ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. | Her feet hit the ground. The leaves crunched beneath them as she cut through the humid Florida air. The sweat clung to her skin, but she continued on. The cheers of her teammates pushed her past her preconceived limits. Her endurance grew; the miles seemed to flow effortlessly as she blazed down the trails. Little did she know, this would be a stepping stone for her young life, the Air Force Academy and the Gen. Lew Allen, Jr., Trophy.
The Melbourne, Florida, native, better known as Capt. Lacey Koelling, officer in charge of the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, received the trophy on Sept. 20, 2017 for generating over 4,500 sorties which flew more than 40,000 hours, leading 540 Airmen and five aircraft maintenance units. She also oversaw a $10.9 million design and construction plan for the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron while deployed at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates from Oct. 1, 2016, to April 7, 2017. “The award is all about your excellence in the job and making the mission happen,” Koelling said. “Essentially, it’s what leadership rolls you have been involved in and how you contributed to the mission. I received the award after I came back from a deployment in Al-Dhafra and was given it because of what my team was able to accomplish.”
Since her youth, the cross country athlete has been influenced by her family and their military lineage which dates back since before the Air Force became a branch. Her family has been involved in maintenance, fire protection and cyber security.
“For consecutive generations, my family has been in the Air Force or the Army Air Corps,” Koelling said. “My grandfather, father, brother and my sister were or are all still in the Air Force.”
She believes in a leadership style geared around being with her Airmen. She has a personable approach and tries to get to know everybody on her team.
“I got to know Captain Koelling at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas,” said Master Sgt. Lee M. Isaksen, 34th AMU production superintendent. “I really like her leadership style because she takes the time to engage with her team and gets to know you on a personal basis. The fact that she uses what she knows about you to encourage you helps the unit out because everyone gets motivated differently.”
The blonde haired, blue eyed Air Force Academy graduate is the first ever officer in her family. Having many enlisted relatives helps her see both sides of the spectrum.
“It definitely makes for a friendly rivalry at family gatherings and it’s interesting to get to see both sides of it, so I feel like I have a good understanding,” Koelling said. “It’s nice for me to know what my family has done while in the service so I can relate that to my Airmen because they are siblings, fathers, mothers, husbands and wives. It helps me see how they would want to be treated and respected.”
Koelling explained she could not have done this by herself. She knows the Airmen she was deployed with went above and beyond the standard to accomplish the mission. She thinks it’s just as big of an accomplishment for her as it is for them.
“I think it’s critical that the actions my team performed at Al-Dhafra are recognized by the base and further up the chain of command, so we can show new Airmen that what they do directly impacts the mission and makes this the greatest Air Force in the world,” Koelling said.