The last time Kurt Kyle was in the newspaper, he never would have guessed the next time would be for this.
The last time was in 1995 when Kyle, a Woodstock native, was a senior at the United States Naval Academy. The Northwest Herald wrote a feature on him as his collegiate wrestling career wound down.
“I never thought in a million years that I’d still be in the Navy,” Kyle, 39, said last week from his base in Sunrise, Fla., just north of Miami.
“But I’ve just enjoyed every tour,” he continued. “I think my favorite part of the job is I get the honor and privilege of having a bunch of fine young Americans working for me – people who’ve volunteered to serve our country.”
Kyle’s military career took its next step late last month when he was promoted to commanding officer of the naval recruiting district in southern Florida and the Caribbean. He’ll spend time traveling around to stations across the southern portion of the state and to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, checking that each is recruiting with similar fairness and integrity, he said.
It’s a responsibility he and his crew don’t take lightly. Only about 25 percent of them will spend their entire careers recruiting. For most, like Kyle, they’re sending recruits to ships they’ve served on themselves and might very well return to in the future.
“I have input and say into who we’re bringing into the Navy,” Kyle said. “So making sure that all my peers that are serving on ships right now, that I’m sending them the best possible [sailor] to serve our country.”
Kyle has been all over the place through the years. He served in San Diego, where he met his wife, Robyn. He’s been deployed in Yokosuka, Japan. He’s done training for ships that were sent over during the Gulf War, and he was a training officer for the task force that responded after 9/11.
His first position was as a communications officer aboard the USS Leftwich in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. His mom enjoyed that.
“I joked with my friends – he’s probably like, ‘Oh, my mom’s coming to visit again?’” said Gail Kyle, who lives in Woodstock with her husband and Kurt’s father, Boyd.
Truth is, the two have enjoyed visiting him at every stage. They have a place on the opposite coast of Florida and get to see Kurt fairly often.
And they aren’t all that surprised their son stuck with it, contrary to what he might say. Gail remembers Kurt watching “Top Gun” in middle school and getting excited about the Navy.
“I think the military suits him,” she said. “He has a lot of self-discipline. He always did, even as a kid, and has always enjoyed challenges.”
Kyle might not have envisioned this life for himself, but he’s happy with how things have unfolded. He said his new position – like those he’s held in the past – is likely temporary.
But for now, he’s enjoying the time on the shore with his wife and three kids – Isabel, 6, Andrew, 3, and the newest addition, one-month-old Kensi.
“Going off to the military? I didn’t know what the military was,” Kyle said. “It’s funny how much things change.”