Maumelle’s Kirk Van Pelt was recognized as the Arkansas National Guard’s newest star during a promotion ceremony held Sunday at Camp Robinson.
Van Pelt was promoted to brigadier, or one-star, general.
Van Pelt joined the Arkansas Army National Guard in 1983 and has served in numerous assignments including two combat tours in Iraq. In his first tour, in 2004, Van Pelt served as the battalion commander of the Arkansas National Guard’s 2nd Battalion 153rd Infantry Regiment, nicknamed “Gunslingers”.
During his second tour, in 2008, Van Pelt served as the Deputy Commander of the Arkansas National Guard’s famed 39th Infantry Brigade Combat team, the parent organization of the 153rd Infantry he served in his first tour.
Both combat tours were with the Guard’s largest and most decorated unit, the 39th, which saw combat in World War II at Dutch Harbor, an Alaska Aleutian Island battle.
“Soldiers of the Arkansas National Guard are seasoned professionals who are combat proven and ready for anything,” Maj. William D. Wofford, Arkansas’ Adjutant General said.
“Van Pelt was selected for promotion because of his warrior ethos, care for soldiers and ability to operate at the next level.”
Van Pelt is a second generation Guardsman, his father is a retired Colonel, helicopter pilot and airfield commander.
Van Pelt is a highly decorated military officer who earned two Bronze Star Medals, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Expert Infantry Badge and the Air Assault Badge.
Soldiers who served under his command call Van Pelt “A true soldier’s general;” a reflection of both his leadership and concern for the welfare of his troops.
“He was a very proactive leader,” said Staff. Sgt. Joshua S. Dodson, who served under Van Pelt during the 2004 Iraq deployment, “If there was a firefight and he was there, you knew he would be in the trenches with the troops; that meant a lot to us.”
Historically battalion commanders sit back in a command post or above the fray in a command helicopter directing the troops from that viewpoint.
One veteran said soldiers whose commander fights alongside them normally develop a close relationship and a lot of respect for that commander.
In his new role Van Pelt will serve as the commander of the Arkansas National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters, providing command and control over Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center, the Camp Joseph Taylor Robinson Maneuver Training Center in North Little Rock, the Marksmanship Training Center, which moved to Arkansas in the late 1970s, and a host of other directorates supporting the mission of the Arkansas National Guard.
“Serving in the Guard has provided me with a lot of opportunities,” said Van Pelt, “As a citizen-soldier the training and experience I received from my time in the Guard has made me a better leader for my business; likewise my business experience adds value to my military role as well.”
Van Pelt is Vice-President of AIC inc., a systems integration firm located in Sherwood.
“I owe a lot to both my business partners and my family; without their support I would not be here today” Van Pelt said during Sunday’s ceremony.
Van Pelt and his family are longtime Maumelle residents. He is married to the former Kelly Sheehan and they have three children: James, a senior at the University of Central Arkansas; Katie, a freshman at the University of Arkansas; and Hannah, a junior at North Little Rock High School.