Iraq War Veteran Excelled Academically While Providing Leadership

COLUMBUS, Ga. - An Air Force conventional and nuclear munitions craftsman who was forced by injury to retire early made the most of her next challenge, which benefited her as well as Columbus State University.

Despite enduring leg and back surgeries related to her military service, Anna Kaminski-Reed completed her master’s degree in educational leadership in less than two years while helping lead key institutional initiatives for the university.

Anna and Jeremiah Reed at Luke Air Force Base near Flagstaff, Ariz., where Jeremiah had been preparing for his current assignment at the NATO base in Aviano, ItalyShe will participate in Columbus State's fall graduation ceremony 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10 at the Columbus Civic Center.

“Anna went through some painful, grueling rehabilitation, but never missed a beat," said Associate Professor of Educational Leadership Gary Shouppe. "Even when she was unable to sit, she stood through class and took notes from the back of the room. She was a 4.0 (GPA) student throughout."

However, her administrative accomplishments may have eclipsed her academic performance.

"Anna was critical to the successful launching of an online degree in educational leadership, and overall, brought unique perspectives to her work in the program as a graduate assistant, said CSU Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Tom Hackett. “She became a valued colleague whose skills in the areas of technology and leadership were so recognized, that the Educational Leadership faculty asked her to guide them through their strategic planning process, a task she accomplished adroitly."

Reed also developed a survey and provided contacts in the military to help CSU earn "Military Friendly" status. The nationally recognized designation signifies the university as well equipped to serve military personnel and their families. “She really helped open a door for the university in this case,” said Shouppe.

Reed has been appointed director of the Embry Riddle University campus at the NATO Air base in Aviano, Italy, where husband Jeremiah is stationed with the U.S. Air Force, and will also be an associate professor.

The eldest of Rev. Greg and Janie Kaminski's six children in Eugene, Ore., Reed at age 14 was inspired by the U.S. military execution of the first Gulf War. Five years later and following one year at the University of Oregon, she enlisted in the Air Force.

Deployed several times throughout 2003-2005 in Iraq, she was injured by an improvised explosive device attack while part of a munitions convoy. Chronic back problems ensued, but she returned to active duty and resumed an active lifestyle that included competitive marathon running, rock climbing and motocross racing.

In 2007, while stationed at the NATO air base in Aviano, Italy, an off-duty rock-climbing expedition turned disastrous. The boulder she was scaling happened to break. The fall shattered her left leg. Inadequate treatment at a nearby civilian hospital worsened the injury, leaving permanent nerve damage from her lower left leg downward, leaving no feeling in her leg and foot. The Air Force successfully sued the hospital on Reed's behalf for malpractice and awarded her a medical retirement. She returned to the United States and married Air Force F-16 pilot Major Jeremiah Reed, stationed as a liaison officer at Fort Benning.

She found a new career path not long after relocating to Phenix City. "One day I was driving to Fort Benning when I saw a billboard for CSU's education programs," she said. "I knew I wanted to become a professor and (CSU) was where I needed to go.”

Reed enrolled in time for fall 2009 classes and drew on a wealth of high-level leadership experience to excel both academically and administratively. “With the Air Force, I was always placed in leadership positions,” she said.

While in Italy, for example, she briefed government officials of other nations on U.S. nuclear weaponry as part of a NATO nuclear surety mission. She also served as an Airman Leadership School instructor.

Her post-graduate school goal to become a professor has come to fruition quickly and beyond the scope she envisioned. Embry Riddle University has appointed her to direct the school’s campus at Aviano. Reed is familiar with the institution, having earned bachelor’s degrees in professional aeronautics and aerospace engineering. “This is another exciting opportunity,” Reed said. “Things in my path have been incredible.”

Reed and husband, Jeremiah – recently reassigned to Aviano – have been house hunting, as they look forward to settling down in the scenic northeast Italy community at the base of the Italian Alps.

Anna plans to return to Columbus for the CSU commencement, as she will join her parents and sister, Jennifer, who is active duty in the Army, for the ceremony.

Reed’s professor-colleagues also are looking forward to celebrating the occasion with her. “I’ve worked with so many quality graduate students, but Anna is definitely one of the best,” said Shouppe.