Kenyan Commander Inducted into United States Army Command and General Staff College Hall of Fame
Though there is a common adage in the military that "Generals do not retire, they just fade away", honour has ensured that one retired Kenyan General won’t just fade away. His star has started shining even brighter in retirement.
When as a young officer he got the rare opportunity to study at one of the world’s most prestigious military institutions, Lieutenant General (retired) Augostino S K Njoroge’s niche’ in the army was assured.
At the age of 33 in 1985, the then junior major in the Kenya Army infantry, was selected to be among a few officers worldwide who were to attend the prestigious United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
And when he graduated after a year of training, the young army officer was ready for the challenges ahead in the Kenya Army and in the world stage. But even as he graduated, it never occurred to Njoroge, now Kenya’s ambassador to Israel, that he would one day become one of the most honoured soldiers by the renowned military college.
Twenty-six years after he graduated from the college and at the age of 60, the retired Kenya Army commander was called back to his former college to get its highest honour. He was last month inducted into the International Hall of Fame; an honour reserved for a few graduates the world over who rise through the ranks on merit to head their national armies.
The International Hall of fame at the college was established in 1973 to provide prestigious and visible means of recognising international officer graduates who, through military merit, achieve the highest positions of command and authority in their military. So far, 241 officers from 67 countries have been inducted to the Hall of Fame.
Ambassador Njoroge was inducted together with Lieutenant-General Sean McCann, Chief-of-Staff of the Defence Forces of Ireland, Vitalie Marinuta, Minister of Defence for the Republic of Moldova and Lieutenant General Arturo Ortiz, commanding General of the Philippine Army.
"While at the college, I found and learnt two aspects of military life that were to help me in my command assignments throughout my military career," Njoroge said, in his acceptance speech.
"One was the human nature of subordinate officers, men and women, and the other was values of military families." Looking back at the training he got from the college, Njoroge says it contributed to his rise through the ranks of the Kenya Army until he headed it in 2005, for four years.
"The hardest part, I think, was to learn the US military tactics and manoeuvres at the same time with those of the former Soviet Union," he recalls. "It was rather confusing."
It is this training and that which he received in Kenya and elsewhere that prepared Njoroge to handle some very sensitive military operations. One case he recalls is how about six years after he returned from the US he was faced with a volatile situation as the Republic of Somalia crumbled.
As a lieutenant colonel commanding 1st BN KR, he was in charge of forces stationed in the northern and eastern parts of the country bordering Somalia, when president Said Barre was overthrown.
"I was informed that he wanted to cross over to Kenya. After consultations I disarmed him at Elwak and had him flown to Nairobi," says the retired army commander, as he shows Elwak in a map of Kenya hanged on the wall of his expansive office in Tel Aviv, Israel. Moments later, he recalls, he was called from another part of the border with more disturbing news. "I was told that General Mohamed Farrah Aideed and his soldiers had crossed the Kenyan border in search of Said Barre. When I got there, I found the local DC shaking in fear.
I ordered Aideed to immediately withdraw his soldiers back to Somalia or else I would flatten the town across the border. He realised I was serious and immediately withdrew them," Njoroge says, a smile of satisfaction lighting his face for having resolutely and ably dealt with the potentially volatile situation.
He also oversaw the military activities during the changeover of Government from President Moi to President Kibaki in 2002. "I served the country loyally in the army for 39 years. I was dedicated, loyal, and I continue to abhor corruption," says the retired general. "I am proud of the way I served the military. I know my men recognise and appreciated my service as their commander."
In his acceptance speech, Njoroge said he was inspired by retired General Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later US Secretary of State. Powell’s efforts to honour the Buffalo Soldiers particularly inspired him. He said he modelled himself after Powell.