By Emily TowerFebruary 5, 2009
One of the toughest decisions in Master Sgt. Ryan Goldsmith's life was about duty -- stay home and fulfill the duty of a husband and father or deploy and carry out the duty of a Soldier.
He had three children and one about to arrive. But he was needed in Iraq, too.
Goldsmith had the option of staying near Fort Campbell, Ky., with his wife until their baby arrived, and to civilians, this might be the natural choice.
But, Goldsmith and his wife, Chrissi, knew the first 100 days in-theater are the most dangerous for troops. His young platoon leader had not yet deployed, and this would be Goldsmith's third combat tour.
"We agreed I had to be there (in Iraq)," Goldsmith, now the equal opportunity advisor to the commandant of the U.S. Corps of Cadets at West Point, said last week. "More than 30 other people (were) depending on me."
As a military police platoon sergeant, Goldsmith knew he had to be the standard bearer and expert upon whom dozens of Soldiers would rely. So, his second son was born while he was half a world away.
"I am torn between the amount of time I have had to spend away from my Family and the opportunities the Army has provided my Family," Goldsmith, who is known as "Sergeant G" to many of his Soldiers, said. "I've always said it has been a good life. It has paid for everything we have."
It's also what brought Goldsmith and Chrissi together in the first place.
Goldsmith, who initially enlisted as an armor crew member in 1992, was serving his first tour as a military policeman at the now-defunct Sierra Army Depot, Calif., a remote nuclear storage facility "and the most romantic of settings you can imagine," Goldsmith joked.
He had a motorcycle, and Chrissi, also an MP at the time, told him she liked it. He asked if she wanted to go for a ride, and she did. He later found a note she had written explaining she'd like to see him again. That was more than 15 years ago.
Since then, Chrissi has been Goldsmith's strength and has helped him succeed in what's best for their Family. The example that pops to mind when discussing how selfless Chrissi's support has been takes Goldsmith back to 1995 when he was studying to make sergeant. She stayed up with him every night to help him study.
"We had cram sessions for months every night," Goldsmith said.
Chrissi got to attend as Goldsmith finally was allowed to pin on his sergeant's stripes. That was the last promotion she witnessed because of deployments and her dedication to Family.
She had to miss Monday's promotion to master sergeant because she and the four Goldsmith children continue to maintain a 10-acre hobby farm near Fort Campbell while Goldsmith completes what likely will be his final assignment before retiring from the Army.
Goldsmith, who grew up in rural Wyoming, came to West Point last month for his second tour in the Northeast. He also has served in New Hampshire as a recruiter.
Through the Army, Goldsmith has visited all 48 of the contiguous United States and Germany, which is part of the reason he joined in the first place.
"I wanted to be on the first smoking thing out of town," Goldsmith said.
Along with seeking adventure not found in a tiny town, Goldsmith liked the fact the Army would pay for his college education. He continues to make progress toward a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
But, he figured when he enlisted nearly 17 years ago, he would take a couple of years as a tanker and move onto something else.
When it came time to choose between re-enlisting or parting ways with the Army, Goldsmith realized being an armor crew member didn't translate well into a civilian job. Still, something about the Army held his interest.
"It was the sense of teamwork for one," Goldsmith, who reclassed as a military policeman and re-enlisted, said. "I was Joe Average in high school. And doing things even in peacetime -- riding around in helicopters and tanks -- made me feel like I was part of a country that would help others. I felt important. I felt a big sense of belonging and purpose. People believed in me."
Goldsmith was part of the first rotation of troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom I in 2003. He helped set up the first police academy in Al Kut, Iraq, between dozens of convoy escorts and raids on illegal weapons markets.
He watched constant improvement and saw the police force in Al Kut and Karbala go from destroyed buildings with little manpower and no supplies to functioning, trained and equipped forces.
"It was neat to see (the police force) go from a tool of oppression to something that protects people," Goldsmith said, comparing the scene in Iraq between his first tour in 2003 and his second in 2006.
Goldsmith also has been deployed to Afghanistan. His combat tours made him re-evaluate life and understand how important his Family is. Each aspect of his Army career has taught him something he says makes him a better leader.
Before becoming a recruiter, he said he never smiled and was shy. He was intimidated by his first task on his first day of recruiting -- making 100 phone calls.
"But I believed in the mission," he said, explaining he learned how to be a stronger leader by accepting the challenges before him and doing his best to solve them. "Recruiting was very challenging but very rewarding. It taught me how to relate to people. It helped me understand that I truly believe in what the Army is doing."
His attitude helped him achieve the second-highest award in recruiting -- the U.S. Army Recruiting Ring -- in one year less than it takes the average recipient to earn it.
Goldsmith's biography includes a smattering of awards and decorations -- two Bronze Star Medals, five Army Commendation Medals and six Army Achievement Medals, including one for performing first aid at a car accident scene while off duty.
He added the Order of the Marechaussee on Monday when Sgt. Maj. Franklin Blanche, provost marshal senior noncommissioned officer, presented him with the award. Goldsmith earned his award -- Serial No. 625 -- in three years less than the average, and only 10 percent of military policeman qualified to receive it actually do, Blanche said.
The award recognizes members of the MP Corps who have "professionalism, high standards of integrity and morality and (promote) .. esprit de corps (that) are unparalleled, according to the award."
To Goldsmith, the award, given in this the "Year of the Non-Commissioned Officer", is a reminder of the hundreds of Soldiers with whom he has worked.
"I can't do anything by myself in this job," he said. "My Soldiers are in this distinction for me. The whole team is in here. It fills me with a lot of pride on the things we had done, and I emphasize the we."
Goldsmith gets to work with a different type of Soldier now that he's stationed at West Point -- officers in training. Brig. Gen. Michael Linnington, USCC commandant, said after promoting Goldsmith he is "extremely proud" to have an EO advisor of Goldsmith's caliber.
Goldsmith said he hopes he can inspire cadets to treat everyone with respect and describes his leadership style as one of a motivator.
"I'm not a yeller; I'm a motivator," he said. "Several people have said they can count on one hand the times I've had to scream, and those were for safety issues and that sort of thing. I'm not into micromanaging.
"I don't like to get too far down in the weeds. I like to get them to want to do what they have to do not because I told them to do it," he added.
But at the end of the day -- believing in the Army is the most important thing.
"This has got to be in your blood," he said.