Leadership is their life

It’s been a short 10 years. Assignments in Hawaii and Washington, D.C., Haiti and Iraq.

“It’s a fascinating job. It has flown,” said the Rev. Stephanie Hudson Caldwell, married 10 years as of last June to Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV. He’s the commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and oversees the Command and General Staff College as well as 17 other schools, centers and training programs around the country.

The Caldwells, both Columbus natives, are headlining the annual Servant Leadership Conference sponsored by the Pastoral Institute on Nov. 7. It is 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. in the Sycamore Room of the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.

Rick Caldwell of Columbus, Lt. Gen. Caldwell’s brother, met Stephanie when she was the associate pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church and Rick was a member there. At that time, she was recently graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. Rick thought she and his brother would make a good match.

The first time she met her future husband was when he was visiting family here for the Christmas holidays in 1997.

They married in 1998 at St. Simons Island, Ga. The couple were then stationed at the Pentagon and lived in Arlington, Va. Two years later, they moved to Hawaii.

They now have three children ages 9, 7 and 5. Lt. Gen. Caldwell also has two children from a previous marriage, ages 22 and 25.

In addition to Rick Caldwell, the couple’s family in Columbus includes Stephanie’s father and stepmother, Dr. Ron Hudson and Gina Hudson; Stephanie’s brother Jeff Hudson; and Lt. Gen. Caldwell’s father and stepmother, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William B. Caldwell III and Elaine Flowers Caldwell of Midland; and another sibling, Fontaine Jenkins. Two other sisters, Dana Thor and Theresa Burton, live out of town.

The Caldwells have been stationed at Fort Leavenworth since July 2007.

“There’s no typical day,” Stephanie Caldwell said. “Because he’s in a command position, we attend a lot of functions together. When he travels, my days slow down. Fort Leavenworth is really an educational center. A lot of majors in the Army come here for mid-career level educational courses.

“Because of that, international officers come from 50 or more countries. There’s a lot of entertaining in this job.”

Prior to the family’s move to Kansas, Lt. Gen. Caldwell served as deputy chief of staff for Strategic Effects and spokesperson for the Multi-National Force-Iraq, and appeared regularly on national news channels for briefings on the war. Stephanie and their three youngest children stayed behind at Fort Benning, for his 13-month deployment.

Lt. Gen. Caldwell’s decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal and the Bronze Star. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1976. In addition, he attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, as a Senior Service College Fellow.

In a 2006 column for the Washington Post, sent from Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Caldwell wrote: “I don’t see a civil war in Iraq. I don’t see a constituency for civil war. The vast majority of the people want hope for their families, not to massacre their neighbors or divide their country.”

“I see the Iraqi people suffering from overlapping terrorist campaigns by extremist groups combined with the mass criminality that too often accompanies the sudden toppling of a dictatorship. This poses a different military challenge than does a civil war.”

Lt. Gen. Caldwell spent his early childhood at the U.S. Military Academy, when his father was stationed there.

“I found that I just really had a great respect and admiration for the cadets at the academy,” Caldwell has said. “I thought, ‘Boy, I’d love to do something like that one day.’ Then with time, I thought I’d like to serve in the armed forces, and so that led me to apply for the military academy.”

The conference in Columbus will focus on servant leadership. It’s an approach to guiding others that, as the name implies, puts employee needs ahead of the person in charge of a company or organization. Key to this approach: listening, empathy and development. In the modern era, a man named Robert Greenleaf published an essay in 1970, “The Servant as Leader,” which later became a book.

The Pastoral Institute, a nonprofit counseling and education center, has a Servant Leadership division; and some of the major local companies espouse this teaching.

“Servant leadership is often thought of as soft leadership by some. The U.S. Army is redefining this reality,” said the Rev. Ron King, Ph.D., director of the institute.

“Servant leadership is a reality for the military. It is about empowering the soldiers.”

Stephanie Caldwell named her husband as her own model of servant leadership.

“I’ve learned more about leadership just by watching Bill and his colleagues — how they make decisions and sacrifices, and the lifestyle they lead,” said Stephanie, who every now and then preaches in a United Methodist congregation around the Army post.

“Even growing up (in Columbus), I didn’t know anything about the military until I married into it. It’s a real eye-opener and it’s impressive to watch these military leaders.”