U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District’s Laurie Fudge, Engineering Division administrative officer, recently retired as a major from the Air National Guard, 130th Airlift Wing, based out of West Virginia after 20 years of honorable service as a critical care nurse.
The ceremony was held Jan. 11, 2020, at McLaughlin Air Force Base in Charleston, West Virginia.
According to the unit’s website, the 130th Airlift Wing is a part of the West Virginia Air National Guard, stationed at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base in Charleston. If activated to federal service, the wing is gained by the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command. The base operates a fleet of eight C-130H Hercules cargo aircraft known as the “Workhorse of the Air Force.”
The West Virginia Air National Guard serves FEMA Region 3 (Washington, D.C. area). Anytime there is a State of the Union, Presidential Inauguration, pope visit, G-20 Summit, African Summit, or any other high profile event, the West Virginia Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Packages team is activated, according to Fudge.
“We spent every presidential event since 2011 either inside the Capitol or (on) the front lawn of the Capitol ready to get to work if the need arose,” Fudge said. “I was able to see the Pope when he came to D.C. in 2015, and I was in the Capitol when President Trump gave his State of the Union Address last year. Our convoy always received a police escort through the busy streets of D.C., which was one of my favorite parts.”
Fudge began her USACE and military career in 1999.
“I started with USACE in 1999 as a student admin in the Operations Division at the Huntington District,” Fudge said. “I was a double major at Marshall University in Huntington, obtaining bachelor’s degrees in nursing and in business management. Soon after starting at the Corps, I decided I wanted to join the Air Force.”
Fudge joined the West Virginia Air National Guard as an Airman First Class, where her job was an operations resource management apprentice. She tracked the training for the pilots, co-pilots and navigators who flew for their unit to ensure they were mission ready.
“In 2006, I moved to South Carolina, where I started working in a trauma hospital in the Intensive Care Unit,” Fudge said. “I became homesick and moved back to West Virginia in 2007, where I continued working as a critical care nurse.”
It was then, in 2007, when Fudge received her commission as a second lieutenant in the West Virginia Air National Guard as a critical care nurse.
“I was part of the CERFP,” Fudge said. “I was a homeland defense first responder for mass casualty/CBRNE events, and I remained in the 130th Medical Group as a nurse until my retirement in December 2019 as a major.”
One of Fudge’s favorite experiences was working with the West Virginia Swift Water Rescue Team training for water rescue missions.
“I volunteered to be a “bobber” and jumped in the Cheat River to be rescued via helicopter by some of my fellow medics as we were pushed downstream,” Fudge said. “The rescuers must certify every six months by “rescuing” the bobbers by being lowered from a Blackhawk into rushing water. This proved difficult with all of the external factors involved. The rescuer located me in the river and placed a harness around me to lift me out of the river and into the Blackhawk, all while battling the wind, freezing water, a panicked bobber, and a lot of pressure. It was terrifying, but I would’ve never had that opportunity if it wasn’t for the National Guard.”
Fudge enjoyed many things about working for the Air National Guard, but her favorite was the camaraderie.
“You can put a lot of people in the same room that might not have a single other thing in common, but you know deep down that those people would have my back just as I would have theirs,” Fudge said. “We always managed to find the humor in things, and even the most horrible tasks didn’t seem so bad.”
Fudge accepted a position with the Louisville District in the Engineering Division as an administrative officer in 2018.
“By this time, I was ready for a career change and hung up my nursing hat to utilize my management degree instead,” Fudge said.
Fudge is excited for life after Air National Guard retirement.
“I don’t remember life without the military,” Fudge said. “Without fail, I would always miss something fun because of drill weekend; anniversaries, birthdays, weddings or other social events. I’m looking forward to not missing another special event with my friends and family.”
Fudge was gone from home a lot during her tour of duty and is now really looking forward to spending time with her family.
“I am excited to have extra time back to spend with my husband, Tim, our cat, D.J., and our three dogs (Rocky, Bailey and Maddie),” Fudge said. “I’m also looking forward to my next adventure of volunteering at the Harrison County Humane Society and taking care of animals in need.”