From Russian immigrant to NCO of the Year

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Staff Sgt. Aleksandr Vinogradov, a combat engineer with the 577th Sapper Company, stands at attention during the Outstanding Airman and Soldier of the Year Banquet in Louisville, Ky., on March 16, 2013. Vinogradov was named the Kentucky Army National Guard’s Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year for 2013. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Maxwell Rechel)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Vinogradov family has a long and distinguished history in the military. In Russia.

One of the newest Soldiers from the family is continuing the strong legacy in being the best at what he does. In the United States, with the Kentucky National Guard.

In 2004, Aleksandr Vinogradov moved from his home in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia to Ashland, Ky. A short three years later, he enlisted into the Kentucky Guard as a petroleum supply specialist. And after six years in uniform, Vinogradov was named Kentucky Army National Guard’s Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year for 2013. He said he’s just continuing a tradition of military excellence in his family, it’s just what they do.

“I joined the Guard because the military was always something that I wanted to do,” he said. “Growing up in the military family I felt like this was a right job for a man to do to provide for his family.”

To see more photos from this story, click here.

Vinogradov is a third generation career-Soldier in a family that has seen many serve in the Russian military since before World War II.  His father and grandfather both retired as colonels working with missile defense. His maternal grandfather retired from the Russian Air Force after a long career as a test pilot. According to Vinogradov, his grandfather piloted the plane that dropped the first Soviet Atomic bomb in the 1950s. He said his grandfather’s plane was badly damaged from the blast. He was a highly decorated pilot, but unfortunately died of cancer just after Aleksandr was born.

“All I knew of him was that it was his dream to see his grandson grow up and join the Army and ship off to boot-camp,” said Vinogradov.

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Staff Sgt. Alexander Vinogradov, 75th Troop Command, prepares to throw a simulated grenade on the Individual Maneuver and Tactics Course at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky., Nov. 17, 2012. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Brian Ewalt)

When he was younger, Vinogradov’s parents seperated. He and his sister, Lana, moved with their mother to the United States. With a master’s degree in English, their mother began working as a teacher for the Ashland Public School system.

It was Vinogradov’s sister who first joined the military, enlisting in the Kentucky National Guard and the 201st Engineer Battalion in 2006. After getting married, she moved to the Nevada Guard working as a budget analyst for the state’s Yellow Ribbon and Family Support Services.

Vinogradov said he didn’t have the patience to wait, he wanted to start his military career as soon as possible. He joined the Guard because of the split option which allowed him to go to basic training the summer of his junior year in high school.

Several years later, his role in the National Guard is an exciting part of his life. He enjoys drill weekends and all the training as a combat engineer with the 577th Sapper Company.

“I plan on staying in the guard for at least 20 years,” said Vinogradov. “I enjoy it so much that I cant really imagine what I would do if I was to get out. I honestly think someone will have to kick me out of the Guard because I am not planning on leaving on my own.”

He knows his father and grandfather are proud of him and his accomplishments, even if he isn’t on “their side.” While some differences remain, Vinogradov said the ideals are the same, and he is happy where is now now.

“To me a Soldier is a special person regardless of what country he is from, because standing up to fight for your country is the most honorable thing a person can do.”

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