Kittle adapts to life’s change orders

Like any project engineer, P1 Group’s Zach Kittle is used to making adjustments. However, in Kittle’s newest project, planning and equipment selection will take on new meaning. In September, Kittle traded in his hard hat and safety glasses for a rifle and full body armor. Where falling objects and slippery surfaces used to present the greatest danger, he’ll now have to help protect his soldiers against insurgent gunfire.

As a member of the National Guard for eight years, Kittle will soon be headed to Afghanistan where he will serve as Company Construction Officer for approximately 10 ½ months. Before he departs, Kittle will undergo almost two months of training and be a Unit Movement Officer, overseeing the shipping of all tools and equipment overseas.

Once in Afghanistan, Kittle will be involved with construction operations. As the U.S. military continues its troop surge, Kittle’s unit will build structures that will be used as offices or guard towers and will provide shelter for sleeping.

On the surface, his work with the National Guard may seem to draw many similarities to his work with P1 Group. He’ll be second in charge of approximately 180 people, including carpenters, masons, plumbers, pipefitters and electricians.

“My job over there will be to go to jobsites and do quality control, quality assurance, make sure they get all the materials they need, and are building to the standards set,” Kittle said.

However, the transportation of materials in United States is not quite the dangerous task that it is in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, ever present are the possibilities of roadside bombs and other methods of assault. Kittle said the danger comes from “people that live in Afghanistan and don’t like the presence of forces there, or it could be the Taliban or any one of the insurgent groups there.”

Kittle mans the "Track Commander" hatch of an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier through a low-water crossing in summer 2008.

Fortunately, Kittle has been well-prepared for this endeavor. Having grown up an army brat, Kittle was born in Texas and spent a number of years living in Leavenworth, Kan. His dad spent 20 years in the army and recently retired as a Commander of Pediatric Dentists. His brother is also on active duty, and his father’s dad was part of the second wave on Omaha Beach. Kittle’s mom’s father and uncle also served.

As he came of age, Kittle didn’t plan to attend the University of Kansas. He wanted to go to Ranger school.

“My mom wouldn’t hear of it. She said they’d saved money for five years of college, and then if I wanted to be in the army, that’s great,” Kittle said.  “After I was made to go to college, I didn’t really think I was going to join the military. Then September 11 happened, and I called a recruiter three days later.”

After 9/11, the rest was history.

“I felt it was my duty to go pay back those people who just attacked us and killed a bunch of our people. It was just kind a of a pride thing. I’m very patriotic. I was raised in a very patriotic household,” Kittle said.

Kittle chose the National Guard so that he could serve his country and simultaneously finish school. As a member of the National Guard since 2001, Kittle has trained one weekend every month and two weeks every summer.

After three years at KU, Kittle spent the next three and half years at Kansas State University in the Construction Science and Management program. During his time there, he joined ROTC as well as married his wife, Sara.

Kittle primes a concrete charge at an urban breeching demo range.

Kittle said his wife and dog, Woody, are the hardest to leave.

“The biggest thing, especially for anyone that has a family at home, is you’ve got to prepare. You’ve got to make sure the house is ready for me to be gone for so long and that my wife knows where everything is at in the house – paperwork, the fuse box, etc.” Kittle said. “You have to have all your affairs in order before you take off…financially, and things you don’t want to think about, like making sure you have powers of attorney and a will.”

The difficulty of leaving family is magnified right now because a baby is on the way. Kittle and his wife are expecting their first child, who is due to arrive about six months before Kittle’s official return. While he expects to come home briefly for the birth of his child, he said being away for the early months of his child’s life will be tough on him and Sara.

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The adjustment will no doubt be challenging.

“Everywhere you go, you’re in body armor and full protective gear and carrying a weapon…when you go to eat, when you go to sleep…” he said.

Despite the danger, Kittle trusts the equipment he is given and remains confident in his decision to serve. He said his time with the National Guard has given him guidance and helped him grow up. It’s also allowed him to take great pride in what he’s doing, and he’s glad to follow his forefathers and provide service to his country. As a leader, he’s learned to pay more attention to detail, and he enjoys motivating others and seeing others wanting to do their best.

Project engineer, warrior, family man – Zach Kittle does it all. Whatever the calling, Kittle knows how to adjust.

Kittle helps out after the Greensburg tornado.

2 Comments
  1. Zach,
    First, Thank you! Second, stay safe and return to your family and P1. We need people like you. Let us know if there is anything we can do for your family or your platoon. You know we are pretty good at organizing things and would love to do whatever we can to make your mission easier, safer and just a little less stressful on all of you and your family if we can.
    God delivery you safely home.
    Roxanne Sturgeon Project Coordinator Lenexa Healthcare Division P1 Group, Inc.

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