News: Squadron dedicates room to fallen former CSM
Story by Sgt. Kimberly Lessmeister
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – “He built the Blackhawks … he built it from the ground up.”
These were Lt. Col. Charles Lombardo’s words describing his former "wingman,” Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin.
Griffin served in 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment “Blackhawks” for six years as the operations sergeant major, then beside Lombardo as the command sergeant major of the squadron.
Soldiers and leaders of 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, dedicated a room in their squadron headquarters building Aug. 6 in honor of their former command sergeant major, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan, Aug. 8, 2012, with 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colo.
“Our soldiers are always in the day room (and Griffin was always with the soldiers),” said Lombardo. “I wanted to pick a place that soldiers would be interacting with him (and) where they’d … see a collage of photos and stories behind the legendary noncommissioned officer.”
Griffin’s wife, Pamela, and their daughter, Kylie, flew from Colorado to attend the dedication.
“(The squadron) had a very special place in his heart, and it means a lot to us that they’re doing this dedication of this room to his honor,” Pamela said. “He made such an impact on so many soldiers’ lives, and I really didn’t understand the magnitude of the effect that he had had on people until we lost him.”
Griffin, a Laramie, Wyo., native, joined the military in 1988.
“We had been married three months and he joined the military without me knowing,” Pamela said. “But it was absolutely who he was. I would not change it for the world, except what we’re dealing with now. I know he would not change what’s happened now. He was totally dedicated, and we knew he was doing what he loved.”
Lombardo still remembers his first impression of Griffin.
Before serving together as the command team for 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, Lombardo and Griffin first met when Lombardo was a troop commander and Griffin was a platoon sergeant on Fort Carson in the late ‘90s, said Lombardo.
“He was this bold, cocky tank platoon sergeant. I think he was heckling me on something,” he said. “I just thought, ‘Man, that guy’s got a lot of moxie to him and he’s obviously very technically competent.’”
The two men shared common traits including an “in-your-face” attitude and both competed in wrestling, said Lombardo.
Griffin’s charisma and dedication to the soldiers showed daily, and he always had the pulse of the squadron, he said.
“He was one of those great leaders who had photographic memory,” Lombardo said. “He’d know (the soldiers), know their wives and kids, and knew their background story. To me that is what epitomizes what we all call today’s engaged leaders.”
One of Lombardo’s favorite memories with Griffin was driving through the Snoqualmie Pass in winter on the way to Yakima Training Center, Wash., to conduct a gunnery exercise, he said.
“The neatest thing is looking over in the hatch and seeing snow on (Griffin’s) face and him smiling ear to ear,” he said. “We’re just going down for a week to do some gunnery, but he loved being with soldiers and he loved being in the field.”
Pamela said being beside Griffin throughout his military career was an amazing journey, and he had goals right from the beginning.
For Griffin, his next step would have been to become a division-level sergeant major, she said.
“It was difficult for me the first time I went to the division sergeant major’s office at Fort Carson because … it was hard for me knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to do that, (but) he accomplished everything he set out to within his control,” Pamela said.
Now, Griffin’s memory lives on at the Blackhawk headquarters building.
Candid photos of Griffin hang on the walls, and centered on one of the walls is a shadow box dedicated to him and his service.
“I appreciate so much everything that everyone is doing to honor him,” she said. “He has made us so proud and it’s hard for us to attend these things … but at the same time I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”