OTF Soldier Story for March 29, 2010 - 1st Lt. Ray Critchfield
Current Unit: 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
Current Position: Armor Officer
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Carson, Colo.
Hometown: Greenville, Ind.
Years of Service: 3
Even as a young boy growing up in Greenville, Ind., 1st Lt. Ray Critchfield knew he wanted to be in the Army. When he joined the Army three years ago, he followed in the footsteps of his father, a retired Army major. With experience serving as an enlisted Soldier and an officer, he encouraged his son to participate in a Reserve Officers' Training Corps program during college. Heeding that advice, Critchfield graduated from the South Dakota State University in 2007 with a degree in psychology and received his commission as an officer in the Army.
After graduating, Critchfield reported to his unit at Fort Carson, Colo., where he learned that he would be preparing to deploy to Iraq just a few months later in September 2008.
"I knew I would be deploying, but I didn't expect it to be so soon," Critchfield said. "This is what I joined the Army to do, so I knew I needed to do my job. As a leader, I needed to prepare for my deployment and make sure my Soldiers received all the training that they needed."
While in theater, Critchfield served as a platoon leader and was responsible for leading a group of 19 Soldiers. Serving in the Iraqi cities of Diwaniyah and Basrah, they conducted joint patrols along with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi police. By conducting missions alongside of the locals, they were able to provide on-the-job training. Additionally, the platoon set up a training academy to instruct local police officers.
"Initially, it was challenging to work so closely with the Iraqis. They had a very different training mentality and were not used to intensive training for multiple days," he said. "However, once they got away from that mindset, it was great to see them progress in knowledge and ability levels. After a while, their behavior changed—we were able to notice them doing what we taught them to do."
Deployed for the first time, Critchfield said it was hard for him and his Soldiers to be away from loved ones for such a long period. In March, less than six months prior to heading overseas, Critchfield married Lynn, his long-time girlfriend.
"The deployment was a challenge for us, but we had been together for a long time prior to getting married. I knew we had a good foundation to build on, so I didn't have to worry about the deployment being a strain on the marriage," he said, adding that his wife was able to live with her parents while he was away.
For meritorious service throughout his deployment and successful completion of his mission, Critchfield was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
"At first, I didn't think I had done anything to receive it. I had just done my job," he said. "However, I know it is an honor to receive because not everyone gets one. It was humbling to know that others thought that I was deserving."
Critchfield currently serves with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., with his wife. In the future, he hopes to become a Special Forces Soldier and continue to serve with the Army for many more years.