1999 MCHS grad, Navy serviceman, awarded position of leadership | CraigDailyPress.com

1999 MCHS grad, Navy serviceman, awarded position of leadership

Bridget Manley

On Sept. 16, Andy Kitzman came home.

And, in some ways, you could say he returned a different man.

Kitzman, a hull maintenance technician chief in the U.S. Navy, had just returned from a six-month deployment aboard the USS Thach.

The vessel took him around South America, where he completed humanitarian missions in countries like Brazil, Chile, Peru and Panama.

But, something else happened in those six months, and it would distinguish the 1999 Moffat County High School graduate as a leader among the ranks of the enlisted.

In August, he was named a chief petty officer.

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For him, the promotion isn't just about climbing to the next level in the chain of command. It represents a chance to become a leader who can help shape the future of the U.S. Navy.

Earning his new rank was important to him, "because I feel that I can make a difference in the Navy," by training service members under him, he said.

"I just feel that I can make a difference in people's lives," Kitzman said.

Three years ago, though, his plans were very different. Three years ago, he was preparing to leave the Navy for good.

That changed with a phone call.

He had returned to Craig and was in the process of leaving the service when he learned from one of his commanders that he had been advanced to the rank of petty officer, first class.

That promotion offered an opportunity to become more of a leader in the Navy.

At that point, "then you can really start to make a difference, and your voice really starts to matter more and your opinion starts to matter more," he said.

Kitzman abandoned his plans to return to civilian life, the one he left when he enlisted in the Navy only months after his high school graduation. And, he set a goal: to become chief petty officer within 12 years.

It was an ambitious aim.

Of all the men and women that join the Navy, less than 5 percent attain the rank of chief petty officer, he said.

So, when Navy officials passed him over for promotion during his first attempt last year, he wasn't disheartened.

"I was a little bit disappointed, but I knew that I had to work a lit bit harder and improve myself, better myself, so that I would have a better chance of being selected," he said.

When his second chance came around, Kitzman was braced for a similar outcome.

"I really wanted it to happen but I wasn't expecting it, so when we got the news, … (it was a) total surprise," he said.

The news made its way back to Craig, where his father and stepmother, Brian and Irene Kitzman, have lived since 1995.

"We were ecstatic," Irene said.

In her view, Andy has at least one trait that makes him an ideal candidate for the position.

"He's meticulous," she said. "He likes things done perfectly and correct."

As chief petty officer, Kitzman will train junior officers and junior enlisted personnel.

His goal, he said, is to "help train a better force so the guys know what they're doing," especially if they find themselves without a chief, he said.

Kitzman, who is stationed in San Diego with his 19-month-old son, Tanner Bryan Kitzman, and wife, Alanna, intends to stay in the Navy for at least another eight years, making for a 20-year military career, he said.

And, he hopes to share his experience with other men and women in the Navy and show them that they, too, can be among the small percentage that earns the position he holds now.

"If you hit bumps along the road, it's (still) possible to do it," he said.

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At a glance …

Andy Kitzman

— 1999 Moffat County High School graduate

— Son of Brian and Irene Kitzman, of Craig

— Recently promoted from petty officer, first class to chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy

— Awards include: five Navy and Marine Corps achievement medals; two good conduct medals; national defense service medal; and five sea service ribbons