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Admiral Daryl Caudle Inspires NROTC Midshipmen During Visit to NC State

The commander of U.S. Fleet Forces who oversees naval operations spanning the entire East Coast and Atlantic Ocean bonded with NC State students over Chipotle and engaging conversation.

Admiral Daryl Caudle speaks directly to a Naval ROTC midshipman while others look on in the background

It isn’t every day you get to eat Chipotle across the table from one of the highest-ranking military officers in the nation, but NC State’s Naval ROTC midshipmen had the opportunity to do just that earlier this week.

On Tuesday, April 11, Adm. Daryl Caudle (Chemical Engineering ’85) returned to his alma mater to meet with current NROTC midshipmen, share stories and answer their questions. Following the event in Reynolds Coliseum, he also met with Chancellor Randy Woodson and university leadership in Holladay Hall. Caudle is the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces and oversees naval operations spanning the entire East Coast and the Atlantic Ocean. He is also one of only eight officers in the Navy at the 4-star admiral rank.

Admiral Caudle shakes hands with Chancellor Randy Woodson in his office, surrounded by other people
Caudle shakes hands with Chancellor Randy Woodson

“Admiral Caudle is a great mentor of mine and I’m so glad we’ve stayed connected,” said Capt. Andrew Hertel, commanding officer of the North Carolina Piedmont Region NROTC. “I’m honored he could come down here and engage with the future of the Navy.”

It was a homecoming in multiple ways for Caudle, who is a native of North Carolina (Winston-Salem) and graduated magna cum laude from NC State. 

“I feel very at home here on the grounds of NC State University,” Caudle said. “It’s great to be able to interface with folks who are coming into the Navy and Marine Corps and to spend some time with you.”

Caudle speaks in front of a large crowd of midshipmen wearing camouflage uniforms
Adm. Caudle addresses midshipmen after a luncheon in the West Lobby of Reynolds Coliseum

Caudle has served in the Navy for almost 38 years. As the Atlantic Coast fleet commander, he manages a $16 billion budget organization that includes approximately 125,000 sailors and civilians, 1,000 aircraft and 125 ships. 

“The best way to think about it is if you’re stationed on the East Coast, you’re going to be working for me,” Caudle said.

In addition to giving an overview of his background and responsibilities, Caudle briefed the midshipmen about current world issues and the Navy’s involvement. He discussed the war between Ukraine and Russia, tensions between China and Taiwan and the United States’ standing in the global economy. He also discussed the Navy’s preparedness for war and involvement in deterring nuclear conflict with Russia.

“So why do I sleep well at night? It’s you,” he said. “It’s our service men and women across the globe. There’s an innate grit and toughness in our country that cannot be replicated. Many have tried, but we just do not know how to lose. When we are committed to something, we are world class.”

Caudle standing in the center of a large group of uniformed people on the center of the basketball court, with everyone making wolfie signs with their hands
Adm. Caudle and the midshipmen show their wolfies on the basketball court in Reynolds Coliseum

During the Q&A portion of the event, several midshipmen asked follow-up questions about relations between the U.S. and China, the nation’s military budget, and on a lighter note, fun stories at sea. He was also asked about his official portrait, in which he is wearing his NC State class ring. One midshipman asked what it was like being a “regular cadet” in a career where Naval Academy graduates typically dominate the leadership positions.

Caudle answered that he has never experienced any disadvantage from receiving officer training from a public university. In fact, he pointed out that the top three candidates (including himself) who could replace the current chief of Naval operations when he retires are graduates of public universities.

Caudle speaks to the entire group of cadets in the center of the gym in Reynolds Coliseum
Adm. Caudle gives parting advice to NROTC cadets in Reynolds Coliseum

“With 100% certainty, the next chief of naval operations will not be a Naval Academy grad,” he said. “I don’t know when the last time that’s happened, but it just shows you that the talent comes from all over.”

In his experience, Caudle said job performance is always what matters most.

“If there is a meritocracy on the planet, you are in the right place,” he said. “What’s in your noggin is what matters. Your ability to understand and put what you’ve learned into practice — that’s the currency in the U.S. Navy.”

Learn more about the Naval ROTC program at NC State on its website, and learn more about NC State’s Military and Veteran Services and how the university supports military-affiliated students here.