The Best We Can: Staff Sergeant Stiles

Staff Sergeant Kierra Stiles. Photo by Jaimee Casper
Staff Sergeant Kierra Stiles. Photo by Jaimee Casper

Nothing is a better teacher than a change in perspective. For Staff Sergeant Kierra Stiles of the Minnesota Air National Guard, an accumulation of these lessons boils down to the need for patience. It’s encouraging to know that even those who seem to have it all together have had their share of struggles and need a reminder of perspectives like everyone else.  

Staff Sgt. Stiles was raised in a military family stationed in North Dakota. Thankfully she had a strong group of friends on the base but she says, “I only had myself to depend on growing up, I kind of had a rough upbringing in a conservative area.” She knew she wanted to attend college but didn’t have anyone to help with loans. In 2011 she stumbled into an Army Reserve building and signed up. She chose a focus area but her leaders picked up on her intelligence and reliability and guided her to psychological operations. “I originally went for a different career path but then they told me, ‘you need to pick something else because you’re super smart and have good credit’, and I said okay!”

She was one of the first women to be pushed through the very intense six month training program and when she finished she was seated next to an intelligence analyst. She couldn’t help but become very interested in their work. Staff Sgt. Stiles says, “I absolutely love, as nerdy as it sounds, to read and research all day.” Determination set in and she bittersweetly jokes about the amount of patience and the times she got the answer no, before a yes. “I usually have a timeline and a deadline of when it’s going to get accomplished.” says Staff Sgt. Stiles, “Luckily my wife is there to remind me that the timeline can be a little more like a rubber band, not so finite.”

Eventually the opportunity presented itself with the Minnesota Air National Guard Duluth-based 148th Fighter Wing. Wearing the shoe that fits, her intelligence job focuses on risk management, investigating threats, geography, and making sure her colleagues get home safe. “You get that adrenaline rush and learn new things and that’s what I’m all about.” 

Staff Sgt. Stiles has reached an apex of personal and professional goals. She’s thriving in an intelligence position, a newlywed, and a first time home owner. She is relieved that there is no wrong way to do life and just like training programs in the military, life is, “designed to put you under pressure, so believe in yourself and don’t be so hard on yourself. I see a lot of people that are way too hard on themselves. I just want to pull them aside and tell them to take a breather, don’t forget to love yourself.”

It’s her remarkable spirit of care that has lifted her and those around her to success. “I always remind my colleagues that we’re soldiers first, I always have their backs and they have mine, even though we might disagree, we agree to disagree and the job comes first. I think that sets the precedent for creating an environment of respect,” says Staff Sgt. Stiles.

Sometimes self awareness is a blessing and a curse. “I knew I wanted to help my state and help organize and group people together to train, learn and then execute,” says Staff Sgt. Stiles, “I want to help everyone elevate their career as well, we’re all in this together.” She loves to reach out and help those that are going through what she went through at one time in career to give guidance. Even if that guidance of patience is guidance she still gives herself, “patiences is that one thing I feel I’ll work on forever,” Staff Sgt. Stiles remarks. 

A resounding sense of calm surrounds Staff Sgt. Stiles after all she’s been through and as she gets ready to face the unknown future. “Sometimes people just have to have their freak out. I get it. But being able to be there for people and just reminding them that we’re all human. This might not be going to plan, but let’s do the best we can.” 

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