JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
After 50 years of federal service, Claudia Wood, a supply technician at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, retired recently during an informal ceremony and potluck lunch.
As she closes this chapter in her life, Wood said she plans to stay busy by helping others, but this time she won’t be doing it for a salary – she’ll be doing it to provide affection and compassion to babies who need to feel human warmth and love.
“I plan on being a baby cuddler at one of the local hospitals,” Wood said. She added that a baby cuddler is someone who volunteers at a neonatal intensive care unit to provide premature babies with the human contact that is essential for their strength and well-being. Studies have shown how important it is for a baby’s development to be held, especially when the parents cannot be there to hold and cuddle them.
“I know Claudia will do fabulous as a baby cuddler,” said Leila C. Rathburn, chief of the USAISR Logistics Division. “This is an amazing program with documented health benefits for both the babies and volunteers. Claudia has the life experience, calmness, and compassion that is needed to comfort these infants.”
“I haven’t found a hospital in San Antonio that has a baby cuddler program yet,” Wood said. “But as soon as I find a hospital, you can bet that I’ll be there as a volunteer.”
Before she begins volunteering, Wood said she plans on taking a couple weeks to just relax and enjoy not having to go to work – something that she said she’ll miss.
“I really liked what I did at the USAISR,” she said. “Working with and being part of medical maintenance is the best job ever. I am going to miss interacting with the vendors, maintenance engineers, setting up appointments for preventive maintenance and repairs. Most of all, I will miss being around the people who I worked with.”
“Claudia is a humble individual who is pleasant to be around,” Rathburn added. “She is always focused on the task at hand and provides excellent customer service support to everyone who crosses her path. Claudia is one of those rare individuals who instantly becomes a friend to anyone.”
Wood joined the Institute in 2010 after transferring from Brooks City Base in San Antonio. Her first job as a federal employee was in 1965, but she had a break in service that changed her first year in federal service to 1968. Her first job was at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, as a card punch operator.
She transferred in early 1982 to Camp Humphreys, South Korea, and then to the Presidio of San Francisco later that year. Ten years later, she transferred to Brooks City Base.
“Most of my family worked for the government,” she said. “We lived in a seashore town in New Jersey, so most people in the area worked at Fort Monmouth or traveled to New York City.”
On Sept. 29, 2018 when she officially retired, Wood will have exactly 50 years and seven days of federal service.
“I will definitely miss Claudia’s caring demeanor and willingness to put her best foot forward in support of our combat casualty care mission,” Rathburn said.