By Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea, 3rd BCT PAO, 82nd Abn. Div., MND-BApril 14, 2009
BAGHDAD - Today's Soldier in Focus is Staff Sgt. Richard Smith, a fire support specialist assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad. Smith, a native of Tusla, Okla., joined the Army in Oct. 1991 and is currently serving in his third deployment and second in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He deployed to Kosovo in 1999.
For this 36-year-old paratrooper, the Army has taken him on a rollercoaster of twist and turns. Despite being trained as an artillery man, Smith has taken a softer approach in order to assist the Iraqi people during his deployment to Baghdad.
As part of a civil affairs team, Smith is assisting the citizens of eastern Baghdad rebuild several markets and schools in some of the city's most poverty-stricken areas in order to establish the region's economy and educational systems.
Smith said although the change from conducting combat operations as an artillery man to now assisting in humanitarian efforts has been difficult to adjust to, it is a change he welcomes.
His deployment experience is a complete 180-degree turn from his last deployment to Iraq in 2003. Smith recounts being involved in several firefights and was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with Valor for helping stop an ambush on his fellow Soldiers.
"We are helping the Iraqi people so one day they can help themselves," he said. "It has been quite a change that I have gone from conducting raids to catch bad guys during my first deployment to now working with the general population on daily concerns they have."
Smith's service in the Army is not the first in his family. His grandfather served as an Army Air Corps pilot during World War II, his father served in the U.S. Army, his uncle served in the U.S. Navy and his uncle served in the U.S. Air Force.
During his 18-year career, this father of two has been assigned to several duty stations, including Fort Riley, Kan., Heidelberg, Germany, Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, N.C. and was a recruiter for three years. Smith briefly left active duty and served four years in the Oklahoma National Guard.
Smith is currently pursuing a bachelors degree and plans to attend Jumpmaster school after his deployment.