KOKOMO, Ind. — Amber (Gailey) Cargile witnessed death and destruction "on a biblical scale," as one of the first humanitarian workers in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
She was part of a multinational response team letting the world know what the Haitian people needed and how to help, and said it was one of the most meaningful deployments in her 20-year Air Force career.
Indiana University Kokomo will honor Cargile, 43, for her humanitarian service and military career with its Distinguished Alumni Award. She will receive the award at Commencement, on Tuesday, May 8.
"It was a humbling experience. You come out of it thankful for what you have, where you come from, and the opportunities you've had, " said Cargile, a 1990 graduate with a bachelor's degree in social and behavioral science. "I don't know that I've worked as hard anywhere else, but the rewards were immense. To know I was part of that initial group that came down and was helping steer the ship in the right direction was very rewarding."
Chancellor Michael Harris congratulated Cargile on the award.
"Amber Cargile represents the excellence we can expect of IU Kokomo graduates who receive a world-class education," Harris said. "I am grateful for her service to our country. This award is well-deserved."
Amanda Shoultz, president of the IU Kokomo Alumni Association, said the alumni board chose Cargile because of her military career and current job as spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Arizona District.
"She has used the leadership skills and knowledge gained as a student at IU Kokomo to make the world a better place through her impressive military career," Shoultz said.
Cargile said she was surprised and honored to be chosen for the award.
"My liberal arts education at IU Kokomo really gave me a foundation and prepared me to do just about anything. I learned critical thinking and writing, and had a broad-based understanding of how things work. Those skills have helped me throughout my career."
Cargile worked in radio after graduating from IU Kokomo, and then enrolled in the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School. Her military career included serving as head of the communications team in Guam doing humanitarian relief after the Asian tsunami in 2005, and as deputy spokeswoman for U.S. forces in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
She said her degree from IU Kokomo has been an asset to her throughout her career. After transferring from a larger private college, she cherishes the relationships she formed while on campus.
"You get a world-class Indiana University degree, but with smaller, more personal classes. Our professors cared about us not just in the classroom, but also as people," Cargile said. "You just don't get that at a larger campus. That is one of the gems IU Kokomo has to offer. It's more than book learning, it's the whole person."
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.