Walter Reed employee started working at age 17

Friday - 5/13/2011, 11:46am EDT

Carolyn Stoneburner, administrative officer, Walter Reed Army Medical Center

On working 42 years at Walter Reed.

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

Carolyn Stoneburner was 17 years old, fresh out of high school, when she started working as a secretary at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

When Walter Reed closes this summer as part of the Base Realignment and Closure, Stoneburner will have worked 42 years at the hospital.

In high school, Stoneburner had taken admin classes and scored high on the test administered by the Civil Service Commission, what is now the Office of Personnel Management.

She said she was offered a job at WRAMC the day of her interview there and started two weeks later.

"It's very homely to me," said Stoneburner, a Wheaton, Md. native, of the medical center. "It's where I grew up."

Stoneburner started in the pediatric department, then moved her way up to become chief secretary. She is now an administrative officer in charge of supplies and equipment.

Carolyn Stoneburner at age 17 when she started working at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. (Photo courtesy of WRAMC)

From typewriters to VTCs

Over four decades, Stoneburner has seen the full spectrum of technological advances. When she started as a secretary, Stoneburner said she used typewriters, three-by-five cards (even before Rolodexes) and paper calendars, only writing in pencil.

"God forbid you should write in ink because you'd have to change it all the time," Stoneburner said.

In the mid-1980s, the medical center received its first word-processor, inherited from the Defense Department.

"The screens were small and black with green letters," she said.

These days, all her work is done on computers and staff can meet with people from out-of-town through video teleconferences.

"Now you don't even use a paper calendar anymore," she said.

Stoneburner said her biggest concern about moving to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., is the camaraderie. Although most of her coworkers are also moving to Bethesda, the Naval medical center is larger.

"I won't see as many faces everyday as you can here," she said.

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