By 1st Lt. James Mason
111th Theater Engineer Brigade
Many fathers can only dream that their children will follow in their footsteps. But for Col. Robert J. Kincaid Jr., he turned this dream into a reality for his dad.
Kincaid Jr., the current commander of the 111th Theater Engineer Brigade, is in the exact same spot that his father was 18 years ago – commanding the 111th while deployed to the Central Command Area of Operations.
Col. (Ret.) Robert J. Kincaid Sr. was the commander of the then 111th Engineer Group during a deployment to the Middle East in 2003. Although the operating environment in the CENTCOM region is different today than it was 18 years ago, this father-son duo conquered challenges that they can both be proud of.
“Pride is not a strong enough word to explain how I feel, but I would be proud of Rob no matter what he did.” Kincaid Sr. said. “Although we have a different Command philosophy, my son is very capable and dedicated. He has developed a background of training to support today’s missions.”
As proud of his son that he is, Kincaid Jr. says that he did not get to this point on his own. The decades of hard work has allowed him to excel in the military, but it was truly his father who set the foundation allowing him to get where he is today.
“The reason I am in the Army is because he set the foundation for me to do it. I am so proud of what my Dad did and accomplished,” Kincaid Jr. said. “My Dad is one of the most versatile people I know. 18 years ago when I was a Lieutenant, I never thought I would be in the same position as him almost two decades later.”
Kincaid Sr. knows that his son is capable of tackling the challenges of the deployment and the role of Brigade Commander on his own, but he takes every opportunity he has to encourage Kincaid Jr. and give him pieces of advice.
Since arriving in Kuwait in early April of 2021, Kincaid Jr. has been a regular client in the brigade mail room. Kincaid Jr. says that his father will typically write and mail him two to three letters per week. He jokingly says that his dad sends him Fragmentary Orders, or FRAGO, which is a type of military order that superior’s give to subordinates on how to execute a mission.
“I love reading his letters,” Kincaid Jr. said. “I give him a hard time about writing me but I know it is just the father in him trying to look out for me.”
And Kincaid Sr. love’s writing him letters just as much.
“It started out with me writing him about what is going on back at home and little bits of information of experiences that I had while commanding the 111th,” Kincaid Sr. said. “It just evolved from their and I continue to write him in order to relate to him and to expand his mindset because it allows him to see things differently.”
Kincaid Jr. admits that the tidbits of information that Kincaid Sr. provides him are helpful and has allowed him to tackle some of the challenges that he was faced with while deployed.
Despite the 18 year difference in the deployments and the different tasks at hand, many of the challenges they faced were oddly similar.
Both Kincaid’s were charged with overseeing engineer operations for the entire theater and moving troops in and out of different combat zones. Kincaid Sr. and his Soldiers were among the first of troops to move into Baghdad, Iraq whereas Kincaid Jr. and his Soldiers were among the final wave of Soldiers to exit Afghanistan.
In addition to the operational challenges faced by both Commander’s, working with other units for the first time was a task both Kincaid’s were faced with.
“We had to work with over a dozen units throughout our deployment that had never previously worked together,” said Kincaid Jr. “It was a challenge getting them all to work in sync with each other. It is important to show Soldiers what right looks like and I think we did that as a Headquarters element.”
Kincaid Sr. faced similar situations.
“There was a lot of jealousy between the Active Army and the National Guard units, especially at the Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel levels,” said Kincaid Sr. “As a National Guard unit, you had to be better and prove yourself more every day. I had to protect my units, my people and our reputation constantly.”
With the challenges faced and the successes had between both commanders and their units, the father-son duo both agreed that none of it would have been possible without the Soldiers dedication to the mission, the unit, and the West Virginia National Guard.
Less than one percent of America’s population is ever given the opportunity to deploy and play a role in defending our nation’s freedom. Even less than that is the percentage of the population that deploys multiple times with the same unit. There are five Soldiers in the 111th Engineer Brigade that are currently deployed that also deployed in 2003 under Kincaid Sr.
"I think it is an extremely unique opportunity to have served under the command, at the Brigade level, of a father and son," said Sgt. 1st Class Fredrick Miller, who deployed in 2003 with Kincaid Sr. and now in 2021 with Kincaid Jr. "I am honestly proud and honored to have served with both of them."
“These folks were the best of the best in 2003 and still are in 2021. Way to go to every one of them,” said Kincaid Sr. “They are my children also. They are in my prayers along with everyone in the 111th Engineer Brigade every day.”
Kincaid Jr. owes much of the credit of his successes to his father and his leadership ability in which he believes laid a strong foundation for them to create such a legacy.
“He started the success for them and we have been able to keep it running,” said Kincaid Jr. “This is such a neat linkage that we are both a part of and can actually talk about. Being part of a legacy is a great feeling and knowing that I followed my dad in that legacy is amazing.”
But Kincaid Sr. and Jr. agree that this legacy is not just about them. It is also about their family, both their Guard family and their actual family.
“To everyone in the 111th, thank you for allowing me to ride along on this journey. You’re the reason the Theater Engineer Brigade is successful. All the credit goes to you for your hard work and investment. I just happen to be lucky enough to be with you,” Kincaid Jr. said. “To my wife Chrissy, and children Patrick, Nate, Will and Lauren – thank you for everything. You are the reason I do this and without all of you there would be no reason to serve because all of you represent what I love about this state and country.”
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION