The last commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii, a 1977 Damien Memorial School graduate, is retiring after a long Air Force career, according to the U.S. military.
Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague was most recently deputy director of JPAC's successor organization, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which still has the bulk of its operations based out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
A ceremony was held Sept. 22 at the agency's new lab and offices at Hickam to recognize McKeague's efforts and to welcome Army Brig. Gen. Mark Spindler as the new deputy director.
McKeague, who in late 2012 took command of JPAC from 1967 Punahou graduate Maj. Gen. Stephen Tom, inherited an MIA recovery effort plagued by inefficiency. That effort, conducted by a handful of agencies around the country, was fragmented, redundant and hampered by interagency disputes, a July 2013 Government Accountability Office report said.
In March 2014 then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced he was overhauling and combining JPAC and other Pentagon accounting units. On Jan. 9 the Pentagon said Navy Rear Adm. Mike Franken would serve as interim director of the new agency, while McKeague was tapped for the post of interim deputy director.
The new director of DPAA, Michael Linnington, presented McKeague the Defense Superior Service Medal on Sept. 22. The citation recognized McKeague's service from the date he took command of the former JPAC in October 2012 to September for "exceptionally distinguished service" for leading both organizations closer to completing the mission of fullest possible accounting of missing Americans.
McKeague was also singled out for his "unequaled leadership, expertise and consummate diplomacy (which) created a greater spirit of cooperation between the United States and the numerous host nations involved, as well as the varied organizations involved in the sensitive issue of accounting for America's Prisoners of War/Missing in Action."
McKeague, who grew up in Papakolea, received his commission in 1981 through the Georgia Institute of Technology Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Prior to coming to JPAC, he was special assistant to the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
McKeague flew out Sept. 23 for the Washington, D.C., area, where he and his wife have a home, DPAA said. A formal retirement ceremony was expected this month, the agency said.