Staff Sgt. Shelby Bird, 20th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor, poses with a work of art from her two children Tiernan and Riordan presented to her on Mother’s Day, while she also holds the life of her unborn child, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Oct. 22, 2012. “I think I’m a little biased, but my kids are the best and I love them so much.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Blackwell/Released)
Staff Sgt. Shelby Bird, 20th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor, stands with her class after being presented with vintage collectors memorabilia at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Oct. 22, 2012. Some of the items displayed date back to the 1940s. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Blackwell/Released)
Staff Sgt. Shelby Bird, 20th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor, briefs her class before beginning the public speaking portion of the course at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Oct. 22, 2012. Students are allotted a certain amount of time to speak during this portion of the course and are graded and critiqued at the end of their briefing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Blackwell/Released)
Staff Sgt. Shelby Bird (left), 20th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor, sits and counsels Senior Airman Joshua Fortney, 20th Security Forces Squadron desk sergeant after he finished his public speaking portion of the ALS course at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Oct. 22, 2012. Students are given an opportunity to speak with instructors one-on-one after their briefing in order to get candid-tailored guidance to help them improve their over-all leadership skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Blackwell/Released)
Staff Sgt. Shelby Bird, 20th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor, poses with three rescued dogs (from left) Jack, Squiggy, and Lenny. Bird and her husband take in stray and neglected animals and care for them out of their own personal finances. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shelby Bird/Released)
by Airman 1st Class Daniel Blackwell
20th Fighter Wing Public Affiars
10/23/2012 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- United States Air Force Staff Sgt. Shelby Bird, 20th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor, devotes every waking moment she has to helping others, in and out of uniform.
Not only is Bird an ALS instructor she's also a devoted wife and mother, while still making time to pursue her education off-duty as well as care for stray, abused and battered animals that find their way to her and her husband's property. She also watches fellow service member's animals while they're deployed or on a temporary duty assignment.
Bird's faith and upbringing play a large role in her ability to juggle multiple time-consuming tasks at once, and do it all with a smile on her face.
Bird was born May 28, 1986 in the small rural town of Geddes, South Dakota on a 600 acre ranch. It was here that she learned the meaning of sacrifice and hard work.
"I was in charge of caring for lambs and calves at a young age," Bird explained. "I learned early on that my actions have consequences, especially when a life is on the line."
Having these responsibilities instilled Bird with an innate desire for helping others and caring for animals that are unable to fend for themselves.
Caring for baby animals required Bird to devote many hours on a daily basis cleaning, feeding and caring for them at all hours of the early morning, day and night. On the ranch their livestock was their livelihood, and caring for the animals took precedence above all else.
"If you forgot or ran out of time to feed the animals then you didn't eat either," Bird explained. "That was just the way it was."
In addition, Bird grew up without television, allowing her to focus on school, sports and work on the ranch.
"There was just no time for television," she explained. "I had school all day, sports, then came home and did work."
It was those types of unwavering life lessons learned at a young age, as well as the encouragement of her late grandfather that serve Bird well in her Air Force career.
"My grandfather has played a huge role in my life and career."
After joining the Air Force on Nov. 22, 2004, Bird became especially close to her grandfather after learning he was a bombardier in the United States Army Air Corp.
"He didn't really talk much about his career until I joined the military," Bird explained. "It wasn't until he passed away that we learned about all the medals and awards he'd won. He was a very humble man."
"My grandfather and I had that in common, that there were things we only shared with each other," she added. "I really enjoyed that."
While attending Airman Leadership School in 2009, Bird recalled an event in her life that spurred her on to becoming an ALS instructor, and ultimately a better person and Airman.
"My grandfather passed away while I was attending my ALS course. He told me to kick that class's butt, which gave me all the motivation I needed to succeed."
In her graduating class Bird was the Levito recipient, and spurred on by her grandfather's words of encouragement went on to pursue a position as an ALS instructor. Two years later Bird taught, and graduated, her first ALS class.
"My grandfather's memory still encourages me to this day."
However, her unique upbringing and memory of her grandfather alone have not been enough to sustain her through difficult times. Where she falls short, her husband and children fill in the gaps with love, support and encouragement.
"My family means the world to me," Bird exclaimed. "My husband's made me a better person. When they say that it's your better halve, he truly is mine."
Staff Sgt. Christian Bird, 9th Air Force NCOIC of the network operations support center, supports his wife daily, often taking the brunt of raising the children and taking care of their pets while she puts in overtime at work to help Airmen succeed in ALS.
"I have the best job in the Air Force," she exclaimed. "However, my family often takes most of the punishment because my job is so demanding. A lot of times even when I'm home I'm still working and grading papers."
"Because of this I can't begin to express my gratitude for what my husband and family endure to support me. If I had to sum it up in two words, I could only say thank you."
Bird approaches her off-duty responsibilities of caring for wounded and neglected animals with just as much conviction and tenacity as she does in the classroom as a United States Air Force ALS instructor.
"I blame my parents for making me the way I am with animals," Bird laughed. "I just love helping them."
Bird and her husband not only take on the responsibilities of feeding, housing and medically taking care of stray animals at their home, they do it all from their own personal income. They also watch fellow service member's animals when they deploy or go TDY.
"We like to do that because the euthanasia rates of local pounds are around 90 percent," Bird explained. "So when military members deploy or go TDY and have no other options they generally either turn their pets into the pound or release them. By offering help, my husband and I feel like we can save animal's lives."
Whether she's teaching young Airman how to lead with integrity, spending time with her husband and two children, rescuing a stray animal or furthering her education; Staff Sgt. Shelby Bird consistently applies the same amount of passion, conviction and work ethic.
"Staff Sgt. Bird is a forward-thinking NCO who is always professional and well put together," explained Tech Sgt. Thyiatira Singleton, 20th Force Support Squadron Airmen Leadership School instructor. "She's also the most interesting person we have on the staff, and that's saying a lot."