Kelly McKeague, the Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, shown being sworn in Tuesday 9-5-17 during a ceremony at the Pentagon
McKeague, who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2016 at the rank of major general, served as the DPAA Deputy Director and as the Commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, one of the entities merged in 2015 to form the Department’s newest defense agency.
"I know the importance of the agency's mission and I look forward to working with DPAA's team of dedicated professionals,” said McKeague.
Fern Sumpter Winbush, who has been serving as Acting Director, will resume her role as Principal Deputy Director for the agency, responsible for formulating policy, overseeing business development, and increasing outreach initiatives.
“My time serving as the Acting Director has been challenging and rewarding as I worked to move the agency forward in our mission of providing the fullest possible accounting of U.S. personnel missing from past conflicts to the families and the nation,” said Winbush. “As an agency, we have accomplished much over the last two years, and I am confident the incoming Director will take over an agency postured for continued success.”
McKeague, who served as an independent business consultant since his military retirement, says he is looking forward to this opportunity.
"I am humbled and blessed to serve on behalf of the families whose loved ones served our country,” he said. “The fulfillment of this agency's solemn obligation is my honor to endeavor."
A native of Hawaii, McKeague began his military career in 1981 as a civil engineering officer, serving in a variety of assignments at base, major command and Headquarters U.S. Air Force levels. In 1995, he entered the Maryland Air National Guard and served on active duty as a civil engineer. His assignments include the Air National Guard Readiness Center, followed by legislative liaison tours at the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau. He also served as the Chief of Staff, National Guard Bureau and Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard Matters.
Kelli’s Heroes: Support for missing in action strongBy Kelli Germeraad
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Every cause, every issue must have advocates whose passion, conviction and determination will keep that issue in the public eye and create awareness and understanding of why it matters.
For 47 years, the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing from Southeast Asia has been the determined voice of those still missing from the Vietnam War. In addition to being the driving force behind the full accounting and repatriations of all recoverable remains, the members of the League have been an active part of ensuring that the funding, staff and resources have been part of the Department of Defense’s budget. They make sure that the promises of ‘leaving no one’ behind are kept.
The painstaking and complex recovery efforts can take months, sometimes years. Add to the obstacles, the ever present political football of this issue, one need only review past budgets for the continued recovery process which in many years have been nonexistent. The Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which has the full responsibility of overseeing the identification and recovery efforts, has been racked with poor leadership, no leadership and is severely underfunded.
With the successes and advocacy of the National League of Families, other organizations have also formed to demand accounting of their loved ones in an effort to repatriate the remains of our service members from World War II and Korea. If it were not for the continued efforts of the families of those who are missing, so many would have been left behind. Congress, this is one commitment whose funding has not be adequately addressed, and it is time to give the POW-MIA issue the full funding it needs to get the job done. Bring home those whose families still wait.
National POW-MIA Recognition Day is annually held on the third Friday in September, this year it will be held on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. The Air Force Sergeants Association on Travis Air Force Base will once again host a 24-hour Remembrance Run, which will take place on Travis at the Blue Fitness track starting at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14 and run through Friday, Sept. 15.
Runners will carry the American Flag as well as the POW flag throughout the duration of the run. At 1 p.m. on Friday, a recognition ceremony will be held in front of wing headquarters at the base flag pole and will honor former prisoners of war as well as those still listed as missing in action.
The run and the ceremony are open to anyone with access to Travis AFB. Your continued attendance and support of this very important day and the issue it represents let’s the families of America’s service members know that their loved ones are not forgotten.
For more information or to sign up for the run, contact MSgt.Marcus Hewitt at 424-7804 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or TSgt. Jason Jessee via email: Jason.email@example.com .
For information on the efforts of the National League of Families visit: http://www.pow-miafamilies.org
The author is a local advocate for veterans’ issues. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Far Side cartoons, Ansel Adams landscapes, underwater dogs — so cliche. Why settle for a humdrum wall calendar in 2017 when you can track your days with CIA paintings showing agency operatives stealing secrets, killing off enemies or even getting killed themselves?
January features a painting of a CIA contractor firing an AK-47 out of an Air America chopper onto a North Vietnamese biplane. Flip to April for “The First Sting,” depicting a CIA-trained Afghan mujahideen striking Soviet helicopters with a Stinger missile. End 2017 on a high note: December features the famous Glomar Explorer in 1974 recovering a portion of a Soviet submarine teeming with secrets from the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
The inaugural “Secret Ops of the CIA” calendar was produced by the nephew of an agency contractor killed in the line of duty and features reproductions of the actual paintings that have hung for years inside the hallways of the CIA headquarters in Northern Virginia. Yes, the CIA has an official art collection, although you can’t just drive up to the agency to check it out.
But for as little as the cost of about a week’s worth of coffee, you can adorn your kitchen wall with prints of genuine CIA artwork showing clandestine missions from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The calendar’s month of April features “The First Sting,” by Stuart Brown. It depicts a mujahideen fighter firing a Stinger antiaircraft missile at a Soviet gunship in Afghanistan in the 1980s. (Stuart Brown)
The calendars are on sale for $28 at the International Spy Museum and its online gift store; or, for $23.95 on the website of its producer, Erik Kirzinger, a North Carolina man whose uncle, a CIA contractor, was killed during a 1952 mission in China depicted in one of the calendar paintings, “Ambush in Manchuria.”But the CIA won’t sell the calendar at its own gift shop.
“I bent over backwards to make sure everyone on their end was comfortable,” Kirzinger said, declining to elaborate. “I mean, the CIA gift shop has sold made-in-China coffee mugs with the CIA logo on it. Good grief!”
Toni Hiley, the longtime CIA museum director, said the gift shop can’t sell the calendar because “it’s not an official work of the U.S. government.
[CIA challenge coins: Secret symbolism, dark humor can be had for a price on eBay]
For the folks who run the International Spy Museum in downtown Washington, the CIA’s loss is their gain. The shop bought 25 copies of the calendar and quickly sold out. Then the museum store purchased another 300.
“When we tell visitors that it’s the first time you can have prints of these paintings all together, they’re surprised and they get really excited, and they also get excited that the CIA logo itself is on it,” said Allison Bishop, a book buyer for the spy museum and retail store. “So few products have the CIA logo allowed to be on the product.”
(In true, cryptic CIA fashion, Kirzinger’s calendar cover does carry the agency’s blue seal with an eagle, but he said the agency also required him to print a disclaimer next to the seal that says the CIA “does not approve, endorse or authorize use of its name, initials, or Seal.”)
It was Kirzinger, 65, who began commissioning large oil-on-canvas paintings for the CIA. And it was Kirzinger who designed and published the calendar with his own money, along with significant contributions from a retired case officer in California and the chief executive of a technology company whose father was a CIA contract pilot.
“I am unaware of any other CIA calendar like this,” Kirzinger said. “If the true-to-life scenes depicted in the CIA artwork involved the service branches, there certainly would be large medal presentation ceremonies with marching bands and well-deserved public acclaim. But for the men and women in the ‘silent service,’ everything is on a need-to-know basis, including whether or not medals and citations were presented.”
The backs of each page contain several paragraphs of Kirzinger’s research, archival photos of agency personnel, and other documents. In advance of its release last month, he submitted the calendar to the agency’s museum and staff historians to verify its accuracy.
Though Kirzinger has never worked in the spy business himself, he led a peripatetic life, working as a logger, a fly fishing guide, a cowboy on a 165,000-acre cattle ranch in Montana, and the regional director of a now-defunct Chinese restaurant franchise.
He first made contact with the CIA nearly two decades ago, thanks to his dogged attempt to find the remains of his uncle, Norman A. Schwartz, a pilot killed on a secret mission into Communist China in 1952. In the spring of 1998, Kirzinger’s aging mother pushed him to have Schwartz’s remains repatriated from China, where his plane crashed, so he could be buried next to their parents in Louisville.
[CIA’s Memorial Wall is shaped by a Northern Virginia stone carver]
After getting nowhere, Kirzinger wrote then-CIA Director George J. Tenet. A few weeks later, his office called back, disclosing that the agency would chisel a star onto its marble Memorial Wall in his honor. Though Schwartz’s remains were never found, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Cross, the CIA’s highest honor of valor. At the CIA’s annual Memorial Wall ceremony in 2000, Kirzinger said Tenet’s vivid remarks about the slain operatives inspired his project.
“I just had these visions of art work, from the OSS through the contemporary war on global terrorism, and if you lined up all these paintings, you’d see the visual history of the CIA, one painting at a time,” he said. “I knew the only artwork at the headquarters was some god-awful ‘modern art’ . . . and tacky Americana prints.”
Eventually, Kirzinger pitched himself to the CIA as a volunteer who could find the artists, pool private donations to pay them, and research the missions’ scenes to ensure the paintings’ accuracy. The first painting, “Earthquake’s Final Flight,” which depicts a CIA plane in May 1954 under fire over North Vietnam, was installed at the agency in 2005
“Erik’s vision for the collection ran parallel to our own desire to create a world-class art collection,” said Hiley, the agency’s longtime museum director. She added that the CIA wanted to amass a collection on par with the combat paintings owned by other military branches.
In June 2010, after multiple pieces had been unveiled at the agency, Kirzinger was presented with the CIA’s highest civilian honor, the Agency Seal Medal. After that, Kirzinger bowed out of his role as the agency’s unofficial arts commissioner. But last year, he decided to incorporate those paintings into the inaugural Secret Ops of the CIA calendar, at the insistence of one of the artworks’ donors, Bruce Walker, a retired CIA case officer in San Francisco.
“Erik’s very patriotic to begin with, but he’s very skilled with understanding what the agency needed to pull this off,” said Walker, 84. “To achieve this product requires a lot of finesse and diplomacy.”
Where does Kirzinger hang his Secret Ops of the CIA calendar?
“Um, I don’t have one,” he said. “As soon as I get ’em, I give ’em away. I have to send a batch to the CIA director and another batch to the Directorate of Operations.”
US Ambassador to Laos Rena Bitter with DPAA field teams in Savannakhet Province during the last JFa