UH degree: BA in economics ’88 Mānoa
Military education: Infantry officer basic and advance courses; Army Command and General Staff College
Biggest challenge: Ranger School
Youthful aspiration: Police officer
Secret passion: Barbecue grilling
In 1976 pre-teen Richard Kim immigrated to Hawaiʻi with his family. He took his citizenship test while still in intermediate school and graduated from McKinley High School. He entered the Army upon graduation from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
Twenty-two years later, Col. Kim again stepped off a plane from Korea. Fresh from assignment as chief of Current Operations Branch and of the Assessment Division/OPCON Transfer Implementation Secretariat, he took charge of about 3,600 soldiers in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division.
Nicknamed the Broncos, the brigade has a storied past of remarkable courage and honor.
“When I left some 22 years ago, I never imagined that I would return to the island to assume command of such an outstanding brigade with such a great reputation,” Kim remarked during the May 27 change of command ceremony.
His most recent combat command deployment, from January 2007 to March 2008, is also storied. As part of the historical surge operation in Baghdad, the 2nd Battalion’s Task Force White Falcon, which he led, was awarded the Valorous Unit Award for its part in stemming conflict surrounding Sadr City.
Kim’s other command positions include B Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and 75th Ranger Regiment, all in the 1st Battalion. He served in various positions in Mechanized, Light, Ranger, Airborne Infantry and Joint/Combined staff.
Although he doesn’t often call on his economic degree as an infantryman, Kim says his years at the UH and time in its ROTC program helped prepare him for a military career.
“As I look back, it’s the environment of learning, how to analyze the problem, how do you go about solving the problem,” he explains, and developing people skills necessary to sustain a successful military career. “UH created that environment and I’m really thankful that I went to UH.”
His ROTC buddies aren’t surprised at Kim’s success despite the challenges he had to face.
“Especially the times he was going up the ranks,” says military science classmate Allen Yim. “He went through a lot of struggles and he came out on top.”
“Richard, he always was a great leader,” says fellow ROTC cadet Kimo Dunn.
Proud parents Loy and Ann view Kim’s service as repaying the nation for all it did for their family.
“The biggest thing my parents wanted for us as they left Korea was to give us more opportunity,” Kim says. “This is the American dream. That was really my thought as I was getting citizenship, even that young—if I try hard enough, if I work hard enough, then it’s attainable.”