WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army appointed seven new Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army during an investiture ceremony Nov. 13 here in the Pentagon.
The Honorable Ryan D. McCarthy, Secretary of the Army, selected the following to represent the following states or territory: Michael B. Brown, Oklahoma (South); Steven Castleton, New York (South); Dan Dederick, North Carolina (East); Landy Dunham, Florida (Central); Beresford F. Edwards, Virgin Islands; Nicole Gilmore, Massachusetts; and Erica Jeffries Purdo, New Jersey.
"It is my distinct privilege to welcome our new CASAs to the CASA program," McCarthy said. "Each offers fresh eyes and brings new perspective to how we recruit future Soldiers. Social media and reaching out to influencers of those with a proclivity to serve is important.
"CASAs are a valuable asset in the community and help make a difference by moving the recruiting needle," McCarthy said. "The Army is open for business and we're looking for the best of the best. There's a war on talent and the Army must win!"
CASAs are a vital part of the Army, promoting good relations between the Army and the public and advising the Secretary about regional issues.
Each state, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories have one or more CASAs appointed to provide a vital link between the Army and the communities for which they serve. CASAs are usually business or civic leaders who possess a keen interest in the welfare of the Army and their communities.
CASAs serve a two-year term without compensation. Terms may be extended to a total of 10 years of service. The secretary may recognize a civilian aide as a CASA Emeritus after 10 years of service with distinguished service.
Michael B. Brown, Oklahoma (South)
"Community service and giving back are keys to my life. 'Find the Good … And Them Some is my mantra," Brown said. "Working in the Lawton Fort Sill community allows me to see firsthand the quality of our soldiers and the world's greatest Army at work. I am humbled and honored the secretary chose me to serve Oklahoma. I am thankful for the example set by my predecessor, Bill Burgess, and I look forward to partnering with Kevin Offel, Jill Castilla, and Gib Gibson, CASA emeritus, as we serve the soldiers of this great state."
An Oklahoma State University graduate, Brown owns a successful construction company in Lawton. He served his city for two terms as councilman and mayor pro tempore. He served as Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce board chairman and as a Military Affairs Committee member. He is active in the development of the Veterans Resource Center and the Soldier Family Council. He also heads up the Fires Patriots and is a member of the Lawton Fort Sill Working Group.
Steven Castleton, New York (South)
"I am both humbled and honored by this appointment," Castleton said. "Being there for both the Blue Star and Gold Star Families is part of who I am. With having two sons and a daughter-in-law who have and are presently serving in the Army, and having walked in the shoes of many family members, I can relate too many of their sacrifices.
"One of the my proudest accomplishments is having worked with recruiters from all branches of the armed forces to conduct joint service enlistments for more than 1,000 future service members at professional sporting events, he said.
Castleton was previously honored at West Point's Annual Gold Star Luncheon as recipient, United States Army's Commander's Award for Public Service. He was presented the Meritorious Public Service Medal from the Deputy Chief of Staff, United States Army, for "outstanding commitment to excellence, dedication to duty and selfless service." This is the third highest honor within the public service awards scheme of the Department of the Army that can be awarded to a private citizen.
Dan Dederick, North Carolina (East)
"I want to thank Secretary McCarthy for the opportunity to serve as an Army CASA," Dederick said. "My father and uncle served in the Army and from them and others I learned the value of service. The experiences I gained over some 30 years of military service caused me to be acutely aware of the inner workings and specific needs of our service men and women and their families. I have a strong willingness to spread the Army message and work as an advocate for soldiers and their families."
Dederick is involved in supporting and planning significant Fort Bragg projects to include the 9-11 Memorial; 82nd Airborne Division Memorial; U.S. Army Special Operations Command Memorial Wall; and Operation Celebrate Children -- Disney on Ice, an event for the benefit of children of deployed soldiers. Additionally, he contributes regularly to scholarship programs designed for children of Gold Star families and Wounded Warriors
Landy Dunham, Florida (Central)
"My family and I, 'Team Dunham,' have always been proud of our military service and have considered it our duty to share the Army's story with our communities," Dunham said. "My wife and I are both children of Vietnam veterans. We were both blessed to feel the pride and love resulting from the bonds our fathers shared with their comrades in arms. Those feelings ultimately brought us both to West Point and carried us though 26 years of leading Soldiers and caring for their families. I am humbled, extremely honored, and excited to partner with my fellow CASA, Allie Braswell, to continue telling the Army's amazing story throughout Central Florida."
Dunham is currently senior director of human resources, AllianceRx Walgreens Prime. He is a member of the Orlando Mayor's Veterans Advisory Council, Executive Committee member of the Sunshine Chapter of AUSA, and member of the West Point Society of Central Florida. Additionally, he's a member of the Orlando Chapter for the Society for Human Resources Management, the Central Florida Chapter of the Army Aviation Association of America, the West Point Association of Graduates, and Holy Family Catholic Church.
Beresford F. Edwards, Virgin Islands
"First, I thank God for His unmerited favor. I would also like to thank Brig. Gen. (VI) Kodjo Knox-Limbacker for nominating me for the CASA position, and I am grateful to Secretary McCarthy for selecting me to serve in this prestigious position," Edwards said. "Since retiring from military service in 2012, I dedicated my life to serve the men and women of the Virgin Islands National Guard. I look forward to the opportunity to serve the Guardians of the Eastern Front in my new capacity."
A distinguish graduate of the Virgin Islands Military Academy, Lt. Col. (retired) Edwards served over 32 years in the Virgin Islands National Guard as a military police officer. His major assignments included company commander, training officer, mobilization readiness officer; plans, operations and training officer; Troop Commander; Director, Property and Fiscal Officer; and Facilities Engineer. In 2009, he was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where he served as the Deputy Director of the Commissions Support Group.
Nicole Gilmore, Massachusetts
"Service is at the core of who we are as a family. Whether serving the country or serving the community, I believe we are all called to make a difference in the lives of others and in the world," Gilmore said. "I have tremendous respect for our soldiers and veterans and I am grateful the secretary has given me the opportunity to support them in Massachusetts. I am thankful for the example set by my predecessor, and I look forward to partnering with Brian Concannon as we serve the soldiers of this great state."
Gilmore is director, Leadership and Management Development, MITRE Corporation, where she creates enterprise level strategy for learning and growth. She previously led strategy and operations for the New England Venture Capital Association's Hack.Diversity. Before joining the NEVCA, she built Boston based startup, Savanna Technologies. Prior to joining Savanna, she worked as a strategy consultant and has extensive experience in healthcare and finance. She enjoys teaching economics at Harvard College and previously taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Erica Jeffries Purdo, New Jersey
"Service has always been important to my family, whether it is service to our country or within the community," Jeffries Purdo said. I have a passion for soldiers and veterans and I am grateful that the Secretary has afforded me the opportunity to serve New Jersey. I look forward to partnering with Rich Eastman as we serve the soldiers of this great state."
A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Jeffries Purdo served in 4th Infantry Division as an aviation officer. Throughout her career, Jeffries Purdo served in both public and private sectors. She joined Johnson & Johnson in May of 2018. Prior to joining J&J, she was director, Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs. She also served as a White House Fellow. In the private sector, Jeffries Purdo specialized in defense strategy and national security policy with assignments in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.