Local man ends 40-year military career
BLACKFOOT — With "the wonderful draft lottery number of 22," Kenyon Kofoed knew he was going to serve in the military during the Vietnam War era. He just didn't know his military experience would last nearly 40 years. Or that he would retire as a lieutenant colonel.
With that draft number, "I knew I was going to go one way or another," said Kofoed, who now lives in Riverside.
His journey began in 1971 when he joined the Idaho National Guard. He received training as a field wireman, stretching communications cables from pole to pole.
"I joined the Guard in Pocatello and discovered that I liked it," he recalled.
As a citizen-soldier he worked at a variety of jobs, including as a long haul trucker and a diesel mechanic. He also worked as a reserve deputy sheriff for Caribou County.
During his first few years in the Guard his section chief was Bill Curtis of Blackfoot.
"He promoted me all the way up to staff sergeant," Kofoed recalled.
Kofoed then decided to attend officer candidate school. He was one of nine graduates of an Idaho Military Academy class which began with 40 individuals.
He began his officer career as a platoon leader of an armored cavalry unit in Burley. He eventually became commander of Headquarters Troop, 2nd Battalion 116th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Pocatello.
"When I was commander, I got to promote Bill to master sergeant," Kofoed recalled.
He spent six years as commander of the Pocatello unit, changing his Military Occupational Specialty (job) when it became a field artillery unit.
"After 20 years in the Guard I reached a point when I couldn't progress any more so I switched to the Army Reserve," Kofoed recalled. He served in staff positions with the 96th Army Reserve Command out of Fort Douglas, Utah, until his civilian work took him to Colorado.
He then made another MOS change and became executive officer of the 259th Quartermaster Battalion in Denver.
Kofoed transferred back to the 96th ARCOM and served as personnel officer for the 651st Area Support Group. He continued in a variety of leadership positions until he deployed to Iraq in 2006.
During that tour of Southwest Asia he served as a logistician, again changing his MOS.
"During my first trip to Iraq, I was sent to find equipment," he said. He said that he always approached each job with the attitude "whatever job it is, I absolutely love the job."
None of the equipment he and a master sergeant from Washington state went to find was stolen, he said.
"In war they forgot the paperwork part," he explained. He and his sergeant located approximately $1.6 billion work of equipment and got the paperwork problems resolved.
He deployed a second time in 2009, returning last spring. Then he and his staff were in charge of initial training for soldiers bound for Iraq.
He has since spent his time job hunting and working on a master's degree in project management through the University of Phoenix.
While he has returned to his Blackfoot roots — he was born and lived here until he was five — he's willing to relocate as necessary.
With a bachelor's degree from Oxford — yes, that one in England — and a plethora of life experiences, Kofoed spends his time making contacts and trying to find an opportunity to share his knowledge. Meanwhile he's enjoying living near his children and grandchildren. He is also working on two books.
He married Suzanne O'Donnell in 1971 after meeting her at Ricks College. All three of their children live in Blackfoot as do seven of their 12 grandchildren.
Kofoed's military roots are deep. His grandfather Sam Jones served in World War I and his father served in World War II.
Son Jay is first sergeant of A Battery, 1st Battalion 148th Field Artillery and is currently on a second tour of Iraq with his Blackfoot unit. Sam is a retired Blackhawk helicopter pilot and Emily is preparing to marry Grant Hacking of Blackfoot. Her first husband, Evan Gallegos, was a U.S. Marine who died in 2002.