Lt. Heath Kennedy
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
Iam originally from Los Lunas, N.M. I come from a big Navy family. My grandfather served in the Navy
during World War II, both in the Atlantic and the
Pacific theaters. My father, my sister and an uncle were
also in the Navy.
I had some college before I joined, but finished my
degree while I was enlisted; a B.S. [bachelor of science]
in Nuclear Engineering. Prior to commissioning, I was a
Chief Electrician’s Mate on submarines, and also a diver.
I served on the attack submarine USS Tucson and as an
instructor at Naval Nuclear Power Training Command
before I went to Officer Candidate School [OCS].
Out of OCS in 2007, I became an Intelligence
Officer. It was 180 degrees out from the nuclear field.
Everything involved in the nuclear field is: “There is
only one way to operate the plant. This is the way you
do it, period.” I wanted to do more critical thinking
My first assignment was Fleet Air Reconnaissance
Squadron Two, an electronic surveillance squadron.
Then I was assigned in Hawaii to a counter-narcotics
task force — Joint Inter-Agency Task Force West —
identifying and tracking chemical shipments from Asia
to Mexico and Central America that would be used to
make methamphetamine destined for American cities.
I specifically requested my assignment to the
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency after learning about its mission from a linguist and a planner. I
became a team leader for investigative and recovery
teams that look for the remains of missing servicemen and bring them back home. I’ve led teams to
Guadalcanal [Solomon Islands], Vietnam, Greenland
and Laos. After service on a submarine and years in
office buildings, going out into the field was a culture
shock, to say the least. It was fantastic.
My Greenland mission was really amazing. We were
looking for a Coast Guard crew that crashed on a glacier while searching for a missing bomber crew during
World War II. Our team spent 45 days on the glacier,
drilling holes in the ice with hot water trying to find this
wreckage and, hopefully, bring these servicemen home.
Unfortunately, we were not successful in that mission.
The Guadalcanal mission really is going to stay
with me forever. My grandfather, who was part of the
invasion on Guadalcanal, passed away five days before
I was heading out. I was reading through the memoirs
of his experiences there because I couldn’t go to the
funeral. And then, less than a week later, I was there
on the ground. It was surreal, a neat kind of wrap-up
to my grandfather’s service and to his life.
Now, I’m planning missions for other teams to go
out to the field, making sure that those guys get there
safely at the right location with the right equipment so
they can return safely.
There is a promise that we made to all of our ser-
vice members as far back as the United States military
has been going overseas and fighting wars: “We’re not
going to leave you behind. We’re going to do every-
thing we can to bring you home.” That’s a promise that
we need to stick to, not just for the service members
themselves, but for their families. It’s an honor to be a
part of that mission. n
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 96 SEAPOWER / MAY 2016