Army Helps Middle Child Find Success in Life
July 30, 2009
- "I wanted to do something that would make my father proud," said Caudle, whose father is a Korean War veteran.
- When I first got in the Army and found out we woke up in the morning at 5:30, it was like getting to sleep in.
- "I joined the Army and went 15 minutes down the road," Caudle joked.
- Warrant officers are subject matter experts. We are technical experts on particular weapon systems. We are well-rounded.
Among Anthony Caudle's siblings is an accountant, a teacher, a business owner, an Army contracting employee, a computer scientist, a postal employee and a hospital administrative. One of his seven sisters is the mayor of Triana. Another sister is married to former NFL hall of famer John Stallworth.
Caudle is the only career Soldier.
Growing up as a middle child in a family of 10 kids, Caudle knew he would have to work hard if he wanted to stand out from the rest. He found his chance to do just that as a chief warrant officer in the Army.
"I wanted to do something that would make my father proud," said Caudle, whose father is a Korean War veteran.
"I grew up on a farm in Triana. It was hard work. We raised cotton and corn. And, every morning, we had to feed the cows and the pigs. When I first got in the Army and found out we woke up in the morning at 5:30, it was like getting to sleep in. On the farm, we were up earlier than that feeding the livestock so that we could all get on the school bus at 6:30."
Coming from a large family, Caudle already knew plenty about leadership, teamwork and dedication when he joined the Army in 1982, after a semester at Alabama A&M University. The lessons he learned on the farm served him well during his 29-year Army career. Caudle retired in late June as a chief warrant officer 5, serving in his last assignment as the sustainment maintenance manager for the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space.
In a way, retiring at Redstone Arsenal seems appropriate for a home-grown guy who often found his career as an ordnance missile technician bringing him back to North Alabama.
"I joined the Army and went 15 minutes down the road," Caudle joked.
In actuality, Caudle's military career did take him around the world and nation. He has served in Korea twice, is an Operation Desert Storm veteran, and has been stationed at several U.S. bases, including Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Lewis, Wash.; and Fort Rucker. He was named Soldier of the Year during his first tour in Korea and as NCO of the Year while serving with the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell.
"I was blessed to have a tutelage of great NCOs early in my career who put me on the right path," Caudle said. "I was hungry for success. I knew I had to do well. I knew if I was going to go anywhere in my career with the Army that I had to be the best. At that time in my life, though, I didn't realize the significance of it."
Caudle was serving at Redstone Arsenal in 1988 when he was selected for warrant officer school, making him a member of an elite group that includes about 12,000 Soldiers in the entire Army.
"The main reason I went warrant was because I wanted to affect change," he said. "Warrant officers are subject matter experts. We are technical experts on particular weapon systems. We are well-rounded. We've got to be physically fit enough to run with the Soldiers, but also technically proficient enough to walk into a general's office and be candid about the technical capabilities of a system. We have to have the technical expertise to meet the challenge wherever it is."
Caudle trained at Fort Bliss as a short-range air defense warrant officer. He provided technical support during Operation Just Cause in Panama and then, while stationed with the 82nd, Caudle deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of the 3rd Brigade during Operation Desert Storm.
"I was the first non-aviation warrant officer deployed on the ground," he said of Operation Desert Storm. "I was assigned to an air defense battalion that's main purpose was to 'shoot, move and communicate.'
"We started in a warehouse and then moved out to the middle of the desert where there was absolutely nothing. We had over 500 pieces of equipment with us. As a battalion maintenance officer, I was in charge of overseeing repair and maintenance of that equipment and overseeing the work of warrant officers assigned to each of the battalion's four batteries."
During the deployment, Caudle was more worried about his family than he was about his living and working conditions.
"My major concern was that my family didn't know I was gone," he said. "We left in the middle of the night. The phones on post were cut off when we got the alert. My wife didn't know where we were for three weeks. We were familiar with alerts and moving at a moment's notice. We were prepared. We trained all the time. But it was still a stressful time."
There were no cell phones or Internet capabilities for Soldiers in theater in 1991. The Soldiers relied on the mail system to get information back and forth from the war front. Caudle was fortunate because on a trip to purchase supplies he was offered the use of a telephone by a merchant to contact home.
After Operation Desert Storm, Caudle was assigned to be a training instructor at the warrant officer school at Fort Rucker. During this two-year assignment, Caudle saw several changes in the warrant officer training, both in administration of the program and the type of instruction resulting from the Army's Desert Storm experience. He participated in a committee overseeing changes in warrant officer training and certification.
"I trained 2,000 warrant officers while I was there in everything from physical fitness to map reading and all the warrant courses," he said. "At the time, warrant officers completed warrant officer school and then their technical training before they were appointed to warrant officer 1. But that was changed while I was there, and I trained the first class of Soldiers to be appointed warrant officers 1 right after warrant officer school. It was the biggest appointment of warrant officers 1 at one time."
Caudle then returned to Redstone Arsenal, where he and his family lived while he completed his bachelor's degree in business management at Athens State College. He then was assigned to Fort Lewis, where he activated the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, which became a model for the Army's Stryker force. Other assignments included training short-range air defense personnel at Fort Bliss; and a second tour in Korea, where he was the battalion officer for the division maintenance team.
Caudle returned to Redstone Arsenal as an OMEMS instructor and as chief of the warrant officers training division, where he rewrote doctrine for warrant officer training. His last assignment was with PEO for Missiles and Space, where he oversaw the Army's reset program and was responsible for the Army's Unique Item Identification program, developing policy for marking missiles for identification.
During his career as a chief warrant officer, Caudle reached the highest level of professionalism, retiring as a chief warrant officer 5.
"My career as senior electronic missile technician has been so varied. If it's a missile system, I've had an opportunity to work on it," Caudle said.
"And I feel in my career I have affected change. As a CWO 5, I have been able to affect the way the whole Army does things. I've been on teams to study and improve the way we train warrant officer Soldiers and the way we deploy these Soldiers. I've been able to have an impact on the future of warrant officers and how they should be positioned in the Army. And I've had the opportunity to sit on selection boards for future warrant officers."
During his service, Caudle received the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Saudi Arabia/Kuwait Liberation Medal and several other medals. At his retirement ceremony, he received the Legion of Merit, a military award for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.
Caudle described his retirement ceremony as "bittersweet," saying "today is an extremely emotional day because I feel a sense of loss and change. It's sad to be saying goodbye to a job, career and an organization which I truly love. But at the same time I look forward to the new challenges that lie ahead."
He also described it as a "milestone" that he could not have reached without the help of fellow Soldiers, NCOs, officers, warrant officers, DoD civilians ("the glue that keeps the Army strong"), and friends and family. He especially thanked his wife Angela, who "defined sacrifice, love, loyalty and true happiness for me."
Caudle especially recognized the Soldiers - his first squad leader and first platoon sergeant -- who served as his mentors.
"These guys challenged me early in my career and forced me to take the next step. With their guidance, I won soldier of the year and went from E-3 to sergeant in one year," he said.
Caudle is now working in business development and customer service with local contractor MJLM Engineering & Technical Services. He and his wife, who works as a secretary with the Corps of Engineers in Huntsville, are raising their 12-year-old son Austin, who hopes to be like his dad when he grows up. Caudle is active with the Boys and Girls Club, and is a mentor to young kids through church and other organizations.
"I emphasize with them education and preparation," he said. "The measure of success all depends on where you came from. I want to help kids be successful in their lives and in their life choices."