SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - Kevin Kirkpatrick joined the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) last month as the new director of the headquarters Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

He will oversee the processing of complaints of discrimination, assist managers and employees with the reasonable accommodation process and provide guidance and assistance to managers across the command on how to incorporate the tenets of equal opportunity into their strategic plans.

"My immediate goal for the EEO program here at SDDC is to continue to provide quality service to the command and its employees in a timely manner," he said.

"Long term, I plan to foster strong relationships with the various stakeholders across the Department of the Army (DA) as well as the senior leaders of SDDC so that we can be the tip of the spear when it comes to EEO," he added.

Kirkpatrick began his career with the U.S. Coast Guard in 1985, when he enlisted in Sacramento, Calif. During this time, he served aboard three Coast Guard Cutters and at two search and rescue stations - all on the West Coast of the United States, including 10 years in Kodiak Alaska.

"During those tours of duty, my primary responsibility was that of a machinery technician, while also serving as a law enforcement officer," he said.

He also trained Coast Guardsmen on how to keep their ships afloat and their rescue boats in optimum conditions. He said he did all of this while being "keenly focused on my true passion" of conducting law enforcement boarding, inspections and seizures of recreational and commercial fishing boats.

During his career he found himself moving away from those missions and into roles with greater responsibility -- a journey that would lead him to becoming the Equal Opportunity Advisor
(EOA) for the 13th Coast Guard District in Seattle, Wash., where he retired in 2010.

After his retirement, he began his civilian EEO career with the Department of the Navy. He serviced three different commands, the Navy Region Northwest and the Naval Facilities Command during his tenure.

Kirkpatrick was then promoted to the position of Deputy EEO officer at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where he took on his largest civilian challenge to date.

In that position he managed a staff of 11 people and serviced a population of over 13,000 civilian employees, something he considered to be a great stepping stone for his future endeavors.

"In that position I was able to build upon my foundation as an EOA, but also get a lifetime of EEO experience in half as many years," he said. "I think that experience helped prepare me to take on this new role as director of EEO for SDDC."

In his new role he has a direct plan for success.

"I want to influence policy and practice being driven from the DA level, so that we at SDDC can successfully meet or exceed the expectations being placed upon us by either regulation or law," Kirkpatrick said.

His motivation in his work is simple; to educate the command on the pitfalls of discrimination in the workplace.

"Nobody got to choose the traits or characteristics that make each of us who we are. Unfortunately, we have a history of using or holding those things that make each of us different against one and other. All anyone has to do is turn on the news to see that discrimination still exists today," he added.

Kirkpatrick says that discrimination is at the crux of what can harm the success of any command and directly affect the warfighter's ability to complete the mission.

"When discrimination creeps into our organization, whether through ignorance or intention, it breaks that cohesion and ultimately inhibits mission success," he said.

Adding, "As an organization we can only complete our mission through a cohesive effort where everyone is working toward a coordinated and intentional goal."

He admits that starting a new job anywhere can be a daunting task, but he will be tenacious at learning the SDDC culture and assimilating himself into the mission.

"One of the most difficult things about coming into a new job like this is the shift in language," he said.

"The work is essentially the same, because it is driven by law, but learning the new lingo will of course take some time. All I can do is embrace the new opportunity and remember not to be the 'well at my last job' guy," he added.

This is something he plans to achieve by establishing credibility right off the bat.

"One of the things that I learned very early on in my career is that people pay attention to the things you say and do; and when the things that you say do not align with what other people see you doing, doubt is created," Kirkpatrick said.

"It is impossible to know everything, but knowing where to get the most up to date information is a key factor in being credible. Providing sound guidance based in fact and not opinion is another," he added.

"I am driven to do this work because discrimination is not only illegal, it is just plain wrong," he said.