AFA General Retiring, Taking Colonel with Him


When Lt. Gen. Mike Gould finished his long days at the Air Force Academy, he would head home to talk to the colonel.

That's retired Air Force Col. Paula Gould, a former tanker pilot and his wife of 33 years.

Through decades of marriage, the couple have worked in tandem to climb the military's steepest ladders. And for the past four years, they have worked to transform the school where Mike Gould starred as a football defensive back in the early 1970s.

They're heading into retirement together in August when Mike Gould hands command of the academy to Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson.

At the academy, the Goulds have each brought qualities that have bolstered the other.

He's direct, with a smiling sternness and a stare that can make cadets quake. She's bubbly and known to hug muddy, discouraged cadets at basic training.

They met at an Arizona air base, married and moved to Colorado in 1981, making their first home at the academy, where Gould served as physical education instructor and football coach at the academy's Preparatory School.

"We both had bars on our shoulders, and we were taking it one day at a time," Paula Gould said.

Getting those bars wasn't easy for either of them. Mike Gould went through basic training at Lackland Air Force Base before heading to basic at the prep school, completing the program and starting all over as an academy freshman. He spent five years pursuing those bars.

Paula Gould, a 1975 graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, battled rampant sexism in her drive to become one of the first combat-qualified female pilots in the Air Force.

During his Air Force career, Mike Gould logged 3,100 hours in the cockpit and a string of successful command assignments.

Paula Gould rose through the ranks in the Reserves, spending much of her time as a liaison officer for the academy, an assignment she picked up after they moved to the school the first time.

"It helped me, I tell you, that we spoke the same language," Mike Gould said.

"He's one of the smartest guys I've ever known," Paula Gould said.

They shared a passion for the academy that came with them when Mike Gould was promoted to the superintendent's job in 2009. They shared a goal of building pride in the place, which had been battered for years by issues such as religious intolerance and sexual assault in the ranks.

On the 18,500-acre campus, Mike Gould worked to change the climate.

"We saw several year groups leave here bitter about the experience," Mike Gould said.

His goal: instill "fanatical pride."

"We don't get there by making the experience easier," he said. "We're not lowering the bar. We want it to be a challenging rigorous experience."

While her husband tackled the climate in uniform, Paula Gould, who retired from the service shortly after her husband assumed command, worked on other groups.

She worked with families on the academy and people in town.

She brought back the academy's spouses club and makes a point of talking to parent groups.

"We really believe in their children," Paula Gould said.

The emphasis on pride stems from the era when both joined the military.

In the early 1970s, as the Vietnam War ended, America's attitude to the military had soured.

"You really didn't want to be identified as a member of the military," Gould said.

The military itself lacked pride, and morale sank, taking nearly a decade to recover.

Now the military is adored by the public, a change Gould sees when he travels with the football team. In the 1970s, Air Force players were booed, or worse.

"Now they clap, instead of throwing cheese and snowballs," he said.

Gould got into the spirit of things. At one game, he was famously grabbed by the cadet wing for an impromptu round of crowd surfing.

The Goulds' time at the academy wasn't all easy, though. They faced a string of sexual assault cases in the cadet wing and continued fire over religious issues.

Critic Mikey Weinstein purchased billboards in Colorado Springs criticizing the academy with claims of rampant proselytizing.

Meanwhile, some Christian groups were enraged when the academy opened an outdoor chapel for Earth-centered faiths.

None of that, though, soured the Goulds on the academy.

"We love it more and understand it better," Paula Gould said.

While they're leaving the academy, they're not leaving the area. The Goulds' new house is not far from the academy's north gate.

They've got plenty of reason to stick around.

The couple has raised two sons, Brandon and Bart Gould. They're both Air Force officers and serving at the academy, where they went to college.

They've also got a 10-month-old grandchild and another "due any day."

And they've got each other.

"I love him so much," Paula Gould said, leaning over to kiss her now crimson three-starred spouse on the cheek.

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