Commander overcomes disorder, hopes to inspire others

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Janelle Patiño
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
"Despite having Tourette syndrome, it never really stopped me from doing the things I like and I definitely didn't see it stopping me from joining the Air Force," said Maj. Kelly Hannum

Picture being a commander and having Tourette's at the same time; this only proves that anybody, with or without a condition, can do whatever they desire as long as you work hard for it. Hannum, 336th Training Support Squadron commander, was diagnosed with Tourette's when he joined the Air Force in 1998 and it never stopped him from serving our country for 14 years and counting.

"I am here to prove to everybody that having this condition, you can be successful and have a normal life along with your family," he said. "I'm here to share my story and inspire people especially, those who have the same condition as I do."

Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary tics and vocalizations and often the compulsive utterance of obscenities. Individuals with Tourette's often experience social difficulties, which may be caused by other's negative perceptions of persons with the disorder.

"I thought I was weird for having these tics, twitches and squeaks as a kid," Hannum said. "Looking back now, I realize that I not only have a normal life, but I have a really amazing life with my lovely wife and three kids."

It's no secret that people with any condition sometimes find it difficult to fit in, particularly with those who don't understand the situation.

"There were some people who made fun of me back in college, but I was lucky enough to have real friends who were there to defend me," he said. "As time passed by, I learned to treat it with humor when people treated me differently."

According to Hannum, he has learned to be more open about his condition because hiding it felt like he wasn't being honest to the people he's close with and work with and most especially himself. Take that chance because it's not healthy to hide it for the rest of your life, he said.

"It's amazing how many people have come up to me and share their story whenever I get the opportunity to share mine," Hannum said. "I want to reach out to people and let them know, especially to those who have the same condition as I do, that we too can be as successful and as happy as everybody else."

Being driven to excel in everything is in Hannum's nature and it's not just because of his condition.

"Ever since I joined the military, I tend to go after jobs I thought sounded interesting to me," he said. "I definitely like being challenged and I like trying new things I thought I could never do."

According to Staff Sgt. Andrew Prussner, 336th Training Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment supervisor, first impressions of the new commander are very good. He seems like a very down to earth guy who truly cares about the welfare of his people.

"I was working gate guard when it was raining and he was on his way out ... About 20 minutes later I see his car pull up, he came over to me holding his Gore Tex jacket and gave it to me," Prussner said. "In my opinion, a lot of times things like this are done by people because they feel like they have to do it, but with him it seemed very genuine."

As a commander, responsibilities cover a wide range of activities and Hannum, being the 336th TRSS commander for one month now, will do his best for his squadron to remain the best.

"We all have challenges that we have to face," Hannum said. "The challenges I face are a little more apparent than others, but you can either let it get you down and let it be something that can hold you back or you can deal with it and have a positive outlook in life. For me, I am not the type to tell myself no and self eliminate."