Civil Engineering Squadron bids farewell to an "American patriot"

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joe McFadden
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
After 29 years, 7 months and 11 days of federal service, John Carruth never thought he'd spend his last day on the job soaking wet.

But when his office arranged two fire trucks to spray streams at his ceremonial send-off Jan. 29, he had an idea of what would happen next.

"As I approached the rainbow streams, I looked back and asked as a group 'Is this far enough?'" he said. "They unanimously said it wasn't, so I turned and walked all the way through the water and got soaking wet. The fire fighters seemed to be ecstatic that I actually did it; they weren't expecting it. It was the most memorable way to close out my last day."

Mr. Carruth, former 1st Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron deputy base civil engineer, marked the last day of his career Jan. 30. He spent a combined 13 years at Hurlburt Field and oversaw many changes to the base and technologies during that time.

"When I first started, computers didn't exist, at least not on our desks," he said. "It was an era of carbon copies. If you made a mistake, administrative assistants would fix it or you'd have to type the whole thing all over again."

Mr. Carruth, a native of Pensacola, served as an architectural craftsman in the Navy during the Vietnam War. After getting his Bachelor of Construction Technology degree from Louisiana State University in 1975, he worked for a contractor in Pensacola and later created his own construction company.

He started his civil service career as a construction representative for the Navy in Pensacola in 1982. A year later, he switched to the Air Force to serve as the chief of construction management for the 834th Civil Engineering Squadron, which later became the 1st SOCES, at Hurlburt Field.

"Back in the 80s, Hurlburt Field used to be called 'Sleepy Hollow,'" he said. "There wasn't a lot happening here, and there was virtually nothing on the east side of this base except the 823rd RED HORSE squadron and the golf course."

Mr. Carruth said the decision to build a new commissary on the east side of base was one of the most controversial events during his career at Hurlburt Field.

"A lot of people thought it was way too far out of their way to locate a commissary over there in the woods," he said.

In 1987, he left Hurlburt Field for positions at Eglin Air Force Base, Ramstein Air Base, Germany and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

While attending his daughter's high school graduation in 2000, Mr. Carruth came across a unique job opportunity.

"I came to Hurlburt Field to say hello to my friends, and that's when I discovered that the previous deputy base civil engineer had passed away," he said. "When I got back to Germany, I put my name in for the vacancy and was fortunate enough to be selected."

Mr. Carruth returned to Hurlburt Field in December 2000 and remained until his retirement.

"His service has been selfless, and he showed a stark commitment to the base," said Lt. Col. Shawn Moore, 1st SOCES commander. "He's a true Southern gentleman, a fantastic engineer and an American patriot. Those three things showed why he stayed here to serve his country and how he best put his engineering talents to use."

The 1st SOCES honored Mr. Carruth with a special ceremony at the base fire department Jan. 19. He received the Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award after a speech by Col. Timothy Boone, the former 1st SOCES commander who originally hired him.

Mr. Carruth said the ceremony was incredible, but the ultimate test of strength was when his daughter sang 'God Bless America.'

"She told me 'Dad, you better not cry, because I will cry, too,'" he said. "She sang beautifully, too. It was a rich and incredibly memorable day."

As for his future, Mr. Carruth said he plans to take his time and enjoy life.

"At this point in one's life, you've earned a right to be particular about what you choose to do next," he said. "I have my retirement income, and I'm not rushing into my next job."

But as he closed the door on his civil service career, Mr. Carruth said he was grateful to serve alongside the men and women at Hurlburt Field.

"I'm just really proud and honored that I could be a part of a very important undertaking to keep our nation safe," he said.