Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV looked liked a civilian Monday afternoon. Dressed in a suit and tie, he was interviewing to become the next executive director of Columbus State University's Cunningham Center for Leadership Development.
Talking to him you could sense the extensive military pedigree, but there were no briefcase-toting aides, no uniforms.
The Columbus native, West Point graduate and 37-year Army officer knows a little about leadership. He currently is assigned to Fort Sam Houston, where he is commanding general of U.S. Army North, known as the Fifth Army.
Though his retirement is not official and has yet to be approved by the Secretary of the Army, Caldwell has informed Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, chief of staff of the Army and a West Point classmate, that he intends to leave this summer.
"I will officially retire and move into the private sector," Caldwell said Monday between interview sessions at CSU. " I don't have to right now. It's not like I am being forced to retire."
Caldwell just turned 59, and he said the personal timing is right to step away.
He is one of four candidates interviewing for the Cunningham Center position this week as the university looks to replace Carmen Cavezza, who retired a month ago.
The other three Cunningham Center finalists are retired Gen. James C. Yarbrough, retired Gen. William T. Wolf and Dr. Christopher Shove, a military social scientist and college professor from Missouri.
Caldwell knows Wolf and Yarbrough, and he called them "imminently qualified" and "great officers." Caldwell does not know Shove.
"The university is in a win-win situation," Caldwell said.
There are plenty of reasons for Caldwell to look toward Columbus as he transitions into the private sector. His father, also a retired three-star general, lives here. His wife, Stephanie Hudson Caldwell, was the associate pastor at St. Paul United Methodist Church when they met about 18 years ago. She is from Columbus and her father, Dr. Ron Hudson, lives here.
His Columbus roots go deep.
He was home for Thanksgiving when he learned the Cunningham Center job was opening. He called CSU President Tim Mescon. They had a discussion about CSU and the Cunningham Center, which is a regional source of leadership and sales training.
From there, he applied.
Caldwell has been a three-star general for nearly six years and through three commands -- North Army, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan.
That is rare.
For 13 months in 2006 and 2007, Caldwell became the face of the U.S. efforts in Iraq. He was Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Effects -- in civilian terms, he was the spokesperson for the
And it was a critical time, his tenure started six months before the military surge that altered the direction of the conflict.
"The summer of 2006 was the worst time in Iraq," Caldwell said. "We were suffering massive casualties and people were questioning the mission."
Gen. David Petraeus took charge of the Iraq effort, and Caldwell became the voice, interacting with the international media.
He also became an expert on the effort.
"I studied facts and figures all the time," he said, crediting a team that helped him assemble the information.
While the Cunningham Center job has drawn an attractive field of finalists, one of the qualities that Caldwell would bring, ironically, is something that was not in the original job description.
With his media savvy and the fact he is coming out of the fight just as the military is looking to slim down, Caldwell would be a national expert. He would be someone who could speak with authority on a wide variety of military issues.
And, he has 13 months in front of the camera.
In this time of 24-hour news networks that are always looking for an expert to offer insight, a retired Caldwell would certainly be someone who would come to the attention of major news networks.
Mescon has made no secret he wants to expand the profile of the university across the region, state and country. It would not hurt to have Caldwell on national television with Columbus State University on the screen.
This is not saying CSU will hire Caldwell. As he stated, the retired generals who are in the candidate pool with him are quality officers and people. Shove, the sociologist, has an impressive academic resume.
But by applying for the job six months before he leaves the Army, Caldwell certainly has given CSU something to think about.
Chuck Williams, senior editor for content, firstname.lastname@example.org