By Staff Sgt. Melissa Applebee, 1st Inf. Div. OSJAMay 19, 2010
BASRA, Iraq - The rank of corporal in today's Army can bring to mind a fresh-faced, wet-behind-the-ears Soldier who is still green, but willing to learn. One conversation with Cpl. Kevin Nation will challenge that impression.
From his time in the Marine Corps, to his retirement as a police chief, to his current assignment with the 1st Infantry Division's Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, 40-year-old Nation, originally from Sidney, Ohio, has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience and a work ethic expected from someone far above his grade.
Nation's military career began in 1987 when he joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in Ohio. He served as a rifleman and Marine Corps security guard. While stationed in Yorktown, Va., he was assigned to the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) Company.
Following his two years of service with the Marines, Nation pursued a career in law enforcement.
"My influences came from a program sponsored by the Boy Scouts called Explorers. I joined the Explorer Program in December 1983 through the local sheriff's office in my hometown...I was hooked."
For 18 years, Nation made law enforcement a career, retiring as police chief of Westmoreland, Tenn., in 2007. Still yearning for bigger and better challenges, Nation decided to start a second career in the Army.
Originally entering the Army as a signal systems support specialist, his first assignment was to the newly formed Signal Co., Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Inf. Div. While assigned to Signal Co., he served as the company executive officer while the company was still forming, and the unit armorer, armorer supervisor, and training noncommissioned officer.
Nation holds an associate degree in Paralegal Studies from Ashworth College, and is currently working on a master's degree in Criminal Justice Administration with an emphasis on Domestic and International Terrorism.
To align his career pursuits with his experience and education, he voluntarily requested to reclassify as a paralegal specialist and was reassigned to the OSJA in October 2009. Nation is scheduled to begin classes when he redeploys in 2011 to become a paralegal specialist, but he is already pursuing on-the-job training.
Since his reassignment to the OSJA, he has served as a battalion and brigade paralegal, preparing Article 15s, administrative reprimands, administrative separations, and a host of other legal actions.
Despite not having attended school, he had no issues integrating with the other Judge Advocate General's Corps Soldiers.
"Nation's perception on criminal cases, which from a JAG perspective is usually found in dated military reports, is extremely remarkable coming from a first-responder. A Soldier of his caliber is commensurate with many senior leaders in the Army," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Parry Preuc, Nation's current supervisor.
Nation's law enforcement experience has helped him during his time in the Army and as a paralegal Soldier, he said.
"First and foremost, it has helped me to keep a level head and look at things from a different perspective," he said. "I am able to apply my knowledge and experience to help guide young and upcoming Soldiers."
"Ninety percent of law enforcement is interacting with people on a day-to-day basis. There is such a vast variety of people in the military and this has allowed me to use my 'people skills,' which has earned me the respect of those I work with on a daily basis."
"As for the paralegal side, during my time in law enforcement I had the opportunity to serve as the legal administrator for the clerk of courts back in Ohio. This position is similar in nature to the legal administrator's position in the Army," Nation said.
After completion of his reclassification training, Nation plans on submitting his warrant officer packet so he can become a legal administrator in the JAG Corps. In this competitive field, Nation hopes his experience and education will give him an edge.
If the endorsement of his leaders means anything, he should do fine.
"Corporal Nation is obviously a well-together Soldier and citizen. His approach to every task at hand, his service, and his outstanding administrative support to the OSJA speaks volumes to the fact that he is well in-tune with his prior military service and service to the people where he protected and served," said Sgt. Maj. David DeFrancisco, the command paralegal NCO for 1st Inf Div and United States Division-South.
When asked about his impression of Nation, Lt. Col. Russell Jackson, the Deputy SJA had high praise.
"I am very impressed with his work ethic. The fact that he is more mature than our average E-4 is really helpful," he said. "The life experience he brings to the job is also extremely beneficial."
Nation seems to take all the praise in stride.
"I owe a lot to the people who encouraged me along the way - too many to mention here," he said.
Nation has interesting historical ties to the 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley. On his desk sits a photo of his father at Fort Riley just before he shipped out to Vietnam with the 9th Inf. Div. Nation reenlisted Feb. 6, 2010. On that same date in 1967, his father arrived at Fort Riley before departing for Vietnam in April. Nation decided to reenlist on Feb. 6 to honor his father.
"It is ironic that our first duty station was Fort Riley...he lived in the barracks at Camp Forsyth and that is where I currently reside. His barracks stood where the PX and Commissary are located," Nation said.
Whenever Nation eventually decides to leave the Army, he hopes to use his degree and experience to instruct at a law enforcement academy or even as a professor at a college or university.
Nation has been married to Diana Nation for six years, and they have four children. In his free time, he enjoys woodworking, barbecuing and motorcycle outings. While serving in Iraq, he can often be found employing his "grillmaster" skills by barbecuing steaks for his fellow Soldiers.
"He is the only guy I know in the Army who has worn five stars on his uniform before putting on two stripes," Colonel Michael Smidt, the 1st Inf. Div. and USD-S SJA said of Nation. "He is a former Marine, police chief, and one heck of a great NCO."