By Olan Field
Kyle Brede set out on the beginning of his retirement after 30 years of military service.
Lieutenant Colonel Brede’s last duty station was as the Army ROTC Professor of Military Science at the University of Oklahoma, but his influence continues like that of a teacher for many Cadets.
Brede’s 30 years of military service ended by doing what he loved, mentoring those who will soon become commissioned officers and lead the same Army he did. Taking the same oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
His retirement was prompted at an inopportune moment of his career as he had been selected to become a Battalion Commander but declined the position.
“I was not doing what the profession says I should do,” said Brede. “I had to physically write a declination statement of declining command and had to go sit with the first general officer in my chain of command to be counseled, not fun.”
The decision was prompted by choosing to put his family first, because he wanted to spend more time with his wife and three sons, and less time at work or abroad on deployment.
“If you ever get in that situation pick your family; the Army will survive,” Brede insisted.
Stationed at the Pentagon prior to becoming the Professor of Military Science at OU, Kameron Brede, Kyle Brede’s oldest son, told me that their time at the Pentagon was one of the most difficult.
“There were constantly things going on at the Pentagon,” said Kameron. “That was the hardest time.”
Brede’s military career began after graduating from high school enlisting as a UH-1 Utility Helicopter Repairer, in 1988.
“He was more mature than his fellow soldiers. He cared more about his work. He tried harder than the rest of them. He definitely was a was a standout,” said Robin Waycott, Brede’s first squad leader and now a retired Sergeant Major.
Brede would go on to be selected for the Army’s green-to-gold program. A program that transfers quality non-commissioned officers, commonly referred to as an NCOs, to go to college and become a commissioned officer.
The lessons Brede learned as an NCO would remain as he would learn for himself and use that experience teach others.
The leadership in an NCO is at times indistinguishable to that of a commissioned officer. NCOs are normally responsible for making minor decisions within the limits provided by their superior commissioned officer and caring for their lower enlisted troops.
Brede’s experience as an NCO worked as a hindrance when becoming a commissioned officer.
“When I showed up to Tarleton State University, Master Sergeant Leon McMullen was a senior military science instructor, and he brought me in,” said Brede. “He’s like ‘listen you need to take that in that NCO stuff and you need to set it aside.’”
Brede didn’t understand this at the time he said, but he did learn. The separation of NCOs and commissioned officers are at times fuzzy and the relationship is often misunderstood or confusing to new members of the military.
“I shared the same lesson with Ross Young (a current green-to-gold Cadet at OU) because the difference between the two ended up being so true,” said Brede. “I would find myself drifting to what I know when I would get in the NCO’s lane and I would interfere with their duties.”
As a newly commissioned officer, Brede would become a platoon leader in Korea, after working on staff. Later taking company command in Fort Hood during the Invasion of Iraq and eventually serving as a Battalion Executive Officer at Camp Zama, Japan.
Timothy Burke, a now-retired Chief Warrant Officer 5, would first meet Brede in Korea.
“He’s a former NCO before he came to Korea and he had initially started off wanting to do all the work. I said, ‘You are the leader now. Let your guys do the work.’ Then he quickly transitioned to be a leader,” said Burke.
The two of them became friends outside of work, with their wives getting to know each other and also be friends. On a trip to Thailand together, Brede was nearly attacked by a monkey.
“Kyle wanted to take a picture with this monkey we saw. He had a beer in his hand and the monkey stole it from him,” said Burke. “Kyle had no idea how much a monkey could drink and was very worried about the monkey getting drunk and getting hurt.”
Brede would continue to fight and try to retrieve the beer back from the monkey, but nearly got attacked in the process. Finally giving up the efforts after pleas from his wife, Krista, to give up and not lose a finger to the monkey.
Brede is a caring person. He didn’t care too much for his beer, he just wanted to make sure the monkey would be safe. The level of compassion is visible throughout his career, as both a squad leader or as the Professor of Military Science. Possessing an element of humility and compassion not always seen in the military.
“He has a natural ability to construct and to bring everybody together. As one of the strong points of his vast personality,” said Burke. “We all know that we have work to do, but after work, you get together to have a barbecue or watch a football game.”
This natural ability to foster a trustworthy team supported his time at the University of Oklahoma while in command. As his leadership philosophy allowed for those below him to be friends and be human toward one another while getting the job done.
He taught cadets to be big believers in loyalty and personal responsibility. For himself though, he is currently searching for that new, personal responsibility following retirement.
“I know that loyalty may not be replicated in the same manner once I get on the civilian side of things. So, I’m trying to prepare myself for that personal responsibility. Because I learned personal responsibility as a young soldier and I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that it can be very liberating,” said Brede.
In just the first weeks of his retirement, Brede looked to become a commercial pilot. He has since canceled all interviews scheduled and he wants to find a future that allows him to continue to teach and remain close to his wife and three kids.