You might think a girl who grew up in Warrensburg, Missouri, might not stand out in a crowd. In the four short years Kiley Dougherty, 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs media relations chief, has been in the Air Force, she’s been a shining star wherever she finds herself. The Air Force took notice and gave her back-to-back Air Force-level awards.
“I embrace whatever task is there,” Dougherty said. “I pour my whole heart into it.”
According to her boss in PA, there’s a lot more to it than just that.
“Kiley is an extraordinary talent,” said Lt. Col. Matt Hasson, 56th FW PA officer. “She is passionate about her job and deeply committed to serving her country. She comes to work every day with ideas and an energy that’s infectious … she wants to have impact on the mission every day.”
Dougherty attended Northwest Missouri State University at Maryville and graduated with a double major – broadcast and journalism – and has a master’s degree in public affairs with an emphasis in disaster emergency management.
While in school she had a couple of internships in Washington, D.C., where she met people in public affairs.
“Listening to them, I realized working in PA for the military was what I wanted to do,” she said.
She paid no heed to the fact that Defense Department jobs usually go to those who have served in the military, and the odds of her getting a job were slim.
She entered the Palace Acquire Intern Program in July 2012. Competition was stiff and there were only five positions available, but she acquired one and headed to Minot, North Dakota. She was handed the nuclear deterrence program and she threw herself into it. Two years later she received the Air Force Outstanding Communication Civilian, Category I Award.
When it was time to move on, Dougherty accepted the media chief position at Luke Air Force Base. The F-35 Lightning was already at Luke, but the program was in its infancy.
“It was the perfect time for me to come here,” Dougherty said. “The program was just ramping up and presented so many opportunities for media.”
Hasson had been at Luke for less than a year. A seasoned PA professional, he could see the need was crucial for a media chief who could hit the ground running. The office was preparing to be deluged with opportunities that could make or break the new face of the F-35 program.
“Telling the Air Force story is far more than a picture, an article, or a social media post,” he said. It is understanding the strategic impact on “Big Air Force” of what we say here at the wing, particularly when we are telling the story of the F-35. She is someone who understands what the media is asking for, why they’re asking for it and finding the right Airman to tell that story.
“Kiley’s understanding of social media is uncanny,” he said. “She has grown our social media footprint by more than 400 percent in her year here. Under her leadership and direction, she has also made Luke one of the most responsive organizations on social media. It’s now a conversation between Luke and our community and the world.”
This year Dougherty received the Outstanding Communication Civilian, Category II Award. She demonstrated outstanding leadership and management in communication outreach by generating over 100 media events and key engagements that highlighted the F-35 mission to more than 800 million people. As the social media subject matter expert, her skills publicized command information and increased viewership 48 percent.
When Dougherty came to Luke, she wasn’t sure what to expect.
“I absolutely love Luke,” she said. “It was the best assignment for me after leaving Minot. It’s a completely different mission from nuclear deterrence to fighter jets. Everybody here is very inspiring and eager to help tell the Air Force and F-35 story. I would not have won the award if everyone we work with on base had not embraced PA and let us do our job.”
She believes it was also the support of her co-workers and the leadership in PA that helped her win the award.
“It is an awesome office to work in,” she said. “The PA team is very motivated. It was them taking photos, writing stories, supporting PA that enabled me to increase social media and have numerous media events. Their names should be on the award too. It’s a PA office award as well as a base award.”
She is modest about her success and gives the credit for her success to others.
“I don’t class myself as being good,” Dougherty said. “I’ve had a lot leaders in the PA career field that took time to guide me and allowed me to figure out my own lessons learned and how I could better myself. People took the time to groom me into who I am.
Hasson is one of those mentors.
“There’s too much to learn from him,” she said. “He’s amazing at what he does. I hope to obtain as much knowledge from him as possible.”
Only four years into her career, she sees there are many more opportunities.
“I want to continue to learn,” she said. “I apply for all the courses I can. You never know who will deliver that valuable ‘aha’ moment of learning something new. Or, that minute when you see it work – when you get a negative reporter to write something positive or you prep someone to speak to the media, and they come through with the huge money quote. Those are the moments I live for.”