U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Richard McKinney in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Richard McKinney spent much of his Air Force career in a division of the service he says is not usually popular – the Office of Special Investigations (OSI).
He grew up in a military household, following his dad’s Air Force career all over the world, and enlisted himself after graduating from Greenwood High School. McKinney attributed his father’s time on active duty to his decision to enlist. “I just kind of grew up and always knew that I liked that military life, I liked that structure. And growing up on the military bases it was just a very natural environment for me.”
McKinney joined the Air Force in 1973. He trained as an electrician and eventually moved into management with the civil engineering division, but re-enlisted and eventually found his calling when an OSI officer said they were looking for new agents.
He successfully navigated OSI’s rigorous selection process and throughout his career was involved with investigations that ranged from narcotics and fraud to counterintelligence. He also served in Operation Desert Shield and was assigned to help keep secret U.S. military programs secure.
“A commander would come up and say, “Okay. I’ve got this program. I’m not going to tell you what it is. I want you to send a team in this building – it’s where we work – and I want you to tell me if you can find any leaks about information about what we do, what we’re working on, where we’re going. Things like that,” McKinney shared. “We would do whatever we needed to do, just like an adversary would do. Then we would come back after those operations and write up a classified report and then we would go back to the organization.” “We always came in with a non-adversarial approach. We didn’t want to put anyone in jail. It was really a tool to help them plug the holes. Keeps those programs safe, secure.”
After more than 20 years McKinney retired from military service and began devoting time to the needs of veterans in his community. He served as a VFW Post Commander in Greenwood for many years and worked to enhance the organization’s public service work.
“We are recognized nationally at our post there for being a community service post, which we are extremely proud of,” McKinney said. “We are an outreach, we want to do things in the community. You need something done you come to the VFW, we will try to figure out how to get it done.”
McKinney also advocates for hiring veterans. “The veterans are such a huge asset. I tell people in private business: if you get somebody that’s done a hitch in the service, you’ve got a guy who knows how to show up on time. You’ve got a guy who knows how to dedicate himself to a project,” he said.
He has focused on getting a younger generation of men and women who served in uniform involved in local veteran organizations to help increase their influence on policies impacting them and their fellow veterans.
“Richard McKinney honorably served our nation in uniform and was dedicated to maintaining security for U.S. military programs. His time in our Armed Forces, devotion to our national security and concern for his fellow veterans all demonstrate his character and patriotism. I am grateful to collect and preserve his memories of service,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit McKinney’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.