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UNC veteran professor Joe Caddell 'a tremendous resource for students'

‘Uncle Joe’ provides mentor role for military students

Professor Joe Caddell of the peace, war and defense department in his office.
Professor Joe Caddell of the peace, war and defense department in his office.

Waiting outside professor Joe Caddell’s office in Hamilton Hall, Ross Oldham zipped open his green canvas bag Wednesday in search of materials for an upcoming make-up exam.

But Oldham, a peace, war and defense major and former Marine, doesn’t just visit Caddell out of necessity.

As a fellow veteran himself, Caddell has taken a mentor role for students like Oldham, providing a comfortable environment to reminisce on days of battle.

A former intelligence officer for the Air Force, Caddell has made a career out of his devotion to country and parlayed it into one of education.

He wears a pocketed tan or green military shirt on most days, a constant reminder of the profound way his service has molded his life.

“I never intended to make a career out of it,” Caddell said of his time in the military. “But I wanted to study it. I wanted firsthand experience.

“But I always knew I enjoyed academic life more than anything.”

From courses on the history of intelligence operations to air or sea power, students said Caddell’s passion — and experience — defy the age-old phrase of “those who can’t do teach.”

On a typical afternoon, Caddell can be found in his office with stacks of books and the company of eager students.

“He’s an awesome teacher,” Oldham said. “So many of us called him ‘Uncle Joe.’ He’s really able to connect with all his students.

“The perspective he brings as a former military server and the insider knowledge of the workings of the military and intelligence officers is amazing.”

That respect has also been appreciated by Caddell’s peers, who say Caddell’s firsthand knowledge proves to be invaluable in the classroom.

“Professor Caddell is a tremendous resource for students to have because he is academically trained, but also because he has a long professional career in the military,” said Wayne Lee, chairman of the PWAD curriculum.

“It’s interesting that he can combine these two things and make it so successful.”

Lee added that Caddell often shares war stories with his colleagues.

After attending the University as an undergraduate, where Caddell was a member of the ROTC, he entered the Air Force during the Cold War as a lieutenant colonel intelligence officer.

Following his service on active duty, Caddell spent 20 years in the reserves, where he said he gained valuable insight into life as a member of the armed forces.

Caddell said he never faced extreme danger while serving because he was an intelligence officer, but said he still witnessed both the good and bad aspects of life as a member of the armed forces.

“It was an interesting experience,” he said. “It was fascinating to be around people who are dedicated on a level that you don’t encounter in civilian life. Dedication is probably one of the most important things for people to have when serving.”

With the approach of Veterans Day, Caddell said he can’t help but get sentimental.

“You always seem to remember the good things,” he said. “Veterans Day is a day to stop and thank folks for their service to their country.

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“People often don’t realize that the people in the armed forces are doing what they’re doing so that everyone can go on doing what they need to with their own lives.”

Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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