Written by Leejay Lockhart
Fort Campbell Public Affairs Office
Fort Campbell, KY – On June 23rd, 2017, Col. Joseph Kuchan took command of the Fort Campbell garrison, bringing more than 22 years of experience to the position.
Kuchan has served in a variety of roles throughout his career, from aide de camp to the commanding general in two different commands to deputy operations officer while deployed to Afghanistan. He also has commanded an infantry battalion.
This is his third duty assignment at Fort Campbell. For nearly a year he was the 101st Airborne Division’s operations officer before he took over as garrison commander from Col. James “Rob” Salome who is retiring from the Army.Kuchan’s first tour on Fort Campbell was a unique and memorable experience for the infantry officer.
He signed into the division on September 11th, 2001, as terrorists attacked America, which he said is “central” in his memories. When he found out in 2015 that he would be returning to Fort Campbell he said it was very exciting.
“So that was the first emotion,” Kuchan said. “Really it was in a lot of ways like coming back home.”
Kuchan said he and his wife Sarah, are excited to be at Fort Campbell. As a couple they have already met many people who are interested in Fort Campbell’s successful operation, and he is looking forward to his new role. Kuchan said being a commander is always a special time for an Army officer. In his career he has spent about six years as a commander and despite moving on to new challenges it is always bittersweet when leaving a command.
Kuchan said having served as a company and field grade officer at Fort Campbell in the past, he knows what receiving support from the garrison is like, but now as the garrison commander it is his mission to provide the support.
“It’s always different when you’re the one providing it,” Kuchan said. “Because you don’t typically understand how it all happens [when you are receiving support]. You understand whether it does or does not happen.”
Kuchan trained extensively for his new role. He attended the pre-command course, where he took all of the elective classes about garrison command. He also attended the senior officer legal orientation with courses specific to issues garrison commanders face. After being in command for a few months, he will attend a commanders course provided by the Installation Management Command at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. That class is designed especially for garrison commanders. However, Kuchan said one resource helped him more than any other.
“Army learning is good, but what really prepared me the most was talking to the outgoing commander, Col. Salome,” Kuchan said. “Since I’ve been here a year as a G-3, Col. Salome has really helped incrementally over the past year when we started going over topics … So that’s probably been the most beneficial with his insights into what some of the challenges are, what he faces and if he was sticking around for another couple of years what would he want to do.”
Kuchan said he and Salome started with monthly lunches, and their meetings increased over time as the change of command drew closer.
Another difference from his previous job is that Kuchan will be commanding more civilians than he ever has before. Though in his role as operations officer for the division he has worked in a shared office with civilian employees from the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, which he characterized as “very effective and efficient.”
Kuchan describes himself as a leader who enables his subordinates to have the opportunity to succeed.
“I like to give folks wide lines and then let them operate inside those lines, with the assumption folks, especially the folks in the garrison … have a lot of experience and they want to do well,” Kuchan said. “In a lot of cases you just need to unleash their creativity and let them do good work for you.”
Looking ahead to the garrison mission requirements, Kuchan is already planning for more deployments. He said it is very rare for all three brigade combat teams to be on Fort Campbell at one time. He also is strategizing how to provide the right services across the post, while coping with constrained resources and reduced budgets.
Kuchan said his favorite Army value is selfless service. He said he wakes up excited to work with people committed to serving the nation. For the past 20 years this has been with Soldiers, but now it will be Fort Campbell’s workforce.
“[Soldiers are] out there in the mud, the dirt and the grime and the heat and the cold,” Kuchan said. “They’re all training to fight and win our wars. I think that’s pretty powerful. That excites me to my very core … now I won’t have many Soldiers who work directly for me, I will have committed civilians, but we are serving those same Soldiers.”