ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. - Imagine having lived not one but two full careers -- a 25-year career in the civilian world, and 36 years in uniform serving the Army National Guard and Active Army. But, for Lt. Col. Kendall Workman, plans officer, First Army, this is his reality.
Workman's unconventional career path spans from the Navy, transitioning to the Utah Army National Guard, retiring from the civilian aviation workforce after 25 years, and then finally starting his Active Army career.
"I actually started out my military career doing three years in the Navy as an aircraft mechanic," explained Workman. "That was my whole drive, get the experience from the military that would directly relate to my civilian career." Then, with a smile, he continued: "I retired from that and then started my Active Army career, so I did it in reverse from what most typically do."
For most of his civilian career, Workman was an enlisted Soldier in the National Guard, reaching the rank of staff sergeant as a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief before going to Officer Candidate School.
As a combat veteran, he has seen firsthand the civilian-acquired skills that National Guard Soldiers can apply on deployment as part of the Total Force.
"While my unit was in Baghdad, we came across a bridge that had significant bomb damage. It needed to be rebuilt so the coalition forces could use it," explained Workman. "I had a sergeant who was a civil engineer on the civilian side. He brought those skills to the battlefield, redesigned those repairs, and made the bridge serviceable again."
Now as the plans officer at First Army, Workman is on the team that plans the exercises and training components that will be used to ensure National Guard and Reserve Soldiers are ready to deploy as part of the Total Force. He believes having worn the other boots as a National Guard member who went through the training gives him an insight into what those Soldiers need.
"It wasn't that long ago that I mobilized, and I remember the things that affected us and our mobilization," Workman said. "Having a Guardsman as a planner at First Army means we are ensuring that we have the personnel necessary to contribute and look across the Total Force."
Workman says while he's glad to be at First Army, he wishes he had been here sooner.
"This is such a great opportunity," he said. "I wish I would have known about these opportunities a lot earlier in my career because I could have taken what I learned from this back to my state. It would have been incredibly beneficial just to have this understanding of high-level strategic planning. I think it's invaluable."
Workman says he urges up-and-coming leaders, both officers and enlisted, to reach out and take an assignment at First Army.
"Ask your leadership for an opportunity to take on broadening assignments," said Workman. "Look for those Total Force assignments like First Army. The knowledge you will gain and experiences you have are so important in better understanding the Total Force of the Army."
Workman says after he retires from the Army, he hopes to teach high school history back in Salt Lake City.