Kathryn F. Wirkus was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She graduated from Coral Gables Senior High School in 1970 and went on to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro [UNCG]. She graduated in 1974 with a degree in childhood education and returned to Miami, where she taught kindergarten for a year. In 1976 Wirkus returned to UNCG to work towards a master's degree in communication and broadcast journalism, and was employed with the Greensboro magazine This Week in the Triad.
Wirkus enlisted in the air force and attended Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in summer of 1978. Her first assignment was to the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Headquarters at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, where she worked in the ROTC office scheduling cadets and writing curriculum for two years. Wirkus was then transferred to Headquarters, Air Force Office of Special Investigations in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an education training officer. She was next stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico as the education training officer for the 1550 Combat Crew Training Wing.
After being passed over for promotion to major, she left the air force and joined the Air National Guard. She married Tom Lott, an air force security forces officer, and worked as a juvenile probation officer in downtown Albuquerque. During this time she underwent treatment for kidney cancer and earned a master's degree in guidance and counseling. Next, she and her husband moved to Norton Air Force Base, San Bernardino, California, where Wirkus as a served social actions officer on base and later worked as a Spanish-English teacher for an elementary school. Eighteen months later, she and her husband moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, and she went inactive for a year. When the couple moved to March Air Force Base in California, Wirkus worked in a reserve position as the Individual Mobilization Augmentee. She was sent to Panama Canal and worked at Howard Air Force Base as the Air Force Reserve Program Manager for Headquarters U.S. Southern Command. In 1997, when the U.S. Southern Command relocated to Miami, Wirkus returned to active duty as Air Force Reserve Program Manager.
In 1999, she transferred to the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, Colorado, where she worked as the chief of career management in the directorate of assignments for the air force reserve. From October 2002 to March 2003, Wirkus was deployed to Bogotá, Columbia, as deputy for the training mission. Her last assignment was as program manager for the Air Force Reserve at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Wirkus retired from the U.S. Air Force in April 2006.