Col. Ken Kamper doesn’t miss much at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He’s there when his artillery troops come home from war. He’s there to pay respects when any local soldier falls in combat. And he almost always says yes when South Sound communities come looking for an officer to represent the Army.
The two-time Iraq veteran has spent eight of the past 10 years at the base south of Tacoma. Now he’s moving on. His 17th Fires Brigade is one of four large Army and Air Force units at the base getting new commanders this week.
Kamper, a tall officer with gentle manners, left his mark on Lewis-McChord by lending a hand to Army units as they deployed to war or recovered from combat missions.
His artillery brigade participated in drills to help infantry soldiers prepare for war. It repeatedly sent its own batteries to Afghanistan and Iraq since Kamper took command in December 2010.
Kamper also supervised rear detachments for Lewis-McChord’s three Stryker brigades during tough deployments to Iraq. That’s one reason he rarely missed a memorial service for fallen soldiers on base.
Last summer, when several local soldiers were dying every month in Afghanistan, Kamper showed up to pay his respects more than any other senior officer.
“That was a tough, tough year,” he said.
He also helped advance a new medical program at Lewis-McChord that brings expert doctors out of Madigan Army Medical Center and places them inside Army units. He credits the so-called “soldier centered medical home” with delivering expert care to troops far more efficiently.
Kamper is not one to take credit for the good things that happened under his watch. “It really takes a whole team,” he said at his change of command ceremony Monday.
Kamper arrived at Lewis-McChord in 2003 during the buildup to the Iraq War and deployed there twice with local Stryker brigades. He led an artillery battalion on a 15-month tour in Iraq in 2006-07, and he served as an aide to former I Corps commander Lt. Gen. James Dubik.
Since he took command of the fires brigade, Kamper nurtured ties with the cities of Olympia and Tumwater through the Army’s community connector program.
He and his wife, Krista, “have been tremendous ambassadors for our Army,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza of the 7th Infantry Division.
Kamper is moving on to the Army War College in Pennsylvania. He will be succeeded by Col. Timothy Kehoe, a recent deputy commander of the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. Kehoe previously served at Lewis-McChord as commander of a battalion in the 17th Fires Brigade.
The others units getting new commanders at Lewis-McChord this week are:
• The 62nd Airlift Wing, which is saying goodbye to Air Force Col. Wyn Elder. He’s being succeeded by Col. David Kumashiro, whose last assignment was with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
• Col. Louis Zeisman, a recent operations officer of the 82nd Airborne Division, is taking command of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division — one of Lewis-McChord’s three Army Stryker brigades. Zeisman has deployed three times to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. He succeeds Col. Barry Huggins, who left Lewis-McChord last month for the Pentagon’s Africa Command.
• Lewis-McChord’s chief aviation officer, Col. Robert Dickerson, is handing the reins of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade to Col. Paul Mele. Dickerson established the aviation brigade in 2011. Mele has extensive experience at the Joint Special Operations Command and the Army Special Operations Aviation Command.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 email@example.com