Most people would feel blessed to achieve a career that spans 20 or more years and be ready to retire from an organization to which they dedicated so much of their time and life. For Lew Saunders, 20 years didn't even tell half the story.
Dr. Lewis Saunders, strategic studies coordinator for the Office of the Army Chief Information Officer/G-6, retired Jan. 21 at the Pentagon Hall of Heroes after more than 50 years of federal service. Fifty years, five months and six days, to be exact, with 36 of those years in the same role. Asked why he served so long and especially why he stayed in the same organization over the span of two careers, he simply responded, "because of the wonderful people in the organization."
Saunders started his venture with a one-way bus ticket to Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado, a $50 savings bond, $40 and the determination to acquire a physics degree. His goal back then was simple; he wanted to help people. It's safe to say that more than 50 years later, his goal had been met and surpassed.
Dr. Saunders began his impressive career in 1966 as an experimental physicist at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory in Dahlgren, Virginia. His Army service began in 1976 when he became an operations research analyst at Army Communications Electronics Office in Washington, D.C. As his government career took off, Saunders continued his education, receiving his master's degree in public administration from Troy State University in 1994 and completing his Ph.D. from Walden University in 2014.
Joining the CIO/G-6 team in 1980, Dr. Saunders was instrumental in driving its Strategic Studies Program. His coaching of subject matter experts and advocacy to the studies board enabled the CIO/G-6 to obtain phenomenal success rates in the studies program. Deputy CIO/G-6, Gary Wang said during Saunders's retirement ceremony, "Lew is very persuasive and a force to be reckoned with."
By establishing study sponsor and performer functions within CIO/G-6, Dr. Saunders secured funding to study cloud computing. He was an early proponent of cloud computing before the concept was well known. He felt the initiative was especially important to the Army and that the CIO/G-6 should lead the cloud computing effort, which has subsequently contributed to shaping the Army's cloud strategy and direction.
Dr. Saunders was also passionate about developing, presenting and analyzing the methodologies inherent in data analyses.
"These studies are important," Saunders said. "The recommendations will lead the Army, especially the CIO/G-6, toward a more secure, effective and efficient future for controlling its resources and providing security for its networks."
Key to Saunders' career, Wang said, is that his efforts allowed the CIO/G-6 and the Army to explore and pursue new technologies that enhance Soldiers' and leaders' efficacy, efficiency and safety.
"There is nothing more important than giving Soldiers and commanders the best tools available to accomplish the mission and return home safe," Wang said. "Lew took that mantra to heart and spent five decades turning a goal into a reality. Generations of men and women in uniform are indebted to Lew," he said.
So what does a man with 50 years in federal service do once he retires? According to Saunders, it's anything but sit on the porch and watch TV.
"I cannot afford to sit around and relax," he stated. "There is so much to do! I owe this not only to my mother and father, but also my wife and children. There is time to lie down when health requires it, however I have been blessed so far," Saunders said.
He plans to spend the majority of his time completing manuscripts for his two books, "The Threat to Privacy and Prevailing Information Warfare" and "Yes You Can!" The latter uses highlights from his life to encourage individuals to accomplish their goals and even surpass them.
Saunders will also offer his tremendous experience and mentorship to a local university as an adjunct professor. He also plans to start his own business in analytical studies, be a motivational speaker and--last but not least--visit his daughter and son-in-law in Kenya.
"Assisting others has always been my goal," Saunders said. "The joy and rewards came from the expressions on a person's face."
Dr. Saunders exemplifies the Army Civilian Corps Creed of dedication and support to the mission and followed this creed throughout his 50 years of civilian government service to leave a lasting impact on the organization as a whole.
"I had a fun job where I was given opportunities to effect the future, but also was blessed to work and interact with so many wonderful individuals," he said.