REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama – When Americans are called to serve as Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, they not only answer the call, some never hang up the phone.
On Veterans Day, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command honors not only those heroes who served on active duty but also those who continue to serve as Department of the Army civilians.
“This year, Veterans Day is especially significant, as it also marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II,” said. Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, USASMDC commanding general. “With more than 405,000 Americans killed in action, it remains one of the bloodiest in our nation’s history, second only to the Civil War. Today, some 300,000 World War II veterans are still with us; men and women whose humility, integrity, work ethic and strong sense of personal responsibility have earned them the well-deserved honorific, ‘The Greatest Generation.’
“We owe these veterans, as we do all of our veterans, a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid,” Karbler added. “And we have a duty to ensure that our younger veterans have the support and assistance they deserve when they return home from active duty. Whether they need help adjusting to life as a civilian, pursuing an academic career, or transitioning to new jobs that leverage their real-world experience, it is our responsibility to take care of those who have served and sacrificed for our nation.”
One such veteran, Charles “Mike” Cornett, 1st Space Brigade military human resources specialist, has been serving as a civilian with the USASMDC since September 1995, while serving in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Korea.
Cornett enlisted in the Army and served overseas in Korea and Turkey from 1971 to 1979, as a field artilleryman. He then served from 1979 to 1985 in the Colorado Army National Guard as a gun chief on the 8-inch self-propelled howitzer before accepting an active Guard/Reserve position as unit administrator beginning in 1981.
He completed Officer Candidate School through the Colorado Army National Guard in 1985. As an officer, Cornett served overseas in Panama, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. He retired as a captain with 20 years of active federal service in May 1994.
“My primary motivation for joining the Army at age 18 was to obtain employment, and to return to Korea where I grew up to get married to my high school sweetheart,” Cornett said. “Upon retirement in 1994, I bounced around for about a year selling insurance and doing odd jobs. It seemed that the Army was what I knew best, and I felt most comfortable in the military environment. I kept applying for civilian positions until I finally got a temporary position at Fort Carson, then after three months I was accepted for the full-time military human resources specialist position with SMDC.
“It’s a privilege to serve my country,” he added. “My career with the Army - enlisted man, officer and Army civilian - has been a richly rewarding experience. I’ve had lots of different jobs and been all around the world. Yet, each day I have more to learn and encounter something new. When I have the opportunity to talk to young Soldiers, I always encourage them to seriously consider the Army as a career.”
Another veteran, Wanda G. Woodson, Mission Support Team lead for the U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade, joined the Women’s Army Corp in 1975 as a radio-teletype repair person and was first assigned to a motor pool at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where her job was depot-level maintenance on radio teletype rigs.
In 1981, she reclassified and retrained as a satellite earth station equipment maintainer and as a satellite communication ground mobile forces mission controller. She later attended detailed factory training on Defense Satellite Communications System satellites. Her experiences led her to work in the SATCOM field on all three segments; ground, control and space.
Woodson served in the Signal Branch all of her military career and said she enjoyed learning about what was then a very new technology in satellite communications. She said joining the Army initially was about survival.
“My parents were divorcing, my scholarship ran out and I was in my junior year with a full-class load working 10 hours a day as a waitress and barely making it,” Woodson said. “A recruiter approached me and told me about the GI Bill and how I could use it to pay for my degree. After my first enlistment I found that I had grown fond of the Army and learning new things and seeing new places.”
Woodson worked as a contractor for six years before applying for a civilian job in the SATCOM field, which she had been a part of for about 20 years while in the Army.
“I served my country to the best of my ability and I feel like I made a contribution,” Woodson said. “I have been places, been challenged, and learned and accomplished things I never would have imagined.”