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Spotlight | Jan. 18, 2024

Karen Spidell's Professional Journey

Army CID Chief Strategy Officer

As the Army CID Chief Strategy Officer, I have the unique honor of developing, communicating, and executing various special projects and programs assigned by the Director, Deputy Director, and Chief of Staff that align with the transformation, direction, and mission of CID. Previously, I served as the Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations (DAIGI) for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS). Prior to my DCIS career, I served in the U.S. Air Force, separating after 15 years as an enlisted special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Over my 38+ years of law enforcement experience, from an enlisted law enforcement specialist and enlisted agent to a civilian in 1811, I have been blessed to serve in a wide array of criminal investigative, counterintelligence, and national security operational spaces.  

I wish I could say I constructed a vision board, mapped out my career path, or had some amazing story of why I was inspired to go into law enforcement. That would be the furthest from the truth; the truth is that growing up with older brothers, I always wanted to follow in their footsteps—they treated me more like a little brother than a little sister. In hindsight, I realized they were toughening me up and preparing me for a tough neighborhood and, ultimately, life. Whatever they did, I wanted to do it, so when they went into the military right after high school, I did the same. I signed up at 17 and went into the Air Force as a cop at my first duty station in Germany. Another motivator was my mom working multiple jobs, so we were never without; I didn’t want her to do the same, putting me through college. I admire my mom, and wanting to be strong and independent like her, I left the nest. My success is intimately tied to my faith and family.

As I learned and grew in my career, perseverance and a myriad of challenges molded me into the leader I am today. My success is equally tied to teamwork, partnerships, and the mentors who took me under their wings. Additionally, I learned a great deal from working for some phenomenal leaders. Responding to the attacks on 911 and working in response to a variety of deployments and other critical crime scene incidents gave me a chance to observe the true measure of a leader and teamwork. “Calm under pressure” comes to mind, and I got the chance to observe the value in it and later apply it in my role as a leader.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Success sometimes requires you to have the ability to self-advocate when no one reaches in to build you up. In leadership, you don’t have to have a manager’s title; leadership is within everyone’s role to apply knowledge and give back to others while building them up to take our place when we move on. The challenges I faced throughout my career, from boots on the ground to upper-level management, equipped me with an incredible toolbox. I am humbled that CID provided me with the remarkable opportunity to give back by utilizing those tools in my role as the Chief Strategy Officer.

Transparency, availability, listening skills, accountability, how to give credit for the wins, and taking responsibility for the losses are qualities of leadership. True leaders don’t “know it all,” and there is no fear or shame in admitting they are not the experts in the room; their only power comes from their ability to leverage the experts in the room. Additionally, CID is committed to building a diverse and inclusive workplace platform in its truest sense. Leveraging unique individual backgrounds, knowledge, and perspectives to maximize organizational success.


Update: Ms. Karen Spidell has recently been promoted to the position of Chief of Staff for Army CID headquarters.