March 4, 2019
Writer: Virginia Henry

Staying in the U.S. Army longer than a first commission isn’t something a lot of soldiers opt to do. Master Sergeant Drew Kimmey, and ROTC instructor at BYU-Idaho, chose to stay in for the long-haul.

He’s served in the armed forces for almost 24 years. He is now retiring.

Kimmey has had a vast array of experiences and jobs as a serviceman.

He started out as an infantryman in 1995. In that Military Occupation Specialty, or MOS, he held the title of fire team leader, rifleman, grenadier, machine gunner, squad leader, and platoon sergeant. He was stationed in North Carolina, Alaska, Georgia and several other states.

After 12 years he was recruited to become a civil affairs non-commissioned officer or NCO.

Specifically, he ran the disaster response exercise and exchange program throughout Asia and Pacific Theater for the Army.

As a civil affairs NCO he traveled extensively.

“Last I counted I’ve been to 33 countries and that’s counting ones that I actually stepped out of the airport for more than a day,” Kimmey said.

He said he’s lucky because most soldiers don’t get to see that many places.

He explained what exactly being in civil affairs means.

“We are the connective tissue between the local populous and their federal or state governments,” he said. “Typically, we go into places where the locals disaffected from their national governments and then their suspect to recruit by counter state organizations.”

With such important positions, how did he end up at BYU-Idaho as an ROTC instructor?

“I knew retirement is a difficult thing to transition from that subculture, to being a civilian again,” Kimmey explained. “And I thought, ‘Man what better way to make that transition than to be an ROTC instructor?’ So, you still have that safety net and benefits of being in the Army. But at the same time there’s not a whole lot of military folks running around out here.”

He’s been teaching the young cadets on campus for two and a half to three years. He’s said it’s helped him remember how to interact with others who don’t have the same background as he does. Doing so has brought out interests he didn’t have time for in the past.

Out of all three occupations, Kimmey has something great to say about each.

Being an infantryman was probably the most fun.

He explained that the most broadening or skill developing was being an Army operations NCO and first sergeant and planner in the more strategic levels in civil affairs.

“That’s where I worked in embassies and interacted with all kinds of different agencies and foreign governments and militaries,” Kimmey said.

But the most rewarding job? He said that by far it’s been teaching at BYU-Idaho.

“The value system here is what I was looking for,” Kimmey said.

He reflected on something one of the previous presidents of the school has said, that the greatest reward for a teacher is seeing the student succeed. He knows the ROTC cadets are going to do great things and that brings him the most satisfaction.

One of the biggest lessons Kimmey has learned through his military career is also a code of conduct.

“To always do the right thing for the right reasons and never lie,” Kimmey said that’s kept him out of trouble and maintained his reputation.

At times, soldiers are faced with hard decisions. Kimmey said you have to have a strong grasp on what you know as right and wrong and hold to that. You also have to know what you can live with.

Of course it’s not just the soldiers who have to live with it, their families are also greatly affected.

Kimmey himself has been married 21 years.

He joked that he was supposed to get out of the Army 20 years ago.

“It is tough. There’s no getting around it,” he said when referring to having a family and being in the military.

The most important piece of that puzzle for him, in order to be successful, is to choose the right spouse. Kimmey explained that they have to be someone who understands the cost.

“They have to be bluntly honest when it’s enough,” Kimmey said.

With time apart being inevitable he said that you have to cherish and protect the time you have together so you have a reserve to draw from when you’re not together.

“Honestly, for spouses and children nobody is ever going to fully comprehend what it really means,” Kimmey concluded.

His family is going to get a break after so many years. Kimmey will work in Idaho Falls for the Idaho National Laboratory. He said he is looking forward to something new.