervous about our national security, our economy and our education. Voting isn't enough. I want to help make policy decisions that strengthen the future for my children and grandchildren."