2018 Tillman Scholar

Kelly Ann McCarty

Duke University

“Working within public policy, I hope to open doors for future generations.”

With her sister leaving college to enlist, Kelly Ann felt compelled to serve in the Army as well. She graduated and commissioned from the United States Military Academy in 2008 as a Military Intelligence Officer, and she quickly deployed on her first of five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Through her service, Kelly Ann found a passion for problem-solving and leadership. She had multiple deployments at tactical and strategic levels before pursuing assignments in special operations. There, she planned intelligence support to worldwide, no-notice contingency operations and identified strategies to penetrate hostile anti-access area denial systems. She was the first woman integrated into a special operations aviation battalion and subsequently assumed command as the first female commander of a tactical special operations company. Kelly Ann helped shape policy for female integration into combat roles and special operations, including presenting feedback to members of Congress. She also worked as an intelligence advisor to senior leaders in Washington, D.C. preparing briefings to Congress and Pentagon Staff while supporting national, sensitive special operations programs.

After 10 years of service, Kelly Ann seeks an alternative way to lead and serve. Unique professional opportunities to influence policy and strategy exposed her to the complexities of the security environment. This engrained a respect for policy and a desire to develop solutions in international security affairs, nonproliferation and counterterrorism policy. With a Master of Public Policy from Duke, she hopes to continue her public service as a national security policy advisor within the Department of Defense or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.