Army Leader's Alaska Native Heritage, Unique Path To Service
by U.S. Army Author
December 5, 2022
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Lambert is many things ... A Dogface Soldier ... A husband ... A father ... An Alaska Native.
With a few decades of military experience under his belt, he now feels a great sense of pride and connection with his Alaska Native roots, but it was not always this way.
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Lambert, deputy commanding general of maneuver for the 3rd Infantry Division, as a cadet at the University of North Georgia in an undated photo. Lambert graduated in 1993 and was commissioned as an infantry officer. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from courtesy photo by U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Lambert.)
Born on Fort Polk, Louisiana, in 1971, Lambert is the son of an Army infantryman. He quickly grew accustomed to moving from base to base, which left him little time to put roots down.
“He is the one that if we moved into a new area and we were setting up our quarters, he was out in the street looking for somebody to play with,” said his mother, Dr. Connie Lambert. “He was always sociable. He got along with other kids and introduced himself, and found new people to play with from the time he was little.”
As a child, Lambert did not give much thought to his heritage. That changed in high school when he started commercial fishing with family members in Metlakatla, Alaska. During those years, he immersed himself in the Alaska Native community there and spent time playing basketball and hanging out with local kids.
“It was reservation life and tons of fun,” he said. “Basketball is the lifeblood of the community. Between that and commercial fishing, I could have easily stayed there for the rest of my life.”
As a commercial fisherman, he recalls putting in a lot of hard work for his grandfather, Wally Leask. His grandfather was a demanding boss and was quick to tell Lambert when he was not meeting expectations. As a teen, it was a shock for Lambert to see Wally transition from the role of grandfather to that of the boss. However, his grandfather instilled in him the values of hard work and excellence. It was not enough just to work hard, he had to improve and be good at his job. If he could not do that and deliver, he would not be paid.
He worked on two different boats in Alaska: one for his grandfather and one for his cousin. Both were exceptionally challenging. Although the pay was good, the hours were long and the work was dangerous. He could not punch out of work just because he was tired, and he said his grandfather gave him no special treatment. One story from this time stands out in Lambert’s mind.
“It was two or three o’clock in the morning,” remembers Lambert. “With rain coming in sideways and waves hitting the back of the boat, we had to quickly pull the nets in and move the boat inland to try and get out of the weather. There was a large boat inland that you could use as a shield from the weather. It was a World War II boat anchored out there in the bay. We were smashing up against the boat as we were trying to tie off and my grandfather was yelling at me as he tried to get his boat situated.”
Lambert and his grandfather made it safely through the storm, but he said that experiences like the one that night taught him how little he knew about the world. He expressed that he still draws from his experience on the boats when things get tough in his military career.
Lambert’s military career began when he was commissioned as an infantry officer after graduating from University of North Georgia in 1993. He started his career serving as a rifle platoon leader and company executive officer in the 10th Mountain Division, on Fort Drum, New York. He later served with the 75th Ranger Regiment before going to the Infantry Captains Career Course. He went on to serve with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and as an instructor and aide-de-camp at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and served as a leader in numerous positions including time as a battalion commander for the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, on Fort Riley, Kansas. He later commanded the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team on Fort Wainwright, Alaska. In June 2019, he returned to Fort Riley to serve as the division chief of staff before arriving here to Fort Stewart in 2021.
He is a United States Army War College graduate and his operational deployments include Haiti, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
“We are very, very proud of him,” his mom said. “My husband has pinned on every one of his ranks from second lieutenant. Every one of those is a very proud moment for us as far as his successful career in the Army.”
Lambert and his daughters are shareholders in the Sealaska Corporation, an Alaska Native-owned business aimed at strengthening people, culture, and Native lands. His great-grandfather is Tsimpshian, a group of indigenous people from the Pacific Northwest Coast. His great-grandmother is from the Haida tribe and some of his family still speaks the Haida language. However, unlike the rest of his family, speaking the native language did not always come easy for his grandfather.
“When the missionaries came to Alaska, my dad used to tell us stories,” she said. “He would go out on the playground and he and his friends would be speaking Haida and get smacked for it. So we’re doing language and cultural recovery.”
Lambert traces his Alaska Native ancestry back through his mother’s side of the family. The youngest of five children, she met his father Larry Lambert, in Anchorage, Alaska, when she was in high school. They married in 1969 and have three children.
His mother eventually went back to school to receive her doctorate degree and spent 20 years as a university professor, an associate dean, and eventually the Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies at Central Washington University.
Serving is a tradition in Lambert’s family. His grandfather served in the Army Air Corps and went on to become the mayor of Metlakatla after leaving the service. His grandfather and uncles served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
His father, a retired Major, was in the Army for 25 years and retired in 1992. He was commissioned as an officer in 1980 through a pilot program that took high-performing senior noncommissioned officers and direct commissioned them into the officer corps.
It would be easy to assume, due to his family history, that Lambert would have naturally wanted to serve the nation, too. However, he was not initially fond of the idea. He grew up with the dream of becoming a physical education teacher. However, due to the economy at that time, he kept the Army in his mind.
He ended up following his brother’s lead by applying to University of North Georgia and joining their ROTC program.
Now, thirty years later, Lambert serves as the deputy commanding general of maneuver for the 3rd Infantry Division, on Fort Stewart.
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Lambert, Deputy Commanding General- Maneuver for the 3rd Infantry Division, gives remarks during his promotion ceremony at Fort Stewart, Georgia on September 2, 2022. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dre Stout.)
Throughout his military career, he has drawn from his childhood experiences in Alaska and credits his heritage for shaping him into the man he is today ... someone who enjoys serving others and finding opportunities to give back to fellow Soldiers.
In his current role, Lambert has the ability to invest in the warfighters of 3rd ID and ensure they have the equipment and resources they need to accomplish the division’s vital mission. Lambert plans to do as much as he can to help Soldiers during his remaining time in the Army, but he said he knows that his career won’t last forever.
“I want to be a Soldier for as long as physically possible because I’ve got the rest of my life not to be in the Army,” said Lambert. “There’s much less runway in front of me than behind.”
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