Kenneth Chavez had hoped to go into the Air Force Academy when he was 22, learned that his vision was just not good enough.
“You had to have corrected 2020 vision back then, I couldn’t go into the Air Force Academy so I decided to go into law enforcement in 1979,” said Chavez.
When Chavez joined the Denver Police Department, a couple of police officers he knew suggested trying the National Guard. Both were current members themselves.
“One guy convinced me to do so, I completed the probationary period in February of 1980, then joined the Colorado Army National Guard. I did both careers simultaneously for 36 years,” said Chavez.
Retired Colonel Kenneth D. Chavez is a native of Colorado and was born in Denver. His family roots are from Trinidad. Chavez came from generations of military men, including his dad Juan Chavez, who served with the Colorado Army National 192nd Engineer Company from 1949 to 1953 and with the United States Air Force until he died in 1966.
Chavez’s other relatives served in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It was why Chavez wanted to be in the military.
“We moved around different Air Force bases when I was younger and after my father was killed, we came back to live in Denver with my grandparents,” said Chavez.
Chavez did his basic training in Fort Leonard Missouri and then joined the 5th Battalion 19th Special Forces Group Airborne out of camp George West before moving on to Buckley Airforce base and Watkins, Colorado.
Chavez entered jump school and jumpmaster school and they were also taught a second language based on their geographical area.
“We are called Warrior Diplomats and my second language is Spanish. I also picked up some Thai and South Korean,” said Chavez.
Jumping out of planes was scary for Chavez.
“After training, we all loaded up into the aircraft to take off and the guys are scared, but you trust your training,” Chavez said. “You leap out- you look up at your deployed parachute hoping there’s no holes and then you are ready to land. It’s like your first roller coaster ride and you’re scared to death. But as soon as it’s over, you want to do it again.”
Chavez became one of the 1% of the military trained special operations.
“Our job was to go into night territory, do special operation missions, direct action, and special reconnaissance and foreign training of other forces. It’s all part of Special Operations Command. The U.S. Army Special Forces are commonly known as the Green Beret,” he said.
Chavez started as a private first class in 1980 and left 30-years later as battalion commander.
“I worked my way up the chain of command from a private to Lieutenant Colonel,” said Chavez.
His commander with the Denver Police, who also was a Sergent Major in the National Guard, Jame Fitzpatrick, convinced Chavez to get his commission. He already had a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Metropolitan State University and a master’s certificate in Professional Homeland Security from Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.
And also completed a master’s in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.
“I got my commission and stayed in the same unit continuing to serve. Eight years noncommissioned officer and then 28 years commissioned,” said Chavez.
Chavez’s last assignment had him serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff Intelligence for the Colorado Army National Guard. Before that, he was the Commander of Special Operations Detachment in Korea, and also the U.S. Special Operations Command unit at Aurora Buckley Air Force base.
Next, Chavez served as Joint Staff Officer in the U.S. Northern Command Interagency Directorate participating in Homeland Security exercises such as Vigilant Shield and Ardent Sentry as well as the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, FBI, CIA, Coast Guard, and Department of Justice.
Chavez also deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom to support NATO Special Operations Component Command and the Special Operations Joint Task Force. During this combat tour, he was appointed as Director for the Afghan Local Police Special Operations Advisory Group to help train the Afghan Local Police to provide security for local and village Afghan Citizens.
“It was rewarding to help see progress in other parts of the world. We went there to help rebuild. Rebuilding an army and security is the most important factor you have to have before you can build government and governance,” said Chavez.
“You can’t have elections, power grids or people working – there must be security first,” he said. “It’s tough to do right after a war. It’s unfortunate what has happened now in Afghanistan with the return back to the Taliban- those are decisions made at very high levels.”
Chavez also deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a commanding officer of the 5th Battalion 19th Special Forces Group Airborne serving as the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force as a Liaison Officer to the Central Intelligence Agency.
He served as the interim Director of the Joint Personnel Recovery Division, Multi-National Forces in Iraq, under General David Petraeus’ command.
“We worked as Joint Personnel Recovery Division that was responsible for the recovery of eleven soldiers and individuals who were listed as missing in action or captured we recovered eight human remains and three living individuals,” said Chavez.
Chavez’s unit the 5th Battalion 19th Special Forces was deployed to Hurricane Katrina served as the Executive Officer working with the New Orleans Police department to protect the Algiers neighborhood.
Chavez received numerous military awards such as the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, NATO Non-Article 5 Medal, Louisiana Cross of Merit, Combat Infantry Badge, and Special Forces Tab.
Chavez is fully retired from the military since 2016, and also retired earlier in 2021 from the Denver Police Department as Lieutenant and as Day Shift Commander.
“I was very proud of my 42 years of service with the Denver Police Department and I felt I made a difference to solve a lot of crimes and put a lot of bad people away that should not be out there victimizing people,” said Chavez.
Chavez is currently enjoying retirement on his land in Weld County raising horses, and also an antique collector of 20th-century military firearms.
“I’m involved with the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars VFW post. It’s how I keep myself active. I’m also the National President of the National Latino Peace Officers Association, said, Chavez. “I’m a proud citizen soldier and native of Colorado,” said Chavez.