SMSgt (Ret) Kemper Kinchen
A Few Words About My Buddy Kemper Kinchen
By Bob McElwain
On 11 February 2021 with the greatest of sadness, I delivered the heartbreaking news of the death of our colleague and friend, SMSgt (Ret) Kemper B Kinchen. KB as he was known by many died on 11 February 2021 while in the care of a hospice provider. For those that don’t know, KB was the inspiration behind the first Aircrew Life Support reunion. When he died, I was disappointed about how little was written about him in his obituary. I’d like to pass on the following, which I wrote about KB in our December 2009 newsletter.
After his outstanding twenty-four years of military service and then twenty-four more years of civilian service, KB retired on 17 Dec. 2009. Kemper was vital to the success of our annual reunions and planned on continuing his involvement after retirement. His persistence led to the first and subsequent Life Support Reunions. Without Kemper, I probably wouldn’t have started our website. Because of his mentorship to a lot of his subordinates and co-workers, some of our past and present senior Life Support/Flight Equipment members would not experience some of the success they enjoy today. Kemper was always trying to educate the troops or anybody that would listen to him on life support matters. He is the only guy I know that can still tell you what the AF functional code is for a base life support shop!
His old-school demeanor may have scared an airman or two at first but those that worked with him understood that he just wanted to share what had been passed on to him by the likes of people such as CMSgts Hank Counts, John Weir, Ray Struble, and other original icons of our career field. The side of him that I admired the most was his willingness to lend a hand. If he heard that you needed help with something no matter what it is he would go out of his way to provide the help. I for one thank him for everything he’s done for the career field and me.
Kemper entered the Air Force in Jun of 1961 and worked as an administrative clerk until May of 1965 when he crossed trained into Protective Equipment. The rest of his career was all life support except for a few months in the finance career field at Norton AFB (his degree by the way was in finance). After an outstanding active-duty career, Kemper worked in Aircrew Life Support shops at George AFB, CA., Edwards AFB, CA., and then with the US Army at Ft Rucker, AL. After working in the aircrew protection career field for more than 50 years, a career dedicated to ensuring the safety of aircrews came to rest when Kemper called it quits in 2013. Kemper continued in the workforce as an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Louisiana, where he helped military veterans until retiring for the last time somewhere around 2015.
In honor of KB’s commitment to our annual reunion and the reunion picnic that he eagerly took charge of, the USAF Aircrew Life Support/Flight Equipment Reunion Committee has decided to officially name our picnic The Kemper B. Kinchen Annual Reunion Picnic. My buddy is gone but thanks to this gesture he will never be forgotten.
Family and friends are welcome to send flowers or leave their condolences on KB’s memorial page by clicking on the link above.
SMSGT KEMPER B. KINCHEN
MAY 65 – JUL 65 TECH SCHOOL/CHANUTE AFB, IL
JUL 65 – AUG 67 3535 SUPPLY SQ/MATHER AFB, CA
SEP 67 – SEP 68 7407 SS/RHEIN MAIN AB, GE
OCT 68 – JAN 70 7 TFS/HOLLOMAN AFB, NM
JAN 70 – JAN 73 417 TFS/HOLLOMAN AFB, NM
MAY 72 – AUG 72 417 TFS/TAKALI RTAFB, THAILAND
MAR 73 – FEB 74 42 TEWS/KORAT RTAFB, THAILAND
FEB 74 – FEB 76 434 TFS/GEORGE AFB, CA
MAR 76 – FEB 78 431 TFS/GEORGE AFB, CA
MAR 78 – OCT 78 75 TFS/ENGLAND AFB, LA
OCT 78 – NOV 81 23 TFW/ENGLAND AFB, LA
NOV 81 – OCT 83 35 TFW/GEORGE AFB, CA
OCT 83 – SEP 85 57 FWW/NELLIS AFB, LA
JUN 86 – AUG 92 20 TFS/GEORGE AFB, CA (CIVILIAN EMPLOYEE)
MAR 93 – DEC 09 412 OSS/EDWARDS AFB, CA (CIVILIAN EMPLOYEE)