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McKellen Spiller ’21 to commission as Air Force Intelligence Officer

Like many new USM graduates, McKellen Spiller ’21 will start a new chapter this summer. Hers may just be a little more adventurous. 

A photo of USM graduating senior McKellen Spiller

Photo by Dawson Renaud Film and Photo

Spiller, 23, will commission as an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Air Force. She will be the only USM senior graduating from the Air Force ROTC program this year and is the first Air Force Intelligence Officer to commission from USM in recent history. 

She’ll report for training in Texas sometime this summer. 

“I like analyzing things, I like data. Intelligence is everything I really wanted,” said Spiller, who graduates from USM this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology. 

Spiller’s father spent his career in the Army and, watching his time in the military, Spiller originally wanted to be an Army trauma surgeon. But her talents lay in a different direction. 

“My dad was a flight medic and you have to one-up your parents,” she joked. “But that dream died with my GPA. Biology and chem were very hard and I was like, ‘I don’t like this.’”

A friend turned her on to criminology, and Spiller fell in love with the subject. When her parents moved from Colorado to Maine after her father’s retirement from the military, Spiller looked for colleges here that both offered a criminology major and had an Air Force ROTC.

She found exactly one: USM. 

“I got really lucky,” Spiller said.

No Maine colleges have their own Air Force ROTC program, but USM does have an agreement with the University of New Hampshire that allows USM students to join the ROTC there. 

Since Spiller had gone to college in Alaska for a year, she joined USM as a sophomore and spent the next three years dividing her time between work, school, and ROTC — driving more than an hour to Durham every Tuesday so she could participate in ROTC classes and military training at UNH. 

Allen Phelps, commander of the Air Force ROTC Detachment 475 at UNH, said Spiller was a stand-out from day one. 

“When I think of a focused, dedicated, professional cadet, McKellen Spiller comes to mind,” he said. “I look forward to seeing what she does in the Air Force.”

To be considered for an Air Force Intelligence commission, students must be near the top of their class. They must then receive top-secret clearance and pass a six-month training program. 

“I have no doubts she’s going to crush it, just knowing who she is and how she works,” Phelps said. “She’s a natural leader of people. She has an inquisitive nature. She’s a natural problem solver. And she’s not afraid to speak her mind in a professional manner. All good qualities of a good Intelligence officer.”

Spiller is expected to receive her orders to report for Intelligence training this summer. She hasn’t yet decided where she wants to focus her career: crime, espionage, or something else. She does know she eventually wants to join a major federal agency, like the FBI or CIA. 

While she is the first woman in her family to join the Air Force, she won’t be the only person getting a degree from USM. Her father, Jon Spiller, is also a student, studying occupational therapy as he prepares for his second career while his daughter gets ready to start her first. 

“USM, the state of Maine, has incredible resources for veterans,” Spiller said.