DAHLGREN, Va. –
Capt. Isel Caro’s life began in a single-wide trailer in the “Land of Heart’s Delight,” otherwise known as Falfurrias, Texas. Depending upon who you ask, the town either derived its name from the Lipan Apache language or from the name of a desert flower.
Life was cramped for Caro’s family in the trailer where he lived with his parents and brother. The trailer was the heart of his grandparents’ farm where they raised crops, cattle, horses, chickens and pigs on a total of 1,000 acres. His parents were both teachers. His dad taught high school mathematics and physics and coached basketball while his mom was an elementary school teacher.
The Caros moved their young family from the farm, stopping first in another small town by the name of Kingsville before eventually settling in the Woodlands, a suburb of Houston, Texas. A school counselor in Woodlands initially didn’t believe that Caro should be placed in advanced classes despite his record of academic excellence. “They didn’t believe that a small-town kid could be that smart,” he said. “By the end of the first semester, I had hundreds on all of my work.” The school administrators soon realized their mistake and Caro started taking an advanced curriculum the following year.
Coming from South Texas, the Caro brothers didn’t know much about the Naval Academy or the nation’s other service academies. Caro’s older brother, Vique, paved the way when he first learned about and then earned an appointment to the Naval Academy Preparatory School before gaining full admission to the U.S. Naval Academy. “One summer, Vique brought back all these things and experiences from a Baltic Operations cruise that included visits to Russia,” Caro explained. “I was like ‘hey, this is a good deal.’ You don’t have to pay for college, you get to travel during the summer and you have a guaranteed job when you graduate.”
Soon after, Caro submitted his own application, hoping to follow in Vique’s footsteps. His stellar academic record that included valedictorian honors, serving as student body president, National Honor Society membership and playing school sports earned him invitations from both the Naval Academy and West Point.
Caro earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering while at the Naval Academy. He later earned a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College and a certificate in Space Systems from the Naval Post Graduate School.
After his commissioning in May of 1996, he served aboard the USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) as a communications officer. He qualified as a surface warfare officer during that time and supported Tomahawk launches into Iraq during Operation Desert Fox. During his career, Caro also sailed aboard the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) and served in numerous other positions including as a sound underwater surveillance watch officer and training department head. He left active duty in 2004, but continues to serve in the Naval Reserve.
It was also in 2004 when he began his career at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD). While stationed in the United Kingdom, Caro interviewed and was hired for a job at Dahlgren while attending a service academy career fair in Washington D.C. He began his NSWCDD career working in critical infrastructure protection. Starting in 2006, he moved over to the Joint Warfare Analysis Center to provide intel analysis.
Caro is currently a branch head for the Warfare Analysis and Digital Modeling Department and is in his fourth Navy Reserve command serving as commanding officer in the Office of Naval Intelligence at the Hopper Headquarters Reserve unit. He believes that the work he does in both positions provides beneficial support to the other. “Hopper is one of the five centers for the Office of Naval Intelligence providing Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System services,” Caro explained. “NSWCDD is one of the organizations that Hopper provides services to, so I’m in a great position to help ensure that the connections between the two are well maintained.” The intelligence briefs he’s privy to while serving helps him better understand the threat capabilities in the world today and he can use that knowledge in his work here at Dahlgren.
The small-town kid who grew into a decorated naval officer and engineering leader believes that his roots never stunted his future opportunities. “You’re not limited based off of where you started,” he said. “What matters most is having parents and family that care about you. People who will ensure that you focus on what’s going to put you in a better position in the future.”
Caro said his parents built the foundation for his future success. “They were both teachers. They placed an emphasis on education and pushed for college for myself and my brother. They made sure we achieved our goals through mentoring and providing opportunities that put us in position for success.”
These days, Caro has a family of his own. When he’s not spending time with his wife and six children, Caro volunteers as an assistant scout master in the Boy Scouts.