Defense Logistics Agency Director Navy Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek called his outgoing executive officer, Army Col. Kevin Kachinski, one of the best he has worked with, March 21 during Kachinski’s retirement ceremony at the McNamara Headquarters Complex.
“Being the exec is not an easy job. They’re the guys who make my life really easy or really hard. They’re also the guys who have a big impact on how the staff runs and how the organization runs,” Harnitchek said. “Kevin’s been my teammate, my wingman, my confidante, my XO and my advisor. He’s always put the mission and me above himself and provided about the best guidance I’ve ever gotten, even if it’s stuff I don’t want to hear.”
Kachinski, who was joined by his wife, daughters and other members of his family, retired from a 27-year Army career that began after he graduated from Norwich University in 1986. He noted that, with the previous day being the first of spring, his retirement was a time for new beginnings.
“It’s an interesting twist being on this side of the podium. It’s more humbling than anything else,” Kachinski told the standing-room-only crowd in the Kabeiseman Conference Center. “When I look back at the last 27 years, I wouldn’t change a single thing. It’s been a career that’s been extremely rewarding and a true adventure. Like life itself, you can’t always see what’s around the next outcropping, but you instinctively know the right azimuth.”
Kachinski thanked members of four distinct “families” in his life: his actual family, his colleagues at DLA, his friends and neighbors from throughout his career, and his Army leaders and peers.
“There are very few days when the military is individual sport,” he said. “It’s more of a team sport, and no other career infuses so much camaraderie and enthusiasm into everyday life. One of my old bosses called it ‘the family business,’ and he had it exactly right.”
Harnitchek shared a number of “sea stories” gathered from friends and family from throughout Kachinski’s life. The colonel served in a variety of assignments during his Army career, including detachment commander at McMurdo Station, Antarctica; battalion and brigade staff positions with 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; a training-with-industry stint with U.S. Airways; and a battalion commander in 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis, Wash. He deployed to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan during his time in uniform, as well.
“For those who know Kevin, there’s no shortage of sea stories,” Harnitchek said. “No matter where the stories came from, no matter how old they are, two things came out clear: that Kevin is an extremely capable and dedicated Soldier and that Kevin is the guy who’s always on the go. He’s always moving.”
Before Kachinski became Harnitchek’s executive officer, he worked for the admiral at U.S. Transportation Command. Harnitchek, who was USTRANSCOM’s deputy commander at the time, said that when a massive earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Kachinski was a crucial part of an effort to get 500 shipping containers of humanitarian supplies to the island nation within days.
“‘Who do we have there?’ I asked the chief of staff. ‘Kevin Kachinski’s there,’ he said. ‘He was at a conference in D.C. with one uniform and an overnight bag, and he’s now down in Miami,’” Harnitchek said. “It was one of those times when you’re glad you’ve got the right person in the right place.”
Following his remarks, Harnitchek awarded Kachinski the Legion of Merit award for his service during his career. He also presented the colonel with a personal letter, a personalized DLA flag, an American flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon and DLA Headquarters, and a shadow box containing a St. Christopher’s Medal and other awards from his career. His wife received a certificate of appreciation from the Army.
The admiral bid Kachinski farewell in both Navy and Army customs.
“Kevin, you have served this country with honor, dignity, pride, dedication and enthusiasm,” Harnitchek said. “You are a great dad, husband, friend, warrior and citizen. As you guys embark on your new life together, you have everything you need to be successful. And while you won’t need it, I wish you luck and good fortune. God bless you. God bless your family. Fair winds and following seas, my friend. And since I also have to pay respect to Army tradition, I’ll see you on the high ground.”