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NEWS | Aug. 23, 2023

Q&A with new commandant at Fort Knox

By Master Sgt. April Evaro 83rd United States Army Reserve Readiness Training Center

Lt. Col. Mary Drilling is the commandant for the 83rd United States Army Reserve Readiness Training Academy. Drilling spent four years as a Kentucky police officer prior to her selection to the Active Guard Reserve.

Q: Where are you from? What was your childhood like?

A: I grew up in a town east of Cincinnati, called Milford, Ohio. I am the youngest of four girls. I spent a lot of time outdoors, riding bikes, playing sports, canoeing, boating, and swimming. My mom was a Girl Scout leader, my dad liked to go hunting and fishing. Together, they coached me in different sports – soccer, basketball, and softball. I remember always trying to keep up with my older sisters and wanting to contribute when we would do things as a family.

Q: What led you to a career in the military?

A: I went to Eastern Kentucky University my freshman year of college. I walked on to play volleyball and enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). I remember getting up early every morning to do physical training and had no idea of the purpose or reasoning of what we were doing. I didn’t know about Army regulations, didn’t know how to wear a uniform, but the cadre and my fellow students mentored me, and squared me away. At the beginning of my sophomore year of college, I enlisted into the Kentucky Army National Guard in January 2004, as an MP, with the 617th Military Police Company in Richmond, Ky. I wanted to see what it was like to be a Soldier before I decided to contract into the Simultaneous Member Program. Enlisting was the best decision of my life.

Q: What is something that not many people know about you?

A: I served as a Kentucky state trooper for four years. I graduated from the KY State Police Academy in September 2010, and I was selected for the Active Guard Reserve program in 2014.

Q: What is something that you take away from your time as a Kentucky state trooper?

A: The best part about being a Kentucky state trooper was the camaraderie and "brotherhood." Around the time that I served, there were only approximately 10-15 females in the organization, so after growing up with all sisters, I loved inheriting brothers who looked out for me. My closest brother was Anson “Blake” Tribby. Tribby and I were in the police academy together and he always had my back. He was the best teammate and would always push me to do my best during academy obstacles and difficult training situations that helped me become the person I am today.

He was like a little brother to me. Sadly, he passed away during a traffic accident while assisting a vehicle on the side of the road. To lose a brother like Tribby was a loss for all of us. I will always cherish my experiences as a state trooper.

Q: In closing, you discussed the importance of family support in your speech during the Change of Commandant ceremony. What does it mean to you to have family support and how have they helped you through the years?

A: I don’t think I would be the person I am today without my mom driving me to be better and my dad reminding me to work to my potential. It was intimidating at times because Mom was a teacher, Dad was a Professional Engineer, my sisters were a private chef, a marine biologist, and a biomedical engineer…and I could play sports. But over time, I realized, what makes us great is that we’re all different. I appreciated my family because they supported me. Since I’ve started my own family and become a mom, it’s taught me about wanting to be the best version of myself that I possibly could be but also accepting the fact that no one is perfect. There’s going to be ups and down in life, but if you stand by and support each other, even on our worst days, that’s what it’s about. The military has also taught me that family support is not just about relatives, but about the team we work with. I’ve found that if we just accept each other for who we are, listen, grow from mistakes, and treat everyone with respect, we can do some amazing things.

Q: Are there any other words of advice or something you’d like to share with the Team?

A: I’ve mentioned the importance of “self-care” a couple times. I think it’s important that everyone has that “thing” that helps them let go of the stressors and pressure we put on ourselves every day. One of my mentors used to always remind me that I needed to ensure I was taking care of myself before I took care of my family or my Soldiers. She’d say, “it’s like in the airplane, if the mask comes down, you put yours on first before your child’s”. So, if you need to talk to someone or need time to process something you’re going through…let us know! Most of us have had some life experiences that we’ve struggled through and get it. You’re not alone, we’re in this thing called life together!!

“I look forward to learning, growing and working alongside some of the best NCO instructors in the Army!”