Responsible for dispersing 300 billion dollars in national defense funds, greater than that of Korea’s own annual budget. Joined the Air Force during the great recession and became successful with hard work.
By Myong Sool Chang
Translated By Jay Kim
Everyone in the building calls him Captain Sidney Kim (51). In the navy, when captain is translated into Korean, according to the size of the ship he may be referred to as ‘Seonjang’ or ‘Hamjang’ but they both seem inadequate for Sidney Kim. Recently Kim was appointed Defense Contract Management Agency East Region commander of 17 Eastern coastal states. Originally it is a position held by an officer of one star general but Kim as a senior colonel was appointed to the task.
DCMA East Region oversees 140 navy enlisted men and 2600 civilian workforce belonging to 28 regional post spread over 17 states. The department is comprised mostly of commissioned officers, seven colonels, and thirteen lieutenant colonels who operate within the DCMA.
Colonel Kim oversees DCMA East Region and is in command of 140 naval officers comprised of seven colonels, thirteen lieutenant colonels who operate within.
DCMA East Region is tasked with the role of weapon system such as submarines, fighter jets, and missiles that belong to the Navy, Air Force and the Marine Corp. Three hundred billion dollars are dispersed through more than 130,000 defense contracts annually. The defense spending exceeds that of South Korea’s year 2010 fiscal budget of 293 billion dollars. Many defense contractors include industry giants Rockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, British Aerospace, Textron, iRobot, some of which are very familiar to us.
Headquarters for DCMA is located in Washington but its East Region headquarters is in Boston, Massachusetts. According to sources from Korean Navy statistics Mr.Kim is the first Korean American to achieve the position at DCMA and the rank of colonel among active duty service members.
As a Korean national serving in the US Navy, Colonel Kim is the first to achieve the position at DCMA and the rank of colonel among active duty service members. Said an official who serves in the Korean Navy, statistics department where data on Korean-American high ranking officials are collected.
Mr. Kim came to Boston last September after he was appointed chief in command of DCMA Boston. He had returned to the place he began his military career after 25 years.
Sidney enrolled in the Naval Officer Candidate School of Rhode Island in the winter on 1984.
The training at officer candidate school made Sidney think of first lieutenants almost like a god. The officer candidate school where Sidney attended bore a close resemblance to the one depicted in the film, “An officer and a gentleman.” Sidney was 13 years old when he immigrated to the US. He attended a school in Houston without ESL classes and his English level was poor. He was the only Korean in his class and he had no Korean mentors to lead him through school.
“Will I actually be able to graduate?”, doubts came to Sidney’s mind. But he overcame the hardship knowing how disappointed his parents will be if he came home half way through. Every day he studied until it was late at night and worked hard to improve physical strength. On my very first leave I visited Quincy Market and had a blast. I had ties to Boston and it wasn’t unfamiliar to me at all when I came here to assume command of my post.
Mr.Kim did not always plan on becoming an officer in the Navy. Economy was in recession in 1983. After graduating from Houston University with chemical engineering degree he was unable to find a job and enrolled in graduate school. One of Mr.Kim’s graduate school professors was a retired naval officer and advised him to knock on the recruiting station door in Houston, and that is how I came to be today.
During the Assumption ceremony as commander of DCMA Boston, Sidney shared, he was grateful to the military who had presented ‘an immigrant youth with an opportunity to have a day such as this day. Disregarding background characteristics, ethnicity, or educational level, the US military gauges only the abilities of its serving members and promotes accordingly is an exceptional example of the United States as the ‘land of opportunity’ it is known to be.
United States military is called ‘color blind’ meaning it does not discriminate. There are many paths to becoming an officer in the navy. Graduation from Navy Officer School, ROTC programs, and the navy officer candidate school qualifies you to become a naval officer. An interesting point for Korean Americans is that it is possible for an enlisted servicemen to become an officer, even a commanding general.
Throughout his military career Mr.Kim had the most difficult time serving as an officer on his first duty ship. Assigned to a destroyer he served with a second lieutenant who seemed very young and there were men well into their 40s under his charge. Most of the men he was responsible for were men of African American descent. Language barriers, seasickness, age, nationality, and an unforgiving commander all added to the difficulty of his tasks but Sidney overcame and went on to receive citation for his unit exemplary work.
Mr.Kim was content as a lieutenant but was promoted to major. When Mr.Kim was happy as a lieutenant colonel he was promoted again to a colonel and at the present commands of DCMA Boston.
When asked what made Mr.Kim the man he is today he answered, “God’s grace” and thanked the total support of his family. He added, “my subordinates in the military were a huge help”. He also credited many people for their continued support and that is what made him to be who he is today. Sidney had two important rules, one of which was the ‘golden rule-treat others as I would like to be treated.’ Second rule was to ‘work hard.’ He also emphasized team working and treated his subordinates like they were family.
Not everything went as planned for Mr.Kim. He had to relocate over 11 times after he married with wife Helen Park. His two sons had to move school on 6-7 occasions. Most of the time he was assigned to locations that were well below his anticipation but Sidney worked earnestly with the thought of ‘blossoming where you are planted.’
There were appointments where Mr.Kim wanted to work. Just before his appointment to Boston, he served with the U. S. Forces Korea under US Navy’s 7th fleet in Korea and shared he liked Korea immensely. “With the exception of a few districts Seoul city and Korea has developed significantly over the last 30 years. The advancement of the Korean Navy is also dazzling. Not only is Korea proficient in shipbuilding but also manufacturing submarines and Aegis class battleships making it one of the more technologically advanced nations.”
Colonel Kim commented the US military is last frontier where not many Korean-Americans have ventured into. At the present time high ranking Korean American officers are scarce and the last time he met one was when he was in Navy graduate school. Recently the number of Korean-American officers have improved but he hopes more people will enlist.
During the interview Colonel Kim repeated several times, “Boston is a great place.” He said he is proud to be working where history of America started. He also likes the vitality of Boston. For Colonel Kim who began his naval career from Boston he seemed to have a certain affection for the city.
As he said “Bloom where you are planted ” he would be devoted to his duty whether he become ‘Captain Sidney Kim’ or ‘flag officer Sidney Kim’.