Kincaid was the National Guard theater engineer in Iraq
Editor’s note: This article is part of The Inter-Mountain’s Unsung Heroes series for 2018, which features veterans in our area sharing first-hand accounts of their military service.
BUCKHANNON — With more than 30 years in the National Guard, Upshur County resident Robert Kincaid wore many hats during his time serving the country.
Raised by his grandparents in Fayette County, Kincaid said his driving force to join the military came after some of his classmates did not return home from the Vietnam War.
“A lot of my peers, a lot of kids I graduated with in high school got drafted and went to Vietnam,” he said.
At the age of 21, Kincaid decided to join the National Guard in 1975 and would spend more than 30 years serving in a variety of roles.
“I ended up being enlisted as an E-6 — a staff sergeant — and then I went to OCS (officer candidate school),” he said, adding he retired as a “full bird colonel.”
While serving in the Guard, Kincaid made several trips overseas, with the first place being Honduras.
“I went to Honduras in 1988 and then I went to Peru,” he said. “I made a lot of trips overseas, but these were actual missions. The one in Honduras was a humanitarian mission.”
In 2003, Kincaid was deployed as the commander of the 111th engineer group to Iraq to “fight the initial war.”
“We went to Afghanistan first and then we went to Iraq in 2003, so I was in the first wave that went to Iraq and went to Kuwait … and spent a year over there from 2003-2004,” he explained.
During his time in Iraq, Kincaid’s role was as a theater engineer.
“I had all of the construction and facility engineers in Kuwait and a no-fly zone in Iraq, so I had 3,600 military engineers that were either equipment operators, construction types,” he said. “But my command was the 111th engineer group and we had underneath us nine major organizations and then a bunch of companies and detachments and … so I had the responsibility of about 3,600 soldiers.”
After serving his time in Iraq, Kincaid returned back to the United States where he took the role of the U.S. Property Fiscal Officer in Buckhannon.
As a USPFO, Kincaid’s responsibilities were contracting, finance, logistics, auditing and transportation for the state’s National Guard. Kincaid attributes his extensive higher education path to progressing to the role as USPFO. He graduated from Beckley College with a degree in business administration and a military leadership degree from Charleston University, followed by receiving his master’s degree in communications from West Virginia University.
“My college education along with my military career as an engineer officer and accounting and I’m also a certified defense financial manager, so that put me in the position to get that job,” he said.
The division chiefs’ roles included finance manager, log officer, deputy USPFO and chief auditor. In 2012, Kincaid retired and began working for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia.
“I went to work for them teaching the Guard around the country in cooperative grievance,” he explained. “Cooperative grievance are like grants — half of the budget that comes into the state for the Guard to support the facilities and infrastructure and utilities comes in cooperative grievance, and that’s money that the federal government gives to the state to manage to operate their Guard and so I taught that program from 2012 until this year.”
Through the many years and roles serving in the National Guard, Kincaid said each of his assignments was “rewarding.”
“I really enjoyed every one of them, but I would say one of the most rewarding was being the facility manager and commander at Camp Dawson up in Kingwood,” he said. “Of course, the deployment over to Iraq and Kuwait was very memorable because you have a lot of responsibilities and a lot of people to take care of and a job to do and get back safely.”
After more than three decades in the military, Kincaid acknowledged joining the service isn’t for everyone.
“But it can be very rewarding,” he said. “I think that every young person should have to do something that develops themselves along with the community. I’m not just saying military. It could be the Peace Corps or Job Corps, something like that, but I think that everybody — whether they’re a high school graduate or a college graduate — needs something to tie them to our great nation.
“We get kind of callused to the rest of the world. We think that everybody in the world is like we are here in the United States, and that’s not true … We get complacent about what we have, our freedoms. So I think that every young person, whether it be the military or something, needs to be exposed internationally to other things so they can appreciate more of what we have now.”