Youngwood native relinquishes command at Fort Knox
Col. Michael Blahovec wasn't even planning on going into the Army in 1989, when he was on a football scholarship at the University of Richmond.
But after an injury, he joined ROTC at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.
“The rest is history,” Blahovec says.
“One thing led to another and it's 24 years later,” says the 1983 graduate of Hempfield High School.
Blahovec, originally from Youngwood, recently relinquished command of the U.S. Army Cadet Command's 1st Brigade at Fort Knox, Ky.
He led the brigade and the Leader's Training Course for two years. First Brigade encompasses 11 senior and junior military colleges across the country. During the school year, more than 7,000 cadets come through the program.
Major Mark Bolton, assistant professor of military science at Northwestern State University of Louisiana n Natchitoches, worked with Blahovec last summer at Fort Knox.
“He is one of the most professional and humble commanders I have ever served with,” Bolton said. “It was an honor to serve with him and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.”
Now, Blahovec is getting ready to move to Fort Eustis, Va., where he will serve as provost marshal for the Training and Doctrine Command, a position that takes him back to his roots, Blahovec says.
This opportunity to get back into the military police field, his original career field, is one he hopes to hold until he retires.
Still, he leaves Kentucky with fond memories.
“Running the Leader's Training Course is the closest thing I've had to battalion in Germany,” he said.
For his first 12 years of service, Blahovec always said he was only going to do one more assignment.
“Then Sept. 11 hit, we went to Germany and I didn't consider getting out after that,” Blahovec.
His son, 10, and daughter, 8, were both born in Germany when he was on deployment.
“When you serve with a lot of guys as I have, you feel almost a commitment to them to continue,” Blahovec said.
Blahovec was commissioned in July 1988 and entered active duty in 1989 at Fort Bliss, Texas. His military education includes the Air Defense Officer Basic Course, Military Police Officer Advanced Course, Combined Arms Service Staff School and Command and General Staff College.
He deployed twice to Iraq and Kuwait, and served additional deployments in Kosovo and Guantanamo Bay. He spent eight years living in Germany. In the states, he has lived everywhere from Texas to Kansas to Missouri.
But there's something to be said about coming home.
In all of his travels, Blahovec said, there's an instant bond — a connection — to people from Western Pennsylvania that is like no other.
“There's a tremendous sense of community there,” he said. “You're not always aware of it when you're there, but you appreciate it when you go away.”
His sister, Beth Reger of Youngwood, is thrilled that he is coming home this weekend and that his new assignment is taking him to Virginia.
“We are so proud of him. He is the most amazing person I know. He sacrificed a lot to serve his county,” Reger said.
His brother Alan also lives in Youngwood.
Sacrifices were also made by the soldier's father, Joe Blahovec, a resident of Youngwood for more than 70 years who naturally worried about his son's welfare during risky assignments. “He's coming home,” said Joe Blahovec, who has not seen his son since Christmas. “I'm looking forward to seeing him now.”
Michele Stewardson is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.