FORT KNOX, Ky. – For most families in the Bluegrass state, summer includes trips to the beach, spending time with loved ones and battling the dreadful humidity. For Cadets and military personnel tasked to support Cadet Summer Training (CST) at Fort Knox, summer brings hours of training, hot days in the field and many sleepless nights.
For the Kadetz family, summer means both. Doug and Connie Kadetz, along with their two children Zachary and Melia, spend their time supporting and training the future leaders of our nation’s Army.
“We’re a family of service,” said Connie.
While training requirements demand cadre travel from across the country, the Kadetz family call central Kentucky home. Following in their father’s footsteps of military service, Louisville natives, Doug and Connie, met and began their journey by joining the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at Eastern Kentucky University.
Following her initial service obligation, Connie entered the Inactive Ready Reserve while Doug remained on active duty as an armor officer at Fort Knox. After 24 years of service and moving 12 times, Doug and Connie have come full circle back to Fort Knox.
“You never think 24 years later you’ll be coming back and living in the same area you had your first apartment at,” Doug noted.
Doug retired in October 2015 as a lieutenant colonel in the active component. Upon arrival to Fort Knox, he took a job as the deployment coordinator for the Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) Program of Cadet Command. CULP is an integral part of ROTC training and affords Cadets the opportunity to travel and work with their foreign counterparts, while broadening their horizons as global leaders. Throughout the summer, Doug is coordinating in-processing and the return of over 1,300 Cadets as they travel worldwide in over 42 countries.
He isn’t the only member of the family that shares the hardships of CST. His wife and two children know a thing or two about selfless service and duty. After relocating to the Fort Knox area and settling in, Connie set aside her teaching profession and began a new career with the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program.
“I feel very comfortable in this job. Being in the military and serving alongside my husband on the home front, I understand the demands of military life. Whether it be enlisted, dependent or going through retirement, I have experienced it all and enjoy helping Soldiers in all phases of their transition,” she added.
Connie’s dedication to others is something of a shared attribute. Her and Doug’s daughter, Melia, an incoming sophomore majoring in education at Eastern Kentucky University, sidelined her summer vacation plans to help train Cadets. Not only is she helping train Cadets this summer, she is planning on joining the Army Reserves. Melia is serving as a role player in a new training exercise designed to help Cadets learn to mediate with local governments when deployed.
“This is their [the Cadets] first real-life exercise and if we don’t do our job correctly, they fail in the field. If they fail in the field, they’ll fail while deployed,” Melia said.
Melia’s brother, Spc. Zachary Kadetz, is also playing a critical role supporting Cadet Summer Training. He is currently stationed at Fort Hood, TX as a combat medic with the 21st Combat Support Hospital (CSH). Kadetz was tasked to support CST by providing emergency medical support for the Cadets as they train. Along with offering his medical assistances, Zach was granted a unique opportunity to reconnect with his family this summer.
With all four members of the family participating in CST, one can imagine the sacrifices made. Not only is the family imbued with some form of Army training on a daily basis, Doug and Connie have opened up their home for Zachary’s wife and her child while tasked to Ft. Knox for the summer.
“It is wonderful to have him home and to be able to build a stronger relationship with our daughter-in-law and granddaughter,” Doug added.
The Kadetz family are no strangers to embracing the difficulties that come hand-in-hand while living a life of service. Connie often had to become a temporary single parent while Doug was deployed and take up responsibilities of both mother and father.
“It’s made my wife very strong and independent. She held down the fort and raised our family. I’m very proud and thankful for her,” Doug stated. “It also made my kids stronger and more independent. They’ve adapted to it.”
Doug believes raising children in military life is a blessing in disguise. Although he recognizes the difficulties moving so often must have had on his children, Doug appreciates that it has made his kids more diverse and accepting of others and society.
“I want my kids to experience the same things I did and to have a military life,” Melia added, “I loved my life and the way I was raised enough to want it for my children.”
When asked about raising her two kids by herself while Doug was away, Connie stated that she believes spouses of deployed Soldiers must have a strong support system. Whether that be immediate or military family, support is a huge factor in maintaining a stable family life with a husband or wife away.
“Being away from home, there is no support system besides the military so you have to rely on your neighbors and your military family to help you,” Connie said.
Even from across the globe, the Kadetz family is continuing their devotion to the military community by acting as a stand-in family for Cdt. Tyler Dexter on his CST graduation day. The Dexter and Kadetz families become friends after being stationed together years ago and have kept in touch despite the distance. While the Dexter family is currently stationed in Korea, Tyler is attending Virginia Tech University and going through ROTC.
“It makes me feel comfortable knowing there are people here who I know and trust. Having their support on graduation day will make not having my family here much easier,” Tyler stated.
For the Kadetz family, service and duty is a family affair. Whether it be supporting Cadet Summer Training, helping Soldiers transition to new journeys, or being a support system within the military community, the Kadetz family lives by military values.
“We’re very proud of our country and we’re very proud to be in the Army. The Army has been wonderful to us and we’re honored to be able to give back in any way we can,” Connie said.