By Pamela Ramey, USAG RedstoneJune 9, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- USASAC employees waited in line for a taste of the hot dogs and sausages being served by the Soldier in uniform manning the grill. Some approached with respectful reservation. Others laughed and joked with their new leader. With a smile and a kind word for each person he met, he fed his civilian troops in more ways than one.
"I'm here to serve you," Sgt. Maj. William Kaundart said. And it was clear that he meant more than just hot dogs.
A California native, Kaundart's service to his country began 27 years ago at Fort Benning, Ga. He worked his way through the ranks to his current position as the senior enlisted adviser to the commander of the Army Security Assistance Command. He brings to Redstone a lengthy resume of training and leadership at many major installations in the United States.
He also brings to the post a young family, a wife who is battling terminal Multiple Sclerosis, and a "major-sized" testimony of their ultimate faith in God.
To the outside world, Jill Kaundart is the picture of a loving, devoted and healthy Army wife and mother. However, three and a half years ago, she was diagnosed as terminal after doctors discovered more than 20 lesions on her brain.
"Not to be emotional, but we chose to move here, knowing that my wife would either recover here or move on," Kaundart said. "We prayed about it and put it in God's hands."
Kaundart fell in love with Redstone during BRAC-related visits here more than two years ago. He thought it would be a great place to raise his family, and began the process of obtaining a transfer. However, open-heart surgery for him and his wife's declining condition raised big challenges. He had to receive clearance for the move from Gen. Ann Dunwoody, commander of the Army Materiel Command.
Officials here worked with the Kaundarts to find medical help for both of them.
After meeting Jill, former Huntsville mayor Loretta Spencer sent her a list of doctors in the area who could treat her MS. Others sent them information about cardiologists for Sgt. Maj. Kaundart. The Kaundarts received clearance and moved here in February.
"Everyone here, on the post and in the city -- Mayor (Tommy) Battle's office, too, has been very receptive. What they've done for us, they've done for everyone moving down here," Kaundart said.
The Kaundarts have a laundry list of places they have lived in their almost three decades of marriage - some were favorites; some were not. Kaundart said that despite the difficulties of the past few years, he has never once thought about quitting the Army for a more sedentary lifestyle.
"I love my job. I love the people. I get to travel a lot, and I get to tell the civilian's side of the Army story," he said.
"People always shake the Soldier's hand, but they don't realize that we couldn't do what we do without civilian help," said Kaundart. "AMC is, I think, a 92 percent civilian organization. Some of the people in USASAC have been here for 40-plus years. The pay is not great and there's not much glory. But what they do helps to bring our Soldiers home."
Home and family life are important to Kaundart. He and his wife have two adult children who live out of the area, and three younger children still at home: Jaedyn, 14, Noah, 9, and Sophia, 3. The children are homeschooled but have made many friends here at their church, Weatherly Assembly of God, and at their Taekwondo school. Jaedyn and Noah both hold black belts in Taekwondo.
"We are lucky. Our kids actually like to move, and they are good at making friends," Jill said, laughing. "I like that they get to meet different nationalities of people. I also like getting a new house to decorate every few years. The thought of staying in one place for a long time scares me now."
Wanderlust has already struck her. The family is planning a trip to Jordan in April, to "walk in the steps of Jesus"; and plans for overseas travel after the Kaundart's retirement in a few years are on her mind as well.
But for the foreseeable future, Huntsville is home to the Kaundarts - so much so that Jill is actively pursuing plans to move her parents down here from New York as soon as possible.
"No matter where we go next, we will come back here," Jill said. "We feel like God brought us here."