Women have always played a huge role in our military and today CN Salutes one of them, E-7 Master Sergeant Carole A Cudnik.
Cudnik enlisted in 1983 in the USAF delayed-entry program, and went active duty in August 1984. She went in open general, without a guaranteed job, hoping to land something in the medical field, as Cudnik had worked four years in a hospital prior to entering active duty. After completing a series of written tests in basic training, the Air Force classified her as an Intelligence Analyst.
When Cudnik asked her Training Instructor. “What would I be doing?” The response was “You’re not cleared to know that yet”. Cudnik served from1984-2008 and retired as a E-7 Master Sergeant.
What did you like most about serving?
I liked the idea that I was doing something good, and was a part of something bigger. I enjoyed seeing new countries and learning about new cultures. I’ve also made some very dear life-long friendships.
What prompted you to serve?
I’m from a small town in West Virginia. Back in those days, if you had been to Ohio and Pennsylvania, you were well traveled. I wanted to see something more and do something different.
What was some of the greatest challenges you faced?
Leaving my family behind, especially when the kids were smaller. I remember leaving for an overseas trip, back when your family could still accompany you to your boarding gate and see you off, my not-quite-two-year-old son yelled “goodbye, Mommy” while I was in line to board. I think I cried for a few hours on that flight. Also, the military lifestyle can be hard on a marriage. My husband and I both had been married before to military spouses, and it was difficult. Right before he and I married, he separated from the Air Force so he could follow me wherever I was sent.
What was the most rewarding experience?
Doing things I would never have dreamed of, if I’d stayed in West Virginia, and making some excellent life-long friendships.
What was the training and prep for your MOS?
It was a five-month or so training course at Goodfellow AFB, San Angelo, TX. I was there over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, which added more time overall, since classes were cancelled during those timeframes.
How did serving affect your family? Did they find their part of service rewarding?
I had already completed two overseas and one stateside assignment before marriage & kids. My daughter was born in Key West, FL; a few years later we PCS’d (Permanent Change of Station) to Maryland, where my son was born. For the longest time, my young son thought everyone was connected to the military. Once, when we were driving from Maryland to Michigan to visit my in-laws, I remember him asking what base his grandparents lived on. He was not quite four at the time, and I never realized until then just how “military” we were. He seemed amazed that not everyone was connected with the military. Shortly after our first PCS overseas as a family, I reminded my then pre-teen daughter of a bit of military protocol; she looked me square in the eyes, hands on hips, and said “I got this, Mom; I’ve been doing this military thing my entire life, remember?” We had a good laugh over that one. We did quite a bit of traveling, so the kids saw more than most kids their ages. When we were stationed in England, our family went on a Scout trip to Normandy (Omaha Beach) for a ceremony in honor of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, and my son was selected to lay a wreath during the ceremony. (See below)
My daughter went with the church youth group to Slovakia to teach Vacation Bible School and help rebuild a playground one summer. While they had fun doing new things, they had to sacrifice childhood experiences that their cousins took for granted. Every PCS move was difficult as they left schools and friends they had come to love. My son seemed to go with the flow, but my daughter doesn’t like change; each PCS move was a bit traumatic for her. Now that she’s in college, she’s glad for the experiences she had. Every day I’m thankful for husband; I couldn’t have done this without his support.
What opportunities, advantages, or disadvantages did you have after reentering civilian life?
I think my transition to civilian life was easier, as I landed a job as a defense contractor in the same unit from which I’d retired. I really can’t image not living near an Air Force base. I recently gave up contracting life and started my own business. I’m using my Post 911 GI bill to finish my college degree, which always took a back seat to everything else.
What is your advice to someone thinking about serving his or her country?
My uncle told me that I couldn’t join until I had talked to a recruiter from all branches of service. I think that was excellent advice. Also, consider the uniqueness of each branch; not everyone in the Air Force is a pilot, but it’s a good bet that if you join the Navy, at some point or another in your career, you’ll be on a ship – so if you get seasick, reconsider your choice or learn to live with it. Also, realize that needs of the military always come first – you might not get the job you want if the military needs you in something else. Last, and most important, don’t let one assignment in your young career influence you, especially if you didn’t like that assignment. Keep an open mind and find positive things about where you’re stationed or what your role is.
THANK YOU E-7 MASTER SERGEANT CAROLE A CUDNIK FOR YOUR SERVICE!
Today Carole Cudnik is a Freelance Editor, Proofreader & Researcher in the Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Florida area.