If you ask Teresa Kaloi Newman to name the one thing most folks are shocked to learn about her, she would tell you she used to jump out of Marine Corps helicopters into shark-infested waters. It was a part of her job as a Navy pilot rescue swimmer and search and rescue boat coxswain. Jobs that were both physically demanding, as well as extremely dangerous.
For a country girl from Alabama who had lived most of her life on the same country road, suddenly quitting college in her sophomore year during winter break to join the Navy took everyone in her large and close-knit family by surprise. She agrees it was a somewhat impulsive decision, but it turned out to be a very good one.
That decision led her on a journey to live a most unusual life that took her around the globe and, finally, back home to Alabama. She has traveled to 28 of the 50 states and visited 52 countries. When Newman retires from the United States Army at the end of July, she and her husband, Derek, plan to travel across North America aboard their customized RV. They recently celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary on New Year's Eve, 2022.
As colorful and diverse as her life has been, the amazing "highs" she has experienced have been tempered by some equally tragic and traumatizing "lows." The types of difficult situations that would have mentally crippled someone who lacked her resilience and sheer force of will.
Newman was born in Marshall County, Alabama, located in the northeastern part of the state between Huntsville to the northeast, Birmingham to the southwest, and east of Brindlee Mountain, an isolated portion of the Appalachian Mountains.
Her parents, Rufus and Madge Campbell, were teenagers working in a factory when they met and married in the 1950s. Their factory hours were long, but neither was a stranger to hard work—they came from a long line of farmers who had settled in that area in the late 1700s and early 1800s. They loved their work, took great pride in it, and taught Newman the value and integrity of hard work early on. Her father passed away in 2017, and her mother just recently, shortly before Christmas on December 19, 2022. She was 81.
Growing up, Newman was surrounded by her large extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her childhood home sits on 23 acres of inherited land nestled on the northwest top of Brindlee Mountain. Her fourth great-grandfather acquired the land in the 1800s from Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. It remains in her family and is where she currently lives.
Her upbringing was extremely strict, and her family didn't celebrate holidays or birthdays. But growing up in the Appalachian countryside more than made up for how restrictive her childhood was at times. There were farm animals to play with, bluffs to climb, and caves to explore. There was even a waterfall that would freeze during the winter and create massive icicles. She rode pigs into ponds, climbed trees, and rode bikes. When playtime was over, she helped with the farming: she milked cows, slopped hogs, dug up potatoes, and picked and shoveled corn into corn cribs. Later, she would help her grandmother peel potatoes for dinner, snap or shell peas for canning, and pick tomatoes and okra from the garden. But most of all, she loved and lived for the stories her grandmother would tell about how life used to be living and growing up on the mountain.
Newman graduated from Albert P. Brewer High School, home of the Patriots, in 1980. She was a good student and an even better athlete. She played varsity volleyball, was team captain and excelled at softball. She was often chosen as the most valuable player and selected for the All-Star teams. She was also a cheerleader, gymnast, and student council member. In her senior year, she was chosen as Homecoming Queen.
When Newman joined the Navy in 1983, she was 20 years old. She was attending the University of Alabama at Huntsville and living at home. Newman had a job as a waitress after school and on weekends. She didn't know she would enlist until she was in the recruiter's office. She just knew she wanted to be somewhere other than where she was. She didn't tell anyone, not her family or closest friends, until afterward.
After completing boot camp in Orlando, Florida, her first duty station was at the Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Air Station in Hawaii in Waterfront Operations. She had always been motivated to help people who needed it. She fully embraced the Navy's rescue swimmer's motto, "So others may live."
But after five years, she left active duty in 1988, returned to the Huntsville, Alabama area, joined the Naval Reserves, was assigned to the Military Sealift Command, and then later to the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Force.
Her first civilian job was with the United Technologies Corporation, United Space Booster (now Raytheon) in Huntsville. She spent one year as a technical editor/computer graphics operator and five years as a technical data aid.
Newman returned to school and completed her Bachelor of Science degree in business administration in 1992 from Athens State University in Athens, Alabama.
She left the workforce in 1993 to be a stay-at-home mom and didn't return to work until 1997, when her kids were in school. In February 2000, tragedy struck. She was hit by a car, and her lower left leg was severed. Rather than be fitted with a prosthetic, she convinced the emergency room's medical staff to reattach her leg. It took several surgeries, quite a while to heal and recover, and a lot of hard work to use the limb again. But she never gave up, and through it all, it never occurred to her that the reattachment process would be anything but a success.
In time, she could jog again and pass the Navy's physical fitness assessments. Initially, she walked with a limp, but eventually, she was able to stop limping altogether. She credits it to the indomitable spirit of her English and Scottish heritage.
As painful as it was to lose her limb and go through the lengthy process of having it reattached, that painful period also saw the ending of her first marriage. That, too, would require time to heal, recover, and come back from. It was made considerably easier when she relocated to London, England, along with her children, to work for the Navy.
When she returned to the United States in 2004, she worked as a Subsystem Analysis Group administrative assistant at the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center (RTC) on Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. RTC is a subordinate organization of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command.
Since 2006, Newman has been a budget analyst and funds certifier for the S8 Resource Management Office. Newman says she works at RTC because she wanted a job that mattered and added value. She feels her role as budget analyst does that by making sure congressionally appropriated funds are properly allocated to RTC's projects and programs so its mission requirements can be expertly executed.
RTC's services ensure the safety, performance, and reliability of military hardware and embedded software in their operational environment. Each test program is optimized with the best combination and sequence of testing, modeling, and simulation to provide the best technical results for the customer's dollar.
RTC's strength lies in its highly skilled workforce, one of which is Newman, who is dedicated to providing the safest and most effective weapons systems possible to Soldiers in the field. Newman feels she helps make a Warfighter's equipment more reliable and lethal and their environmental conditions more sustainable.
But ultimately, what her job provides is safe, state-of-the-art equipment and systems for the Warfighter using the items RTC tests. The person RTC helps could be someone's son or daughter, a friend's husband or wife, a brother or a sister. The work RTC does matters, and its commitment to the Soldier makes a lasting difference.
Newman has received many awards and honors over the years. The most meaningful award by far is the Humanitarian Service Medal she received for the support she provided for Operation Unified Assistance in Singapore in 2005. This operation was the Department of Defense's humanitarian response to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, which devastated Southeast Asia on December 26, 2004, killed more than
225,000 people, and left millions more injured without medical assistance, shelter, food, or safe drinking water. Without the humanitarian aid Operation Unified Assistance provided, hundreds of thousands more could have died. It was her sincere honor to aid the people in that region of the world during such a tragic event.
Newman officially retired from the Naval Reserves in 2007 as a Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate (E8). In 2008, she earned a Master of Science degree in business management from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida, while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
Newman is proud to have spent much of her life serving her country. Now she's eagerly looking forward to her upcoming retirement and investing more time to herself and her well-being. Or simply relaxing while she and Derek enjoy more bird-watching from the screened-in deck of their mountainside home atop Brindlee Mountain.