Brigadier General Clarence K.K. Chinn believes he and Val, his wife, have found a hometown paradise in the Louisiana bayous and byways of Fort Polk. Chinn, who became the commanding general of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk in January 2011, says the area residents have welcomed him and his family and made them feel right at home. “The people here at Fort Polk and the surrounding communities are the best people. There is a lot of patriotism and support of our troops and military families,” Chinn notes, adding he has strong friendship ties with the area community leaders.
The couple, who have a son, Jared, and a daughter, Ashley, have become entwined with the lives of the soldiers and their families on base. Val, who is spearheading a baby shower project called Boots & Booties, for all pregnant military personnel and their families, counsels the soldiers and their families. She also has created and oversees family support groups.
Love of country and love of family are what the Chinns are all about. Both of them grew up in Hawaii, and met through mutual friends. Even though Chinn has dedicated his life to a military career of serving his country, he says spending quality time with his family has always been a priority. Their son, Jared, plays ice hockey for the Nanaimo Clippers in Canada, and their daughter, Ashley, plays on an ice hockey team for Adrian College. Chinn, a 1981 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York, says as the commanding general of Fort Polk, he is committed to training soldiers to be prepared for war and to completing their missions.
Growing up as a boy, Chinn recalls his desire to join the military. His father, a dentist, was a military officer who served in Viet Nam. At 18 years old, Chinn entered West Point. “West Point is about training combat leaders to lead,” Chinn says, adding, “It’s about learning that everything you do is about a lifetime of service to our nation. I’m committed to training our soldiers so when they go to combat, they never have to say, ‘if only I was prepared.’”
After graduating from West Point, Chinn went to Ranger school. His first tour of duty was with the 9th Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington. There, he served as a Rifle Platoon Leader and Company Executive Officer with the 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. He was then assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Infantry (Ranger) where he served as a Weapons Platoon Leader and Rifle Company Executive Officer. In October of 1983, he participated in the combat parachute assault onto the island of Grenada in support of Operation Urgent Fury. “My training paid off. I was able to keep my soldiers alive and accomplish our mission,” Chinn recalls.
Throughout his career, he has served in a variety of command and staff positions in Airborne, Air Assault, Light Infantry, and Ranger units. Chinn was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea where he served as an Assistant G3 Operations Officer and as a Rifle Company Commander with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment. Following his tour in Korea, Chinn was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia. During his second tour with the Rangers, he served as an Assistant S3 Operations Officer and commanded two Ranger companies. In December 1989, Chinn participated in the night combat parachute into Panama in support of Operation Just Cause.
After graduating from the Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Chinn worked at the Pentagon. He was next assigned to Fort Shafter, Hawaii where he served as the Chief, Deputy Chief and Exercise Officer in the Pacific. Later, Chinn returned to Fort Leavenworth, where he instructed captains as a staff leader at the Combined Arms & Services Staff School. From March 1999 to May 2001, Chinn commanded the 4th Ranger Training Battalion at Camp Rogers, Fort Benning, Georgia.
In June 2002, Chinn graduated from the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania and from June of 2002 to July of 2004, he served as the Deputy Commanding Officer of the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia. In March 2003, he deployed with the 75th Ranger Regiment for combat operations in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. From December 2003 to March 2004, Chinn served in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. From July of 2004 to July of 2006, he commanded the Ranger Training Brigade. Later, he was assigned to the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base until June 2008.
Chinn was then assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division as the Chief of Staff from June of 2008 to May of 2009. In June of 2009, he was deployed again to Afghanistan. Chinn graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms & Services Staff School, and the Command and General Staff College. He earned his master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
General Chinn and Val are both actively engaged in the community, and Chinn has plans to help promote Fort Polk as the “best hometown” in the Army. “I want soldiers to make Fort Polk their assignment of choice. When it comes time to reassign, I want them to want to come back to Fort Polk,” Chinn notes. To that end, Chinn says he wants to make it clear to soldiers that the area offers a good education system and wants to promote economic development in the area’s communities. “We need economic development to improve the quality of life. I hope to get soldiers to retire here in the community. The people here are so patriotic and so supportive of the military,” Chinn adds.