It happens in the business world: One spouse succeeds the other in leadership of a company, it also happens in politics. But rarely does it happen in the military.
Such an event took place March 5 when Maj. Nicole Inskeep succeeded her husband, Lt. Col. Jason Inskeep, as commander of the 1st Battalion, 235th Regiment (Officer Candidate School/Warrant Officer Candidate School.) During their military careers, the Inskeeps have only served once in the same unit and that was in the 1-235th.
“When I was a TAC (Training, Advising, and Counseling) officer for the OCS company, Jason was the battalion operations officer,” said Nicole.
“This was also our first assignments in the Kansas Army National Guard after transferring from the Minnesota Army National Guard,” said Jason.
“We actually met in ROTC at the University of Minnesota the day after 9/11,” said Nicole. “We were chatting in the cadet lounge after a security brief we were all required to attend and waiting for class to start.”
“I asked her to get coffee after that,” said Jason. “Little did I know how much of a coffee person she was. In any case, that led to dates and now being married for over 20 years.”
Both Inskeeps have had multiple assignments over the years.
“Jason has been AGR most of our married life,” said Nicole. “I am currently working as a technician in the State Partnership Program. However, prior to 2020 I have always been M-Day and was a teacher.”
Having military careers that rarely coincided has brought some challenges to the family, which includes daughters Kjersten, 20, and Kylee, 13.
“It isn’t easy and requires a lot of coordination and synchronization,” said Nicole. “We literally do calendar scrubs on a regular basis to make sure we aren’t TDY (temporary duty assignment) at the same time! As our kids have gotten older, it has presented different challenges, and a little more freedom. Kylee has grown up coming to drill on some occasions. Brig. Gen. Windham even ‘swore her in’ to the Kansas National Guard at our change of command.
“As far as deployments go – the saying that it takes a village – it’s absolutely true. We have been fortunate enough to have friends that have always been willing to pitch in. Any success we have had has been because of the communities we live in and the families we are a part of. We absolutely could not do it without them…and honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to. It has given our family and our kids a unique experience, and will make them stronger and more caring people in the long run. Without this necessity, we never would have forged the relationships we have and we are all better for it.”
Moving into a new unit and new position means establishing their priorities.
“I think the very first thing is establishing good lines of communication, because that is really the key, and we all communicate differently, including Jason and I,” said Nicole. “I have so many ideas for the actual command but know that, if I don’t clearly communicate them, it really won’t matter. From there, its building the team, teamwork and practicing! It’s kind of like playing ball, learning everyone’s strengths, weaknesses and how we complement each other.”
“I agree with Nicky on this,” said Jason. “I will add that I usually take 90-100 days in any new assignment, whether command or staff, to be a ‘sponge’ and absorb everything that is going on before making significant changes.
“There are times when this is necessary before hand, but I think that it is critical for new commanders to understand the climate, culture, processes, and people before directing change.”
And with each new assignment came the challenge of “letting go.”
“I have personally gotten much better at making like Elsa and letting go,” said Nicole. “I think the key is a good hand off. When you are given the opportunity to go over everything you have done on a project and hear the other person tell you ‘This is now my ball, I am going to run in through the finish line,’ it makes it a lot easier. Now, the route they take to get there may not be the route I had planned, that is why I have to channel my inner Elsa!”
“This is an area that was difficult earlier in my career than now,” said Jason. “I try to do a thorough handoff and be available for questions, etc. for the next 30 days or so. After that, it’s usually best for everyone to move on and focus on the tasks at hand at your new unit.”
This time, “letting go” may be a little easier, especially since the Inskeeps are like ships passing in the night.
“He’s even going into the G3 at the 35th Infantry Division, which is the section I just left!” said Nicole.