BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
Each year hundreds of Airmen apply to commissioning programs, but only a few ever get selected and receive the opportunity to serve as an officer.
Tech. Sgt. Michelle Cathey, Air Force Global Strike Command commander’s support staff noncommissioned officer in-charge, has been in the Air Force for 12 years and is just a few months away from starting a new journey as a second lieutenant, a goal of hers since she joined the military.
“I’ve had an innate desire to lead, progress in my profession, accept new challenges and contribute to my family's honorable legacy of dedicated service,” Cathey said. “I want to instill genuine and infectious leadership while deliberately constructing the finest Airmen.”
While these are her reasons for wanting to become an officer, she has exhibited these leadership qualities for many years. Senior Master Sgt. Christy N. Jones, 635th Material Maintenance Support Squadron superintendent, has seen Cathey’s leadership abilities first hand. Cathey served as a professional military education instructor when Jones was an Airman leadership school commandant.
“Michelle was a bold leader,” Jones explained. “She always fought for what was right, not what was easy. She held her fellow instructors and students accountable and always ensured that things were done the right way. I knew that if she was in charge of something it was going to be done right.”
During her time as an ALS instructor, Cathey learned the impact a leader could have on hundreds of Airmen. Her experience reaffirmed her decision to commission, which she knows will give her an opportunity to impact the next generation of Air Force leaders.
Cathey applied to four different commissioning programs and got rejected each time.
“I faced several barriers, the biggest being myself,” she said. “There were times I doubted myself and lost confidence in my abilities.”
She nearly gave up, but thanks to her sisters, Cathey decided to apply one more time through the Senior Leader Enlisted Commissioning Program.
“My sister encouraged me to continue to apply because I was so close to the finish line,” Cathey explained.
Cathey got the motivation she needed to continue with her process, but was swiftly met again with anguish.
“I was so disappointed when I was not selected by the MAJCOM [major command],” she said. “I had a second opportunity to compete at a higher level, Headquarters Air Force, despite not making it at a lower lever which was difficult.”
Cathey’s commissioning package was sent to Headquarters Air Force for one last consideration. Just when she felt like quitting, Cathey got an unexpected call.
“General Goldfein was calling to inform me that I was his number one selectee,” Cathey said with a huge smile. “My family’s military service spans over a century. I, however, will be the first officer.”
The entire application process taught Cathey invaluable lessons including appreciation for those around her.
“Multiple people have aided me throughout my journey,” Cathey said. “Every one of supervisors have played a significant role in my success.”
Cathey continues to encourage Airmen to speak positively about their goals and not allow negative influencers to convince them that they are wasting their time or that they will never achieve their goals.
“You should never give up on your dreams,” she continued. “Just because an opportunity may appear to not work out in your favor, maintain your faith, be patient and trust the process in whatever you are pursuing and it will eventually work out.”
The Air Force’s greatest asset lies within the hearts of Airmen, like TSgt Cathey, who despite the odds, is dedicated to serving her country and shaping the future of the Air Force.