Kentucky Fan, American Soldier, World-Class Act

Story by Steve Tressler                                        stephen.tressler@us.army.mil

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti –Remember the guy (or gal) who didn’t demand to be put in charge, but just was, because no one else could see the big picture as well?

Remember how that guy also didn’t like to be singled out for his own personal success, and would answer the ‘how did you accomplish that?’ questions by starting with ‘we’?

You know the type. If not, then here you go.

Meet University of Kentucky graduate and Kentucky National Guard Task Force Longrifles Commander, Lt. Col. Rob Larkin, a Maysville, Ky. native.
2-138th Field Artillery and Task Force Longrifles Commander Lt. Col Rob Larkin, a native of Maysville, Ky., said that his Soldiers have made a significant contribution to everything they have been a part of during their deployment here in Africa. Photo by Alexa Becerra.

2-138th Field Artillery and Task Force Longrifles Commander Lt. Col Rob Larkin, a native of Maysville, Ky., said that his Soldiers have made a significant contribution to everything they have been a part of during their deployment here in Africa. Photo by Alexa Becerra.

Even as we begin the interview he wants to know why he’s being interviewed for a story. Well, besides being a UK basketball fan, I felt that being the commander of the first 500-plus member Kentucky National Guard task force to ever be deployed to Africa, he’s also a 25-year veteran of the armed forces with 5 mobilizations, 4 deployments, 3 overseas deployments, and 2 combat tours (Iraq and Afghanistan) under his belt and let’s not forget he was also awarded the Bronze Star qualified him.

 

His job here as the task force commander has been challenging at times but he smiles proudly when the subject of his Soldiers comes up. “We’ve improved security, we’ve strengthened the US relationships here with the French, Japanese and Djiboutians, and our Kentucky National Guard Soldiers have volunteered over 10,000 hours to the base and community” said Larkin, “and we still have a few months left.”  Volunteering wasn’t just something Larkin ordered others to do either, he’s always said it was the right thing to do as well. Larkin and about 100 of his task force Soldiers volunteered several hundred hours to help create the Beira Antelope Preserve (pictured below).

Volunteering wasn’t just something Larkin ordered others to do, he said it was the right thing to do. Here Larkin is with several members of his task force in Africa volunteering their time to help create the Beira Antelope Preserve. Photo by Steve Tressler.

Volunteering wasn’t just something Larkin ordered others to do, he said it was the right thing to do. Here Larkin is with several members of his task force in Africa volunteering their time to help create the Beira Antelope Preserve. Photo by Steve Tressler.

Larkin grew up a Kentucky Wildcat fan but never hated the Louisville Cardinals. “They’re from Kentucky (the Louisville Cardinals) so I root them on unless they play my Wildcats” says Larkin, “I hope they win the title this year and we keep it in Kentucky.”

Larkin is also the son of a firefighter. Between observing his father and listening to his grandfather he will tell you he’s learned a lot. He left Maysville when he was 20-years-old to attend the University of Kentucky and would graduate with a degree in Agricultural Animal Science (He also has a Masters Degree from Eastern Kentucky University in Public Environmental Health.) “I wanted to be a veterinarian, but they told me I didn’t make good enough grades to work on animals,” said Larkin, “but (he says with a laugh) they were good enough to work on people.” He says that laughing because, ‘like father like son,’ Larkin has been a Lexington Firefighter and Paramedic for the last two decades (his father was a Maysville firefighter).

Throughout his 21 years as a full-time civilian firefighter he’s also managed to raise two children (Cecily, a 20-year-old college student and Aidan his 7-year-old son) and is grateful to be married to the love of his life, his wife Tracy.

Rob Larkin letting his son have a chance to sit in a real fire engine truck in 2011!  Photo by Tracy Larkin.

Rob Larkin letting his son have a chance to sit in a real fire engine truck in 2011! Photo by Tracy Larkin.

As he reflects on his 25-year career in the military, most of which (23 years) were spent with the Lexington-based 138th Fires Brigade, he’s most thankful for his many mentors. The first name that crosses his mind is the current Deputy Adjutant General of Kentucky, Maj. Gen. Lonnie Culver. Culver served as the 2-138th Field Artillery Battalion Commander when Larkin was a young officer just coming up. “He was always good at seeing the big picture and took care of me as a junior officer,” said Larkin of Culver. Seeing the big picture would prove helpful in all of his deployments.

The deployment he’s most proud of was in 2005, when he went to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans .  “I was so happy to be doing anything there, we are Americans and we were able to help Americans, that’s what it’s all about. That is the Guard, Americans helping Americans,”says Larkin “plus LSU is in the SEC (chuckling).”

Larkin is living proof of what it is to serve. Two decades as a firefighter and paramedic, and going on three decades as a Soldier. “It’s all about your faith, your family and your country,” he says.

Seeing the big picture for this Wildcat has never been so easy.

PS- Dad says Happy Birthday to his own favorite lil’ Wildcat Aidan! (Larkin’s son Aidan turns 7-years-old today.)

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