HAFB civilian overcomes adversity, remains dedicated to serve

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Isaiah Pedrazzini
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.-- For as long as she can remember Michelle Harrell dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps and serving in the Air Force. But at 10 years-old Harrell was diagnosed with scoliosis effectively crushing those dreams.

Harrell was diagnosed with scoliosis at a very young age, a disease that causes an irregular curvature of the spine and is often diagnosed in adolescents. In some cases, little to no treatment is needed depending on the severity. Throughout her lifetime has had 4 surgeries on her spine resulting in Harrell developing PTSD from the events.

“When I was diagnosed the doctors told me no roller coasters, no bungee jumping, because if I were to get hit wrong, I could be paralyzed, ” said Harrell. “I think there does need to be more awareness when it comes to disabilities however, people need to also realize that there's hidden disabilities like mine.”

Despite the obstacles that Harrell faced that didn't stop her dream of working for the military and found her solution via the Schedule A program which helped her land a job at the 49th Wing.

“This is one of those things that managers may not even be aware that they have as an option,” said Elva Chavez, 49th Force Support Squadron civilian personnel flight chief. “The U.S. Air Force has put this program in place where a disabled person can register for federal employment.”

The Schedule A program works differently from other programs as it is an exception for disabled employees looking to work for federal agencies and selects hirees from a list of qualified applicants. This process allowed Harrell to find a way where she could serve her country.

“I've been working at the 49th MXG for almost two years, but before that I was a commander's secretary over at the 846th Test Squadron,” said Harrell. “I have also worked for the Non-appropriated Funds Human Resources department, so I've been here a while.”

She is now the 49th Maintenance Group unit program manager where helps Airmen every day. In total, Harrell has dedicated more than 13 years of service to the Holloman mission and Airmen.

“It's amazing that the military and the government offer the Schedule A program for people like me because I'm still serving my country and I am still serving the mission,” she said.

For more information on the Schedule A program visit https://www.eeoc.gov.