Stillwater News Press

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July 5, 2013

Courage Under Fire: Tom Kinnick


STILLWATER, Okla. — I spy

The stealthy submarines gathered military intelligence as they traveled undetected beneath the waves so Kinnick became more interested in that aspect of the service and he was selected as a naval intelligence clerk, living a real-life “NCIS.”

His everyday life in the naval investigative service at Pearl Harbor was not the fiction of the popular modern television drama. For Kinnick, it was fact that supporting the mission required diverse skills and substantial resources to choreograph complex criminal investigations or launch proactive counterintelligence initiatives.

Kinnick worked with different agencies and earned an associates degree at the University of Hawaii before being posted to the U.S. Embassy in Singapore. In gathering raw military intelligence at the second largest port in the world, he would photograph cargo on ships coming and going. The Russians sometimes would thwart his attempts by standing on deck and flashing tall mirrors toward his face so the pictures were fogged. If he was noticed photographing, sometimes a ship would radio the next one coming through and they would speed up too fast for him to shoot a clear picture. Kinnick would also take notes on what type of equipment he saw being shipped through the port. Information was collected and sent back to the Joint Chief of Staff operations to help piece together various puzzles concerning other countries during the Cold War.


Joint warriors

In 1974, Kinnick started a six-year stint with the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff in Omaha, Neb. — 1,000 miles from any ocean —  and 12 stories underground.

Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff was created to coordinate strategic nuclear targeting and develop integrated plans between the armed forces.   Kinnick went to work in a control center buried 45 feet beneath the earth at Offutt Air Force Base, 4,000 acres located in the heart of the nation. While duty in Nebraska seems to be far from the typical shore duty assignments, nuclear submarine servicemen have a long-standing presence at Offutt and “it was the closest station I could get to Stillwater so my kids could get to know our folks,”  Kinnick said. His children, the late Thomas Jackson “T.J.” Kinnick and Jacqueline Kinnick Anderson, grew up all over the world but got to spend their teenage years in one place in Bellevue, Neb., where the family was involved in the community. The first time Kinnick was eligible, he was the only one in the Navy to be promoted from E-7 to E-8 and then E-8 to E-9. After his children graduated from high school, he returned to Pearl Harbor with the Pacific Fleet Intelligence Center and finished his naval career aboard the USS William H. Standley.

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