Laughter and chatter rang through Fire Station One, as Family, friends and colleagues gathered to celebrate the storied and colorful 22-year career of Kevin Kirkland, assistant fire chief of operations, Fort Riley Fire and Emergency Services, Directorate of Emergency Services, at a special luncheon and ceremony Dec. 27.
Kirkland’s career highlights included managing the Operations Branch on the Largest Power Projection Platform in the Midwest, organizing Fort Riley’s involvement in the Kansas Task Force II Urban Search and Rescue Emergency Response Team, managing the largest prescribed burn plan in the state, administering the Emergency Medical Technicians certification program and protecting $6.5B worth of Army investments, according to Scott DeLay, fire chief, FES, DES.
“It’s been a very, very good career,” Kirkland said.
But according to Kirkland, “the highlights have been the people that I work with. With our job here, we’re with these folks nearly as much as we’re with our Families. Having had the opportunity to get to know so many good people and work with so many good people – because of that, it’s been a fabulous career.”
In addition to his career accomplishments, Kirkland also is a paramedic, pilot, pilot instructor and general electrician. On top of all that, Kirkland has great hair, DeLay said.
Chris Trudo, retired fire chief and Kirkland’s colleague for 18 years, agreed.
“That first day I thought, ‘he sure are pretty,’” Trudo joked.
They had the photos to prove it. A montage highlighting Kirkland’s Family and career showed off his near-perfect locks over the course of decades.
Photos spanning his life from graduation to retirement included his wedding, the birth of his sons, growing children against a backdrop of sports and vacations, work drills and training, ceremonies and more.
“Good father. Good firefighter. Good paramedic,” is how Trudo summed up Kirkland. “But he is above all probably one of the best friends I’ve ever had and probably one of the best friends I will ever have.”
“It’s a bittersweet thing,” said Kirkland’s wife, Janet.
“It’s going to be nice to have him home, but this is like a second Family.”
“It’s basically one big family atmosphere,” his son Jacob agreed.
During the ceremony, Kirkland’s parents, Jack and Sammy, were recognized, along with Janet and Kirkland’s two sons, Nathan and Jacob.
In turn, Kirkland was honored with a ceremonial axe, an honorary speaking trumpet, his framed badge – Number Four – which is being retired along with him, an achievement medal for civilian service and a superior civilian service award for his outstanding and effective leadership.
“Kevin’s a rock,” DeLay said. “Kevin is hard. He has a jaw, but Kevin has operated the Operations Branch with his heart and not his jaw.”
“The key to (my) entire career is the service,” Kirkland said.
Looking over the crowd, Kevin’s father, Jack, joked, “They’re either darned glad to see him go or they appreciate what he did,” adding warmly, “I think real friends.”
Not one to enjoy being in the spotlight, Kirkland was seen sporting sunglasses during part of the event in order to mask his emotion.
“If it was up to him, none of this would be going on,” Jacob, a firefighter in Junction City, said. “He’s never been someone that’s about the show. (But) as much as he says he doesn’t want it, I know it’s something he’s going to appreciate.”
“If he lives through it,” Jack joked.
“The sunglasses are for real,” Trudo, who also was wearing shades to hide his emotion, said to Kirkland. “I applaud you.”
Kirkland plans to continue working for an ambulance service in his hometown of Marysville, Kan.
“It’s not really retirement,” he said. “It’s just moving on.”
By Julie Fiedler
1st Inf. Div. Post
Julie Fiedler | POST
Kevin Kirkland, assistant fire chief of operations, FES, DES, smiles as he cuts the cake during his retirement celebration Dec. 27 at Fort Riley’s Fire Station One. Kirkland served on the FES team for 22 years.