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The Charge of Excellence: An Interview with Wayne Caudill, Veteran Fellow

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How have your previous experiences as a veteran informed your experience at El Pomar?

When I look back at my experiences in the Army, I often reflect on the challenge and charge of excellence in all we do. The commitment to the mission, to those we supported, and ultimately to one another, was reflected in that excellence. Looking forward at my role with El Pomar I see the same alignment with excellence in what we do at the Foundation. Here we commit to enhance, encourage, and promote the current and future well-being of the people of Colorado. While 5:30 am formations are now substituted by 8:00 am meetings, and body armor has been exchanged for business suits, the same team building, creativity, and collaboration exist – and the coffee is certainly better.

 

Are there lessons from your experience as a medic that apply to your job at El Pomar or adjustments you needed to make?

It certainly helps having a medic around. I often get asked for advice about the oddest ailments. It is a gift to bring that ‘Doc’ feel to the team, and people look at you and treat you differently.  At times I try to show strong professionalism, and it might come off as rigid, or I may seem abrupt and intense. I really am just trying to support the team. As things progress here, I try to have a little more fun and let others know it is okay to have fun with me. I am a normal person just like them. I’m just older, have kids and a wife, been to combat, and I have a very dry sense of humor.

What role did your time as a SLE scholar play in your development as a leader?

The Student Leadership Experience was phenomenal. I worked on a project that still stands to this day. The lessons learned around teamwork, leadership, and communications were very valuable.  Also, SLE was a stepping stone to my work at El Pomar. SLE exposed me to so many other leaders, and the mixing and mashing of people and ideas drives innovation. I made some really great friends, and I met some amazing leaders and asked them questions. SLE offers access to top-level leadership and training unparalleled anywhere in the college system.

Wayne and his daughter indoor camping at their church.

What is your experience being a father and husband in a program traditionally focused for recent college graduates?

Ok, I will own it – I am old. There are times when it’s great to see the energy and focus of the Fellowship in action. Being older allows me to enjoy little moments where I have the opportunity to speak from a perspective of experience. My favorite times are when I learn something from another Fellow. The perspectives and opinions of my coworkers are impressive, and they have solid arguments when you engage them in a discussion.  For me, being a Fellow is tough at times because I miss my family – but that is universal with all employees. I have some jokes and references that really show my age – it is surprising to me that so many people don’t know what “Fraggle Rock” is. I sing a lot of Disney songs, and I sometimes come off parent-like when we are doing something. We all joked on Outward Bound that I make other Fellows feel like their dad is there looking out for them. At least I hope it was a joke.

What is your favorite program you’ve worked on so far at El Pomar?

I really enjoyed the American Council of Young Political Leaders – Chinese Delegation. Meeting leaders from another culture, showing them around the Front Range, talking with important political figures, and sharing insights and thoughts about the world was great! Even with a language barrier we communicated well and discussed important topics. It was very nice to overcome assumptions and hear that these were just human beings trying to live good lives. Making that connection gives me greater hope for the global community given the sensationalism and negativity in the news. I also really enjoyed the Rocky Mountain Tax Seminar. The nerd in me enjoys logistics and managing many moving parts to create a viable product. El Pomar Foundation is known for its ability to execute with excellence – so the Seminar was a strong opportunity to learn.

 

Wayne with his father and son. Both of Wayne's parents are also veterans.

Any idea what you want to do after the Fellowship?

I know that I want to reengage the veteran community. When I came onboard at the Foundation, I wanted to try something new, with more business focus. Being here revitalized something in me that I was suppressing. I want to help those veterans struggling to make the leap from soldier to civilian. I am very proud to be a veteran, and I feel that if I can make it easier or better for the next guy or gal, then that’s what I want to do. Whether it is teaching, coaching, mentoring, or simply listening to my brothers and sisters of the Armed Forces, I want to improve their lives. There are a myriad of programs El Pomar Foundation supports that speak to that effort, and getting the exposure here is opening all kinds of doors and sparking new ideas.

What would you want to ask yourself?

The only question people really want to know about an experience is ‘would you do it all over again?’ The truth is – yeah, I would. I have a great opportunity here: a wonderful family, awesome friends, and coworkers, and I am learning something every day. I would dive right in and make the most of every second.

 

Wayne Caudill is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs. After two overseas deployments as a medic in the Army, Wayne came to Colorado and spent the last few years using the GI Bill to go to college. He lives in Colorado Springs with his wife Alice, their two children Kyle and Kira, and Wayne’s very best friend Harley, the family’s oversized Boxer. He was awarded the Iraq Campaign Badge, the Combat Medical Badge, and Army Commendation Medal. Wayne is honored to be the inaugural member of the El Pomar Foundation Veteran Fellowship – and sincerely hopes he doesn’t screw it up!