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Colonel chooses Valley to settle down

With 30-plus years in the military, Matt Kinkead readies for retirement

Submitted photo Matt Kinkead is pictured when he was a lieutenant colonel and battalion commander of 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment. The photo was taken during a 2014 Fourth of July ceremony in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan.

CANFIELD — Two summers to go until Col. Matt Kinkead finally steps down from a long military career that began in 1987. For his family, it will be a new life as they settle in Canfield.

“Our retirement home is in Canfield, and when I leave the Army, we will settle there and enroll our son in Canfield High School,” Kinkead said.

While he is looking forward to that day, he recently had time to reflect on his career, which he never knew would take him so far and to so many places.

Kinkead was born in southwest Pennsylvania and grew up in the Monaca, Pa., area. He attended Beaver High School in Beaver, Pa., and graduated in 1987. The next step was joining the Army.

“From my youth, I wanted to be a soldier, but I cannot say I saw it as a career when I first joined,” he said.

“Immediately following high school graduation I enlisted into the U.S. Army Reserve as a paralegal, intending to use the GI Bill to offset the cost of college. It was a balanced decision at the time, one that would give me a taste of the Army while financially enabling a college degree and ultimately a civilian job.”

He said he always had a yearning for the Army. That feeling ran in the Kinkead bloodline.

“My father was a World War II vet, serving in the U.S. Navy on the USS Balch, a destroyer escort,” he said. “My grandfather served in a horse cavalry unit within the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, and then later enlisted into the active Navy and served on the USS South Dakota (ACR-9) an armored cruiser during the World War I era.

“Following their service, both father and grandfather were very active in our community, especially within the local American Legion, VFW and as volunteer firefighters.”

Kinkead spent most of his childhood “hanging around” the local Legion Post, listening to stories shared between the vets from World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The humor, camaraderie and fellowship he observed between the veterans from the various generations, and their collective respect, sense of duty and honor they showed for the country and in memorial for their fellow vets who paid the ultimate sacrifice definitely influenced and enlightened Kinkead’s choice to join the Army.

Kinkead began basic training at Fort Knox, Ky. That was followed by specialized training at the Judge Advocate School in Indiana, where Kinkead said he learned a lot about himself.

“While I definitely found the legal aspect rewarding and enjoyable, I was even more hooked on training in the field,” he said. “After returning back to Pennsylvania I executed my original plan. I enrolled at a local community college, worked various jobs for spending money, and attended my monthly and annual Army Reserve drills.

“It took under a year to realize I was happiest when in uniform, so I elected to enter active service and volunteered for Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga.”

Following jump school, Kinkead’s first active military post was at Fort Richardson, Alaska. He served as a paratrooper with the 1-501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.

“It was an amazing 2 1/2 years in that unit, and the best experience I could have at that time in my young, adult life,” Kinkead said. “When we were not parachuting into drop zones and training in Alaska and Washington State, or enjoying the great outdoors, my commander was allowing me to further my education by taking night and weekend college courses at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Ultimately, both he and my command sergeant major at that time guided me on a path that led to an appointment into the officer corps.”

In 1992, Kinkead was selected for a Green to Gold AROTC Scholarship. He was discharged as an enlisted soldier, and immediately became an Army Cadet. Three years later he graduated from St. John’s University in New York City and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant. He returned to Fort Knox, where he learned the ropes of being an M1 Abrams tank commander and platoon leader. While in that capacity, Kinkead met his wife, Jen, and the following year the couple married.

Kinkead’s first unit assignment after Fort Knox was with the 1st Calvary Division at Fort Hood, Texas. From there he saw deployment in Kuwait twice for six-month periods.

After Texas, Kinkead and his wife went to Schweinfurt, Germany, where he commanded a tank company and later a calvary troop with the 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One). While serving there, Kinkead was deployed to Kosovo and in 2004 to central and northern Iraq. After Germany, Kinkead returned to Fort Knox, then did a master’s degree program at the Joint Forces College in Norfolk, Va.

“I was then assigned to the 4th Infantry Division in Fort Carson, Colorado, where I deployed to Afghanistan for two years out of that four-year stint,” he said. “Afterward, we returned to the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, where I commanded the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, and again deployed to Afghanistan.”

After that, Kinkead and his family moved back to Europe, settling in Northern France, where he served three years as a training officer in the French Rapid Reaction Corps. After three years, he began his assignment at the Pentagon.

He said part of the acceptance of the Pentagon assignment was to be able to move back to the U.S. so his daughter Kate could have a traditional U.S. experience in her senior year of high school.

“We researched areas close to family members in southwest Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio, where we thought we might buy our ultimate retirement home,” Kinkead said. “We really liked everything about Mahoning County and very much fell in love with Canfield, which is our connection to the local area. While I remained in France, I began working stateside assignments that would optimally put us only a short drive to Canfield.

“At that time a former commander of mine was working at the Pentagon, and he recruited me to join the Army Staff in my current position. It has thus far worked out very well professionally, personally and for the family.”

Kate is now 21 and attending George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Kinkead’s son, Connor, is 12 and looking forward to school in Canfield.

Kinkead also researched local American Legion posts and liked what he saw about Post 177. He became a member and once his military career has ended, he will likely become active in the local post.

“With so many years apart due to overseas deployments and extended training events, Jen and I really look forward to just spending more time together with our son, and providing moral support for our daughter as she ventures out in life,” he said. “We look forward to being grounded in our community, volunteering, spending time with extended family across Mahoning and Columbiana counties. We have enjoyed traveling around the USA and Europe and plan to do more in retirement. I have a lot of books to read, and hopefully find time to ski, golf, hike, bike and fish with our son.”

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