Kimberly Nash has seen a lot of the world during her 20 years of military service.
A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, a graduate of West Point now assigned to the Pentagon, she helped provide humanitarian relief to civilians trapped in the Afghanistan mountains during one of the most treacherous winters in that country’s history.
Nash served in Macedonia as part of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force, providing logistical support in that troubled part of the world.
The officer’s experience has taught her that some nations do not transfer power so easily or orderly as the country she has taken an oath to protect.
“It’s very refreshing to me in a country where the people elect the official and that the transition goes smoothly,” she said. “I have traveled all over the globe. Nothing makes me appreciate being an American more than when we execute our elections peacefully.”
On Friday, Nash will see this process up close.
The Army officer will serve as a military assistant at the presidential inauguration.
A familial bit of symmetry arises from this. Forty-four years ago, her father, retired Army Col. Kenneth Nash, served in the same capacity during the second inauguration of President Richard Nixon.
Mr. Nash, who spent the 46 years in uniform, the last 15 leading the JROTC programs at St. Joseph public schools, worked as the military aide to the chairman of the inaugural committee, J. Willard Marriott, founder of the hotel empire.
“I was amazed, when I think back on it, the confidence they had in me as a newbie, walking in the door,” Mr. Nash, still a St. Joseph resident, said. “A little country boy like me, out of Atchison, Kansas, and I get a chance to be part of all that.”
Lt. Col. Nash serves in the Army G-4 office, whose mission of “integrated logistics support” provides American fighters with those things necessary to do their work.
She went to the Pentagon from her command of the 10th Transportation Battalion at Fort Eustis in Virginia. At that post, she oversaw more than 1,000 soldiers.
A state-champion track athlete at Leavenworth High School, Nash went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1996. Her assignments in the years to follow took her to Europe, the Middle East, Hawaii and various stateside postings.
In August, a request went out among all the service branches for officers and enlisted personnel who might be good for the inaugural detail. A superior officer put forth Nash’s name.
After a series of written and in-person interviews, the Army notified the lieutenant colonel about her selection.
“I was not chosen for this position because I’m a logistician. The job isn’t really based on the fact that I am a transporter,” she said in a phone interview from the Washington area.
“I will be a venue liaison, which means I will be assigned to a location and pretty much ensure that everything goes to schedule and solving problems as they arise.”
Back in 1972, her father, who spent a large part of the previous seven years abroad, primary in Germany and Vietnam, got an extended assignment in the Washington area. His superior officer in an intelligence unit said his qualifications, as a field grade officer and a combat infantryman, seemed well suited for the inaugural detail.
He got selected and, the day after Nixon’s re-election, he met with Marriott. The two got along, and Nash became his almost constant companion for the next three months.
“He was a fantastic gentleman,” the St. Joseph veteran said, noting that the days began with a 5 a.m. fitness workout and often ended about 11 p.m. “I learned a long time ago that you grab 45 minutes (of sleep) when you can.”
Nash watched the inaugural organization grow from almost nothing to more than 3,000 workers and volunteers. At one point, with a snag in coordination between administration higher-ups and the inauguration committee, the soldier, then a major, accompanied Marriott to a meeting with Nixon at the White House.
“I was like a little mouse over the in corner,” said Nash, who retired from the military in 2005.
(As historical context, he added, the administration officials assigned to work with the inauguration had been busy testifying about their roles in the Watergate scandal.)
The retired officer said he and his wife, Dottie, are proud of their daughter’s assignment with the current inauguration.
“She far exceeds me in abilities,” Nash said of the lieutenant colonel.
Like her father, Lt. Col. Nash considers the work in the peaceful transfer of power an honor, but she said her greatest military satisfaction came in humanitarian efforts.
“When we’re in position to provide assistance to humans in need, we’re the ones they call because of our resources, our training and our ability to deliver in harsh conditions,” she said.