Face of Defense: Military Service Aids Softball Coach’s Leadership Development

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Airman 1st Class Rachel Riley’s journey to become a member of the Air Force is an adventure just a couple explosions short of a Michael Bay movie epic.

Cue opening shot.

Riley, who hails from Arlington, Texas, loves softball. She said her passion for the sport would lead her to traveling from the U.S. to Austria where she coached a team for an Austrian league.

Yet, Riley heard the call of the sweet summer breeze of Texas, and she returned to her hometown to teach and coach at the high school she graduated from.

Something, though, was eating at her; something she has always thought about.

Military Service

"Serving the military has always been in the back of my mind," said Riley, who now serves as an Air Force Reservist. She’s training here as a 366th Training Squadron electrical power productions apprentice, and is scheduled to graduate Feb. 14.

"I don’t like feeling like I’m tied down, being able to come in and learn a skill set I could use in the civilian world. It’s kind of a win-win," Riley said. "I grew up working on cars with my dad. I love working with my hands and getting dirty. For the first four weeks I was the only female in the school house and that was interesting. But after spending seven weeks with 45 other women, it was also kind of nice. Overall, I’ve enjoyed every second of it. It’s challenging -- in a good way."

Riley finds she can also be a leader in the Air Force. Although she has been coaching and teaching people practically her whole adult life, the teacher has become the student since she joined the Air Force Reserve on Sept. 19, 2017.

The Air Force “taught me a lot as far as coaching goes," Riley said. "Being surrounded by the leadership we have, it’s kind of nice to be back on the team, you know? As a coach, you’re on the outside looking in. Now being a part of the team, it’s a lot of fun.

Teamwork

“My softball girls, they have to listen to me,” she continued. “These people, they didn’t have to. So, I was trying to figure out: How do we connect? How do we get on a level of understanding and work together as a team?"

Riley also said she’s gained a lot of knowledge here from training instructors and commanders. She plans to bring the new knowledge and people skills back to her civilian job.

When she graduates, Riley said she plans to pick up where she left off in her civilian life. Balancing her roles as a coach, teacher and her new life as an airman might appear tough, but it seemed to not affect the young woman.

"It’s been a bit tough adjusting the different lives,” Riley said. “Trying to stay focused here, but still be involved back home. Both sides have been awesome to support what I’m doing though. [There’s a] huge support group back home and here. I value being a part of something bigger than yourself."