MIDDLETOWN, Pa. --
Staff Sgt. Lacey McCuean, a production recruiter and retainer with the 193rd Special Operations Wing, has served six years in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. She originally served as a personnel specialist with the 171st Air Refueling Wing in Coraopolis. The Darlington, Pennsylvania native recently sat down for an interview to share some insight.
- What brought you into the military?
I was in fourth grade when 9/11 happened and it was one of those things where it was like, I’m going to join the military. I went to college for two years and I still had that little echo in the back of my head like, “You still want to join the military.” My family friend actually joined at the 171st and my mom found out and gave her a call. I sat down with a recruiter and three months I was in.
My grandfather was military, but he doesn’t really talk about it much, he’s actually a chief master sergeant retired. So there’s some military in the family but I think overall it was just kind of fourth-grade me screaming at myself.
- What has kept you in the military?
I honestly fell in love with what I was doing, the structure and the people. I went to college but something keeps telling me I want to put the uniform on every single day.
- Can you explain how a failure or a setback either directly set you up for success or provided you with a lesson learned that indirectly set you up for success later?
I want to say taking time off school was a setback…. Taking that time off obviously set me back a semester, but I still ended up graduating. Right before I graduated I actually fell into a GS-7 position in Pittsburgh with the Civil Engineering Squadron. I was working full-time while going to school full-time. That in turn obviously built my background on the full-time side to allow me to be where I’m at now.
- The military can be very stressful at times. When things start to get overwhelming, do you have a routine or a way to help refresh your mind and get refocused?
I go to the gym probably about four to five days a week just depending on my schedule. Then on top of that, every weekend I’m playing deck hockey, commonly known as ball hockey, down in New Cumberland. It’s a great way to get out in the community and meet new people but also throw some stress around as well. It’s all guys so the intensity is up there, but they don’t play us any differently so it’s fun.
That’s probably the best way I relieve stress, honestly doing those little things and then obviously going home to Pittsburgh to see family.
- McCuean elaborated on playing hockey.
I played college ice hockey and when I graduated I kind of wanted to stay in that competitive mind set and beer league or adult league was not what I was looking for on the competitive scale. I still wanted to travel and do tournaments and that’s kind of where ball hockey fell into place.
Tournaments usually happen one weekend every two to three months. In a weekend I usually play about 14 games.
- What is your main focus/motivation to move forward and better yourself?
Staying in the gym, staying fit. In terms of my career, I’d say my main motivation is most of the people that we talk to are in high school and kind of looking for that next step or next opportunity and I think it’s really great, that honestly, that’s the future of the Air Force and that’s the future of our country. Being able to afford them that opportunity or even present that opportunity to them is a big motivating factor to me. I think that’s really cool. I’ve enlisted a few people now. At the end of the day it almost gives you chills because it’s like, yeah it’s their way to go to school, but this is also something that’s going to take them from just that high school senior… then they come back and they’re this whole new person. It’s definitely motivating to keep doing what I’m doing.
- What advice would you give to a young Airman that is just joining the military or looking to progress in their career?
Stay humble and never stop challenging yourself.
I think as a traditional Guardsman it’s kind of easy to get complacent. It’s easy to come in one weekend a month and just kind of do your regular monthly training. It’s easy to get into that mindset so always keep challenging yourself because honestly the Air National Guard is a revolving door of opportunity. If you don’t keep challenging yourself, you’re going to miss out on a lot of great things, whether it’s people, trips, or jobs.
Then on the humble side, you’ll do a lot of great things in your career, but never forget where you came from and the people that helped you get there. I think the biggest way I relate to that is my recruiter, who is now my boss, he’s been with me through my whole entire career and he’s always helped me realize this is your opportunity, stay humble and remember where you came from, do your due diligence and you’ll get there.
- What advice would you tell them to ignore?
I would definitely say ignore the little things in terms of, there’s gonna be people who aren’t the most encouraging. Remember again who’s there for you, who’s the ones that are encouraging and just continue to remember the core values. Be the Airman you want to be, don’t be the Airman that they say you should be.
- Is there a book that has influenced you that you would recommend? Why?
I don’t read much. I will say that there’s a female that I used to play hockey with on the Team Ireland team, she actually wrote a book called “Confessions of an Ex Hot Mess”. It’s really just about focusing in on what you want in life and putting the negativity to the side.
- Do you have any obscure/unusual interests or hobbies?
A little fun-fact that most people wouldn’t see when they immediately look at me is I was a violinist from the time that I was seven. It’s been a hobby that I kind of let go, but it was definitely a hobby of mine and I could probably still pick it up and play it, so I did go to performing arts school. I do a lot of photography. I’ve had the opportunity to do some photography for Team USA ball hockey.
I love working with kids, which is another thing that typically shocks people. I got an opportunity to do a tour with AmeriCorps so I was actually working with at-risk youth [in Newcastle, PA]. So if I could find more free time, I’d probably volunteer my time there.
- In the past five years, is there something that you changed your mind/opinion about? Did it make you implement a change in your lifestyle, if so, how?
I don’t even know, I’ve always been pretty open-minded. I come from a big family so there was never really anything that I had such a strong opinion on. I’ve always just kind of been a promoter of, you know, be who you want to be. The good old Dr. Seuss quote of, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”
- Do you have a “go-to” workout? If so, what is it?
When I originally started working out it was T25, hands down. I love T25 and then right before I left Pittsburgh I became really good friends with Tech Sgt. Kazina, who’s another production recruiter at Pittsburgh, and we actually did this karate-type workout. It was all bodyweight. Right before we started do it, he looked at me and was like, “If you don’t mind looking a little awkward in the gym, you’ll like this workout.” And it was the best workout I’ve ever done, I actually did it last night. It is a great way to max out on my PT test.
- Do you have a random knowledge bomb to part with?
As cliché as it sounds, to quote the good old Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”
I never thought I would be a recruiter, but I also never gave up. Moving four hours away was probably the best thing that could have happened for my family and my career. If you think you can do it, never stop trying. Just go for it.