Mitchell woman is South Dakota's first female chaplain

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SOUTH DAKOTA, S.D. - (KSFY) A Mitchell woman is shattering a glass ceiling in the military.

In January Captain Kelley Thury was named the first female to ever serve as chaplain in the South Dakota National Guard.

“I don't see myself as the first female chaplain. I just see myself as a chaplain,” Thury said.

Even if she doesn't feel like it, during this ceremony Kelley Thury was on the front lines of history in South Dakota.

“It's thrilling to have this now happen this year. January 6th was her promotion and pinning so that was an exciting day for us as a chaplain core,” State Chaplain Lynn Wilson said.

Thury has always had a strong faith.
She joined the South Dakota Army National Guard in 2010.
As she was preparing to ship off to basic, she prayed for her drill sergeant. During the following moments she felt her first tug to serve in the chaplaincy.

“He started to say everybody’s going to take a different path in your career, some will get out, some will stay in, and even some may become a chaplain. And he looked straight at me and I go ‘Oh, well that's an idea,’ and so I just kind of pursued it from there,” Thury said.

She's a women who wear's many hats.
At home she is a married mother of three.

“I’m off supporting soldiers and he's at home with all three kids. You know, three under four, so God bless him,” Thury said.

She began her military career in public affairs, later going on to get a Masters of Divinity Pastoral Care and Counseling.
Her day job? Bereavement coordinator for Aseracare Hospice.

“Can be traumatic or it can be just a very peaceful graceful thing for someone, but I’m there to help people in that journey and in that walk,” Thury said.

And the State Chaplin says her compassion as a counselor is one of the reasons she will excel in her new position.

“She's been there when people have been at their lowest moment, when they've lost their loved ones, and so I think she brings that as a special gift,” Wilson said.

Thury says she thinks her biggest challenges will lie in supporting soldiers through their struggles and losses.
But as the first women chaplain she knows there could be other obstacles.

“There are people out there that don't believe women should be in the ministry in this function and role. So if I ever come across that that might be a challenge,” she said.

But she hasn't seen a hint of that kind of attitude yet

“I’ve always just been encouraged and supported as a chaplain,” she said.

The State Chaplain says she will be a lot more than just the first female to hold this title.

“It's one thing to be the first, but I think in addition to that, she's going to be one of our finest,” Wilson said.

Thury says she may be the first women to be promoted to chaplain, but she wasn't the first women to be interested in the position.
She says it was god's timing that allowed her to have the title ‘first in the state’.