Meet Lt. Col. (Va.) Kent Brinkley!
Brinkley currently serves as the acting Virginia Defense Force chief of staff with the additional duty of historian at Force Headquarters in Richmond. He joined the VDF in 1985 after being referred to the then newly reconstituted Virginia State Guard by a Virginia National Guard recruiter. The modern VDF observed its 38th birthday April 18, 2022, and Brinkley is one of the longest serving members in the organization.
“I joined the VDF because although I had a full-time civilian career as a licensed, professional landscape architect, I had also completed all of this great military training via my U.S. Army ROTC experiences in college, which I had loved and wanted to continue in some form,” he said.
Brinkley said that the VDF offered a unique opportunity to serve his community while continuing his demanding civilian profession.
“Looking for only a part-time, ‘citizen-soldier’ opportunity, I tried to join both the U.S. Army Reserve, and then the Virginia National Guard, but because I was then about 32 years old, neither one was taking recruits who were that old at that time. However, the Virginia State Guard had just been re-established, and they definitely were interested in having me. So, accepting an appointment in the VSG/VDF was one way of having a part-time military career, and also helping me to give something back to our commonwealth, as a volunteer.”
During course of his long VDF membership, Brinkley has served in a wide variety of duty assignments:
– Battalion-level Public Affairs Officer, former Division Support Command Headquarters (1985-86)
– Supply Company Platoon Leader, DISCOM (1986-87)
– Battalion-level S4 Logistics Officer, DISCOM HQs (1987-88)
– G3 Operations, Plans and Training Officer, former VDF Division Headquarters (1988-89)
– G3 Operations Officer, former VDF Div. HQs (1989-90)
– Assistant G3 Operations Officer, former VDF Div. HQs (1990-92)
– Assistant Chief of Staff, G3 for Plans, Operations and Training, former VDF Div. HQs (1992-1996)
– S3 Operations Officer (w/ voluntary reduction in rank), former 2nd Bn./2nd (Lafayette) Bde. (1997-1999)
– Individual Ready Reserve (1999-2001) (while serving as the state President of his professional society)
– Liaison to the former Virginia National Guard State Area Cmd. Headquarters (2001-03)
– Director of Instruction for the former VDF Training Command (2003-2007)
– Executive Officer of the former Division Troop Command (2007-13)
– Deputy Historian (2013-15)
– Headquarters Commandant and Waller Depot Garrison Commander (2015-2017)
– VDF Historian (2017-present)
– Flag Secretary (2021-22)
– Acting Chief of Staff (2022-present)
With more than 36 years of service, he has seen the organization change, grow, shrink, but also mature as the all-volunteer reserve for the Virginia National Guard. “I dedicated myself right from the start in helping it to grow and develop, and have always viewed my VDF service, not simply as a club or a hobby, but more as a challenging and sometimes very demanding, part-time career,” he said. “I’ve personally grown along with it.”
After serving 18 years as a landscape architect and garden historian with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Brinkley retired in March 2016. He has stayed busy in retirement; however, by serving as a costumed historical interpreter and military historian at Colonial Williamsburg’s Powder Magazine and Guardhouse for the last 12 years, and working part-time at the Williamsburg Antique Mall in Lightfoot, Virginia.
Recognizing the need to maintain a strong and capable organization that is ready to support the Commonwealth when called upon, Brinkley encourages other VDF members to continue to learn and grow, especially in the field of emergency management. “We must become emergency management domestic operations specialists. Our Virginia National Guard counterparts cannot, simply because it is not their primary mission, but it is for the VDF,” he said. “While we are still a military force, we often work closely with VDEM.”
No matter the assignment, Brinkley encourages all VDF members to “keep an open mind as much as you can, give your fellow members chances to learn and grow with you, and above all, be a team player.”
He also noted that the VDF’s sense of its long history, and traditions of reliable service, coupled with a consistent spirit of teamwork are critical elements to an effective state military organization.
During the course of his VDF career, Brinkley has served on state active duty a total of six times, with the longest stretch of such duty being nearly two months in duration during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the summer of 2020. He was the second VDF officer to even be called up to SAD, the first was retired Col. (Va.) Earl Williams. Both men served in the Joint Operations Center during Hurricane Fran in August 1995.
His most memorable and challenging tour of SAD was while serving as VDF G3 during the week-long snow storm in January 1996. For the very fist time, the VDF had 75 members called up to SAD to help Virginians respond with a major winter storm that blanketed the entire commonwealth with three to four feet of snow.
“None of us excel solely on our own, at least not continually for very long,” he said. “We are dependent upon each other, and our force and its continued existence depends upon the degree to which we all are willing to apply ourselves, take pride in our history of service, and realize that the VDF can never afford nor allow our collective efforts to ever fail whenever we are called upon in emergency situations. I am still proud to serve!”