Karly Gadell

Branch: Army

Duty Station: Fort Irwin

Number of Deployments: 3

Number of PCS's: 7

Share your military spouse story:
“Together We Thrive!” This was the most recent motto that I came up with to use for the 2022-2023 Board year for the Fort Irwin Spouses Club. Similar mottos have been used throughout the years for Military Spouses. “Bloom where you are planted” is another one of those catchy phrases. While these might seem cliché, they are really words that I have lived by since becoming a milspouse 15 years ago. My story probably mirrors many other military spouses out there today, but what makes for a compelling story is the legacy that I have left behind at each location we have been stationed. I made a decision long ago to keep a positive attitude during our many moves and relocations. I learned early on that the only way to make a great impact on your community was to get involved and get into the positions where you can actually make change happen. From starting a girls volleyball and softball program at a school in Oklahoma overflowing with military teens, who were missing out on the opportunity to be athletes, to working with the Honor Flight in St. Louis, to creating positive change in the Spouses Club at Knox, and bringing Wreaths Across American to the Fort Knox Cemetery, and lastly and most recently building up the Spouses Club here at the remote installation of Fort Irwin and hosting the 1st annual Santas Workshop at this post, are just a few examples of “Thriving where you are planted!” These small acts of change have left a positive impact on each community I have had the privilege of being apart of. Being able to touch the lives of so many people goes hand in hand with being a military spouse. This journey has provided so many opportunities to help others, and make lasting change wherever we go and I am just getting started!

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
My leadership experience goes with my involvement in the Spouses Club. I started volunteering within the Spouses Club at our first duty station. I saw how importantly of a role most clubs played at each post, by the way they gave so much back to their community. I’ve held many roles, such a Spring Fundraiser Chair, Membership Chair, 1st VP of Grants and Scholarships and most recently I have had the honor of being President of the Spouses Club both at Fort Knox and Fort Iriwn. Taking on these positions has allowed to lead within our community, and It has given me the opportunity to work closely with other leaders on the installations, both active duty and civilian. I have learned how to speak in front of a room full of important military leaders, and even get a laugh or two doing it. Being president has taught be how to run a board and work/manage volunteers. I have been able to partner with other organizations so that we are all working together to help the community.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
My first year as a spouse, I was teaching at a school full of military kids. These kids were not offered half of what I had in high school, especially the girls. I started 2 high school sports programs at the junior high and high school level. I started girls volleyball and softball and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In Saint Louis, I helped with the non profit, H.E.R.O.E.S. Care and helped send hundreds of Care Packages to troops. I also helped with Honor Flight, that sent Veterans to DC for a day. At Knox, I was President of the spouses club for two years and also helped bring Wreaths Across America to the cemetery located on Knox and helped fill our cemetery with over 800 wreaths the first year. It is now an annual event. I also ran the Santa’s Workshop through the Red Cross. At Irwin I was 2VP of Grants and Scholarships and President of the spouses club. I also helped start and run Santa’s Workshop at Irwin.

Describe how you support your community:
I have a passion for advocating for Military Spouses Clubs. For the last 5 years I have dedicated my time and energy in to transforming to Spouses Clubs in my community, into the best possible clubs they could be. This started with changing the way people viewed Spouses Clubs. I have watched how Spouses Clubs as a whole have transformed over the last 15 years. These clubs need to be used to bring our communities together, not keep us segregated. During my two years as president at Knox, Our luncheons, were changed to Mixers, which we held during the evening to allow the population of working spouses to join in on the fun. We have also evolved the look and feel of the club to be welcoming to not only women, but our fellow male spouses as well. Both times, I have served as president I felt that it was important to have a male spouse on my board each time to give another perspective on things. Making whatever post we live on a better place for everyone is the goal.

What do you advocate for? Why?
It’s obvious that advocating for military spouses and their families is my top priority. Being a spouse myself, I realize how important of a role we play in our spouses life and our children's lives. Helping to support spouses by providing an inclusive spouses club is my number one goal everywhere I go. Giving back to the community is also important to me. I believe if you want change, you have to make it happen by being an active member of your community. I have tried to leave each post better than it was when I got there. Advocating for military kids is another priority and establishing a Santa’s Workshop where ever we go, is another way I advocate and support for military families. .

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
The ability to communicate comes easy to me. Volunteering with a non-profit, such as the Fort Irwin Spouses Club, I have been given numerous opportunities to address the community in a group setting. If I can stand up and give a presentation to a group of Military leaders, then I’m confident enough to speak to anyone. During my last two years here, I have been given the opportunity to speak at the New Spouses Orientations that are held quarterly, and have also been invited to speak to the new senior level spouses during their orientation to Irwin, as well. Outside of the speaking as the President of the spouses club, I also had the chance to host a talk show on the Fort Irwin Radio, where once a week, we talked all things Military Spouse related. While President at Fort Knox, I was asked to be the guest speaker for the Operation Homefront celebration, where I spoke to over 100 spouses from Fort Knox and Fort Campbell.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
With my experience, I feel confident to take action and follow my dream of stating my own non profit. I’m currently in the process of starting a non profit I have named Operation: Home When It Matters. This non profit would primarily focus on military spouses and dependents. Right after moving across the country from Kentucky to California, I got a call that my dad was in the hospital. What quickly turned from “dads sick,” to “you need home home,” happened in just a few short days. It was after losing my dad, and this life changing event that I started to think about what other families must go through when situations like that arise. I no couldn’t imagine not going home to say goodbye to my dad. It’s my dream to take the leadership skills I’ve learned over the last decade to help me create and run a successful non profit, where we can provide grants, airline tickets, and other forms of transportation to get families reunited when is matters most.


Karly is amazing. Her highest priority after her family is her military community. She has done it all including serving as President of multiple spouses' clubs and running Operation: Santa's Workshop at multiple bases, even if it means starting them herself.
- by Steven Schmitt