From mentoring young officers while in the Air Force to guiding students at Minot State University, Rob McRae continues to serve others — but his journey hasn’t always been a bed of roses.
McRae flew the F16…he wasn’t always in the pilot’s chair but he found he had strengths elsewhere when his bosses decided that the English major was good enough to crunch the numbers.
“I’m not a numbers guy but the Air Force thought I was a numbers guy. I thought if the Air Force thinks I can do it then I can do it. I worked really hard at it. I got really good at it. It got to when I won some awards and eventually I got to do a special duty position here in Minot,” McRae said.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, McRae always knew he wanted to be of service to his community wherever that might be.
“Service was something that was really ingrained in me by parents and my family. My grandfather was a deputy sheriff and another grandfather who served in the army as a civil engineer during the Korean war,” he said.
At age 23, he enrolled in the Air Force as an airman first class. He was initially assigned to Los Angeles and later to Minot Air Force Base.
“I was already a father, I was already a husband when I joined and so I got to take some of those lessons with me. I sorta have been mentoring since the beginning. When you go to basic training and you’re put into a group of 60 people and a lot of them are 18,19, here I am 23 years old and I have been around a little bit,” McRae recalled.
Along that journey, he sustained a back injury but that would not stop him from going back to work.
It was just this past June when he made the difficult decision to part ways with the Air Force. But he would come to be of service months later, at Minot State University.
“I’m able to share a little bit of my perspective, I went to college right out of high school so I know that perspective. I myself am a first-generation college student. I’m able to connect with the students that are veterans because I also finished my bachelor’s degree while I was serving on active duty. So I know what it’s like to go to college right out of high school and I know what it’s like to go back to college at 28 and I’m able to share that experience and connect with students on that level,” he said.
Right now McRae is the only academic coach at MSU’s Power Center who is a veteran.
The center provides guidance service to students, veterans and active duty military. For him, his experience in the military is the biggest building block in his new role.
McRae said committing to his job in the military turned even the most difficult tasks around for him.
He says that’s a lesson he will continue to pass on students who reach out for help.