03/20/06 — Wife gets top award for work at SJAFB

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Wife gets top award for work at SJAFB

By Turner Walston
Published in News on March 20, 2006 1:45 PM

One of the most popular people at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base isn't a general, colonel or major. She's not even enlisted.

Her name is Cathy Woodson, and she is the wife of Col. Harry Woodson, commander of the 916th Mission Support Group.

Recently, Mrs. Woodson received the 2006 Katharine B. Wright Memorial Award by 4th Air Force. The award, named for the sister of Orville and Wilbur Wright, is given to a civilian who supports the Air Force through extraordinary efforts and selflessness.

"Cathy has not only helped my career, but she has also helped the whole air base," said Woodson, who nominated his wife for the award.

Mrs. Woodson serves as president of the Officer and Civilian Spouses Club. Woodson says his wife has inspired military officers to open up lines of communication between the 916th Air Refueling Wing and the 4th Fighter Wing.

"If our wives are talking to each other, we should be talking to each other, too," he said.

Mrs. Woodson said it is important to maintain a strong network for spouses of military members.

"It's hard enough for them doing their duty without having to worry about their families," she said.

But that network is not just for support of military members. It brings together wives with a common interest, as well.

"It's a networking that we've established to help not only military personnel, but also the spouses," she said. "The heart of my heart is for the spouses."

Mrs. Woodson sold the roofing business she inherited from her brother in 2001 and now calls herself retired, even though she works many hours in her current post on base.

Her husband said she has applied what she learned while in business to her work with military spouses.

Because of U.S. involvement in worldwide conflict, Mrs. Woodson said the role of the reservist spouse is changing.

"Now, it's a different time," she said. "These spouses are dealing with things they've never had to deal with before."

Unlike active-duty military members, reservists typically have full-time jobs outside of the military. "They're going to other countries and leaving their full-time jobs. They're gone for months at a time. The reserve spouse is going through an adjustment."

Recognizing the need for a support network for spouses of reservists, Mrs. Woodson explored the programs at the base's Family Support Center.

"I didn't set out to do this for awards," she said. "I volunteered in all their different programs so that I could learn what they had to offer the reservists."

That enabled her to discover what could best fit the needs of her "clientele."

"It looked to me that how can one group help another if you don't understand what each other's needs are?"

To keep reservist spouses informed of programs available to them, Mrs. Woodson began writing columns for the Wright Flyer, the 916th's monthly newsletter.

"I wanted to pass along as much information as I was learning."

With reservists members of the 916th in several states, Mrs. Woodson said, "targeting those spouses is a little different."

Having won the Katharine Wright Award at the 4th Air Force level, Mrs. Woodson will now compete with candidates from other Air Force bases and Air Force Reserve Command.

But her husband says she is already a winner.

"What Cathy's doing is just incredible," her husband said. "Her contributions have been huge."