Huff Post 5150 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Loudon celebrated a change of command ceremony, installing John Cardwell as the new post commander.
VFW District 2 Commander Mickey Vickery retrieved the gavel of command from Alvin Wagner and turned it over to Cardwell.
Wagner led the post the past three years. He instituted and strengthened programs to assist veterans and their families, supported and celebrated the veteran and first responders, improved camaraderie among post members and families and perpetuated the memory and history of local veterans.
“Although the COVID pandemic impacted our community, as well as all VFW members, Commander Wagner turned over a stronger and more vibrant post than when he took command,” Cardwell said.
As commander for Post 5150 and junior vice commander of VFW District 2, Cardwell boasts the experience of a long U.S. Army career and family legacy. His father, James Cardwell, was commander of Post 5150 from 1960-1961. The father and son legacy is the first for the post.
A magna cum laude graduate of Loudon High School, Cardwell attended the University of Tennessee on a Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship, where he served as cadet brigade commander and was selected as a distinguished military graduate.
He graduated at the top of his class from the Armor Officer Basic Course and was awarded the James L. Harris Award for Leadership and Tactical Excellence before attending and graduating from U.S. Army Ranger School.
Cardwell held assignments 1985-1988 as a tank platoon leader, company executive officer and battalion maintenance officer with the 68th Armor in Mannheim, Germany. From 1988-1990, he served as an officer with the 10th Cavalry in the 82nd Airborne division. He served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm with the 82nd Airborne, earning the Bronze Star.
His last active-duty assignment was as a senior Army advisor with the 24th Infantry Division.
He entered the Army Reserve, serving in various senior officer positions, including Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, as deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and emergency preparedness liaison officer for Tennessee. From 2013-2015 as commander of the 9th Mission Support Command, Cardwell commanded all reserve forces in the Pacific. Upon completion of the command, he was awarded the Army’s highest peace-time award, the Distinguished Service Medal.
From 2015-2017, he served as the commanding general for the 75th Training Command, where he was responsible for the development of leader training, battle simulations and served as lead assess for the headquarters of U.S. Forces Korea and United Nation’s headquarters in Korea. Later assignments included NORAD and NORTHCOM, where he oversaw the largest reserve mobilization since the Vietnam War in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cardwell has also been quite busy in civilian life. He was a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch in Knoxville for 10 years. He joined United Community Bank in Lenoir City in 2004 as financial advisor for all branches in Tennessee and was responsible for all trust and investment in the state. He volunteers for Weekend Food for Kids, coached middle school basketball for 15 years and was scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 215 in Loudon. He has also served on the Loudon Regional Planning Commission and is current vice chairman of the Loudon Industrial Development Board.
Cardwell said he is proud to serve Post 5150, which was founded in 1946 by veterans of WWII. He said the post was named after members of the prominent Huff family of Loudon who donated the land for the facility. Two Huff brothers died in WWII.
He said the post was active after WWII and Korea, but activity declined following the Vietnam era. Invigorated by a new generation of Gulf War and Afghanistan veterans, the post has about 90 members.
To join the VFW, members must have served in a combat zone, which would include those who served in Korea or on submarines.
Cardwell said veterans join the organization because they like being around other veterans and because they still feel the desire to serve. The post has been helping veterans in need as well as serving the community in general. He said there are also quite a few women who are active.
The post is currently working on a project to identify and mark the grave of every veteran in the county. In the fall, the post will host the 911 Awards for local first responders.