From NASA to Charleston: director reflects on career

By Airman 1st Class Helena Owens | Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs | Jan. 30, 2019

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —

Oftentimes as a young adult starting a career, retirement seems unattainable. But after three decades of civil service, Kathy Edenborough, 628th Contracting Squadron director of business operations and 628th Air Base Wing small business specialist, reached that goal at her retirement ceremony Jan. 30, 2019, at the Hunt Community Center on Joint Base Charleston.

Edenborough has served 30 years as a civil servant to NASA, the Army and the Air Force. Her career started out in 1986 as a budget analyst intern at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Inspired by her father, she continued her career as a contracting specialist for the Air Force.

“My father was a career Army officer, so I grew up as an Army brat,” said Edenborough. “It instilled that service mentality in me, but I never considered joining the military myself. I knew I would in some way be affiliated with it, so civil service was a natural fit for me.”

Edenborough said she couldn’t have made it without the instrumental people in her career assisting her along the way, starting with her parents. She said they gave her an idea of what a solid work ethic looked like and got her ready as a young professional fresh in her career. She also said her first supervisor at NASA was a prime example of what a leader and supervisor should be.

“She was a great trainer and mentor,” said Edenborough. “She set me up for the rest of my career

by teaching me how to work in an office setting with other people and how to be organized. She was a big influence early in my career.”

Within her 30 year career, Edenborough has lived in to four states, working through various units to include the Air Force Academy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. The changes gave her a wide perspective on government service.

“The mission of each place and organization varied a lot,” said Edenborough. “From a training environment, to the academy and then to an operational base here in Charleston. The military to civilian ratio was varied from place to place.”

She also said she loves working side by side with the military because of how everything can change so fast. Not only did the mission set change from location to location, but Edenborough said over the years the biggest change she has seen is the advancement in technology and how it is used within government service.

“Dating myself a little bit, I wrote the first email manual for the organization back when we began using email at NASA,” said Edenborough. “We have had a lot of technology changes in the way we do contracts here as well. The use of the internet and social media -- and the way we communicate -- is so much different than it used to be. But it makes it easy if you don’t fight it and just learn and adapt to it.”

Edenborough said her favorite part of her job is the people she works and worked with. She also enjoys training new people and getting to share her knowledge in the career field. But her favorite memory is what came to be known as “hat day.”

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009,” she explained. “When I was going through chemotherapy, I started losing my hair. When it first started happening, I told a few people about it and they said to just wear a hat to work. Then the next day, I wore a hat to work and everybody in my office wore a hat that day. That to me is what contracting has always been about, having each other’s back.”

One of Edenborough’s biggest accomplishments at Joint Base Charleston started as soon as she got here 10 years ago. She was involved in the first ever USAF joint contract for the Naval Weapons Station.

“When I think of Kathy and what she has contributed to the Joint Base over the last 10 years, there are many accomplishments that come to mind,” said Maj. Antony Barrios, 628th Contracting Squadron commander. “One when she was still on the floor doing contracting as a specialist and one as a leader in our squadron.”

He also spoke about Edenborough’s character and work ethic, noting that in his 12 year career, he has not served with a better deputy to a contracting squadron.

“She is the commander’s dream for a deputy, with the ability to direct operations and missions as well as keeping the gears running on the machine when I need her,” said Barrios. “In addition, she takes care of all the civilian matters and has direct involvement in growing the future leaders of contracting. With her being here, it seems like everything is on auto pilot with how well she does. It’s going to be a huge loss when she retires.”

As her career is coming to a close, and she thinks back through the years, Edenborough says she will mostly miss the interactions she gets to have with the people surrounding her on base, her civilian counterparts and even outside contractors from small businesses she deals with daily. She says she wouldn’t change anything about her three decades of civil service.