via the Florida Tech Today
by Maya Oluseyi
Colleen McAleer ’89 is much stronger than she may appear. An Operation Desert Storm veteran and mother of 12- and 14-year-old boys, McAleer credits Florida Tech with teaching her to persevere in the challenges she would face in the military and beyond.
One of five children, McAleer frequently moved all over the world with her mother and Army officer father. Although a product of different school systems, she grew up knowing the importance of a good education. After graduating high school in Germany, she attended Florida Tech’s computer science program armed with a full ROTC scholarship.
“Going to Florida Tech was certainly a transition for me. I was on my own for the first time with so much freedom,” said McAleer. “I had a lot of fun in the first two years of college, but what Florida Tech taught me was that I could juggle having fun and being a responsible adult. That to have a great education, I had to be persistent and that to effectively operate in the world, I had to possess great analytical skills.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1989, McAleer enlisted in the military intelligence branch of the U.S. Army. In 1990, at just 23 years old, she became the first woman to serve as an electronic warfare platoon leader in Operation Desert Storm, commanding a platoon of 66 men and two women on the front line. Under her leadership, all 68 made it out alive.
In 1991, after her time in Operation Desert Storm, McAleer enrolled in flight school in Rucker, Ala. There, she was one of only two women in her class. Despite the rigors she faced, the war veteran earned not only her helicopter wings, but also her air assault and airborne wings. She served a total of 10 years in the military.
“Women have done what I’ve done before,” said McAleer. “I love challenges and making a difference in my community. What drives me is changing things for the better.”
Changing things for the better is exactly what McAleer strives for in her current position as marketing director and property manager, managing 106 leases for the Port of Port Angeles in Washington State. “Clallam County, in March 2012, has a high unemployment rate of 10.4 percent,” said McAleer. “We can tackle this issue by creating more jobs and a cleaner environment through composite manufacturing.”
Composite materials, according to McAleer, are being developed because they offer special properties. They are lightweight, strong and corrosion resistant. The Port of Port Angeles has developed a 6.5-acre manufacturing campus for composites, which will serve aerospace, marine and alternative energy producers. According to McAleer, “Composite manufacturing is growing at a rate of six percent a year, and in my opinion, it is a new way of manufacturing products. The lighter materials used to build airplanes and cars, for example, mean less fuel, which means a cleaner environment.”
Throughout her life, McAleer has faced many challenges that were overcome with hard work and perseverance. In her current job, she continues to serve her country through fostering job creation and advocating a greener environment, though what she most cherishes is her time with her two boys. “I love my work, but when I go home, I’m just a mom helping my boys with their homework.”