By Beth Skarupa, USAG Redstone January 4, 2012
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Carolyn Caudle started working for the government at age 19 with a temporary position in the office of Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, one of the nine original scientists from Dr. Wernher von Braun's team living in the U.S. at the time.
"I was too young to appreciate that," Caudle, executive assistant to the AMCOM commander, said a few days before retiring in December after 31 years of government service. She said she liked working for Stuhlinger and she appreciated that he always called her "Ms."
After a series of temporary positions, Caudle secured a permanent position with the government working for Contracts Repair Parts. She later quit government work to be a stay-at-home mom for 14 years. "My son says that's why he's so perfect," she said, laughing. "I came back kicking and screaming, thinking it would only be temporary."
Caudle came back to work for the System Analysis Battle Management Directorate with what is now the Space and Missile Defense Command, working there until joining the Aviation and Missile Command in the late 1980s. She ended up working for eight general officers over the years: Maj. Gen. Jan Van Proyen, Maj. Gen. Bill Nance, Maj. Gen. Robert Armbruster, Brig. Gen. Steve Flohr, Maj. Gen. John Urias, Lt. Gen. Jim Pillsbury, Maj. Gen. Jim Myles and Maj. Gen. Jim Rogers.
"It's all been great, I've just had a ball," Caudle said. "I'm honored to have had these years to do this. I'm fortunate, I've had great bosses and it's been a wonderful opportunity."
She explained that she especially enjoyed the personal feeling of involvement she had in recent years with so much equated to helping the Soldiers. "And I love the helicopters," she added.
Caudle said she decided to retire because she had been thinking about retiring for years. She also said that she didn't want to outlive her usefulness and it was just time to go.
"I'm looking forward to spending time with my grandchildren and enjoying life more," she said.
Originally from Fayetteville, she and her husband Dwight live in Taft, Tenn. He is a retired postmaster and Caudle joked that they don't know if they're going to make it together or not. "I told him, 'All right, buddy, I'm messing up your playhouse,'" she said, laughing.
Caudle and her husband have three children and four grandchildren: their daughter Molly lives nearby with her husband Jay and 4-year-old Jack; their son Matt and his wife Maureen live in Murfreesboro, Tenn., with 9-year-old Kate and 8-year-old John Owen; and their daughter Jennifer lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband Brian and 3-year-old Lucy Caroline.
Although she may get involved in something eventually -- she said she has had some offers -- she is going to take awhile to relax before making any decisions. "I need time for me, time to pursue other interests," she said. Those other interests include entertaining, trying her hand at painting again, volunteering in her "little Main Street" in Fayetteville, and getting involved in her church and community.
When asked what she found most challenging about her job, Caudle replied that she would like to say balancing the heavy workload with the hours required to maintain a family, but she said she did not have a balance of work and family.
"One good thing is, only after I worked here all those years did I get more of a sense of making a difference for these generals. Since 1994 I've been able to feel like I was making it easier for them to help the Soldier. Before that I was just working to work. It's a good feeling, knowing that you're helping," she said.
Now she's ready to step away from it all and take time to see old friends, enjoy her hobbies and grandchildren, and maybe even go to Disney World some day.