From the Navy to the National Guard, Kirkland serves her country |

From the Navy to the National Guard, Kirkland serves her country

Rex Bovee

When Cindy Kirkland completed her four-year Navy enlistment as a petty officer second class, she thought her military career was over.

She moved to Reno and got a job helping veterans with the paperwork at the Veterans Administration Hospital. For five years she resisted her co-workers’s urgings to join them in the Nevada National Guard.

But, Kirkland said, she missed the camaraderie and structure of the military life and, in 1982, she signed up under the “Try One” program.

That enlistment promotion allowed people with prior military service to join the guard for a year with no subsequent obligation. If they liked it, they could reenlist.

Kirkland and the guard obviously liked each other. She’s now Lt. Col. Kirkland, state public affairs officer for the Nevada’s Air National Guard and Army National Guard.

“When I signed up for the guard, I didn’t think I’d stick it out 20 years, let alone be an officer,” Kirkland said Friday. “It’s been a great opportunity for me.”

She works out of the state guard headquarters at South Carson and Sonoma streets. Her boss is Maj. Gen. Tony Clark, Nevada’s adjutant general originally appointed by Dick Bryan when he was governor, then reappointed by Bob Miller and Kenny Guinn.

Kirkland was pinned with the silver oak leaves of her new rank in September 1999, though she was officially promoted in March. It takes a while for the paperwork’s travels, including a trip to the White House for the president’s signature. Kirkland said she will eventually receive a copy of that document, but the paperwork is still on its journey.

For a woman to reach her rank in the military is no longer unusual, Kirkland said.

“For the women who came before me, there were a lot of restrictions on what they could do in the military.

But a lot of opportunities opened up and there are now many female officers,” Kirkland said. She said there is a higher proportion in the professional military as opposed to the guard and reserves. She said the Nevada guard force was 16-18 percent female two years ago and the percentage has been growing.

Kirkland was made a staff sergeant when she enlisted in 1982 as a weekend warrior. In 1986 she was commissioned as a second lieutenant and she was executive officer for the 192nd Reconnaissance Squadron flying out of the Reno airport facility.

By 1988 she was a captain and commander of the air guard’s communications “flight,” the guardsmen who use radio, telephones and computers to keep the guard in touch.

By then, she also was a full-time guard employee, working weekdays with the same status as a civilian civil servant. She had her one weekend a month as a guardsman. And, as a officer, she had additional duties that consumed some evening hours.

But she was still single and managed to find some recreation time. She and a girlfriend went skiing at Mount Rose Ski Area on Christmas 1992 and a mutual friend introduced her to his buddy, Dick Kirkland.

He was Reno’s police chief at the time and had grown up in a military family, living near the Stead air base.

In July 1993, Cindy married Dick Kirkland, who later was elected sheriff of Washoe County.

“Between our two careers, it’s a challenge to get time together,” Kirkland said, “But I must admit, we’ve never been bored.”

Cindy Kirkland was promoted to major in March 1995, studying by correspondence and seminars through the Air Command Staff College and the Air War College. She was named the state public affairs officer that year, too.

Kirkland has been activated to full-time duty a few times when needed, including during the United Nations-decreed bombing of Kosovo.

“I’ve been to the Pentagon twice. During Kosovo, I worked on the public affairs team for the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Kirkland said.

“The Nevada Guard was active analyzing intelligence photos from all sources – satellites, U-2s, the Hunter and Predator unmanned aerial vehicles that took pictures there – and I got to see the results for their efforts just hours later.”