AFRL Secretary Wins Air Force 2015 Disability Award

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Stacy Gatling, executive secretary to the Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate director, is the winner of the 2015 Outstanding Department of Defense Employee with a Disability Award.

"I am very surprised, excited, and thankful," Gatling said.

Born legally blind due to albinism, Gatling says she has tried not to let her disability greatly affect her.

"One of the biggest issues is not being able to drive and get around on my own," she said. "I have been blessed with a family who helps and many coworkers who make sure I get to where I need to be."

Gatling explained that ocular albinism is lack of pigmentation in the eye.

"My vision is 20/200 in each eye, which is not correctable," she said. "The eye doctors say, when looking at my eyes, it is such a clear view, compared to individuals with colored eyes."

Gatling began her federal career more than 30 years ago as a medical board secretary at William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, where she met her future husband. They moved to New Mexico in 1982, and in 1984 she resumed her civil service career at Kirtland.

Gatling moved up through the ranks in administrative positions, starting out as an appointment clerk at the Kirtland hospital, later becoming a branch secretary in base supply and eventually transferring to AFRL in 1997.

David Hardy, who is Directed Energy Directorate director and Gatling's boss, said Gatling proved herself as a great employee time and again.

"I selected Stacy as my secretary after observing her capabilities as my deputy's secretary," he said. "I am impressed with her administrative skills, upbeat attitude, and warm personality. In 2014 she won this award at the major command level, and I am delighted to see Stacy recognized for her accomplishments at the Air Force level."

Gatling uses magnifiers, telescopic glasses, and large view computer screens to help her handle the multitude of paperwork and computer tasks necessary in each job she has held.

"Stacy demands the highest standard of excellence from her work and does not consider herself disabled," Hardy said. "She has learned to overcome the obstacle of lifelong blindness and has done this so effectively that it is easy to forget she is legally blind."

Along with an outgoing disposition, perseverance also describes Gatling. She said her mother raised her to be the person she is today.

"She put me in public school and let me play like all the other kids," Gatling said. "I was never treated as handicapped. I knew I couldn't see nearly as well as the other children, but I learned to get around that."

She said some "wonderful people" have helped her in managing her disability.

"My husband and my children are so supportive--they are a blessing from God," she said. "My school teachers would go the extra step to make sure I had the type print and other tools I needed to do my lessons. My teacher who taught me how to type on a manual typewriter and use the abacus (which I didn't like) was totally blind. My counselors from the State Commission for the Blind in Texas and New Mexico have been excellent. The Texas Commission provided tutors in high school and one of my counselors helped me get my first civil service job at Fort Bliss."

Gatling said she has overcome discrimination barriers in which employers were initially reluctant to hire someone with her challenges. Looking back, Gatling said she appreciates the opportunities the DoD has offered her that she might not have received from other organizations.

"I have met and worked with so many great people," Gatling said. "At the Satellite Assessment Center, my first job in AFRL, they called me the 'Mom of SatAC.' Now they all come to see me when they are in Albuquerque, and we keep in touch through Facebook, text messaging, and phone calls. My co-workers have taught me so much. I think it is an honor to work for the military."