Meridian Star

December 29, 2013

An unexpected award

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     When Ray Crocker retired as a full-bird colonel with the Mississippi National Guard, he had given more than three decades of his life to serving America.

    Likewise, in those more than three decades, Crocker's wife, Colleen Crocker, had stood by her man, raising the couple's three children and making sure the home front was in good shape. Together in November, the Crockers were recognized for their loyalty to their country, and to their family.

    On Nov. 9, the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps inducted Col. Ray Crocker (Retired) into the Ordnance Hall of Fame and presented Colleen Crocker the Ordnance Corps Keeper of the Flame Award. These were awards Ray Crocker never dreamed would come his way, mostly because he thought there were others who were more deserving.

    "I had the honor of working alongside so many smart and capable people in the Army and National Guard," Ray Crocker said recently. "I was part of a team. I might have been the head of the team in a lot of instances but I had a good number of people who knew their jobs and who did those jobs exceptionally well."

    The U.S. Army Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame was established in 1969 to recognize and memorialize persons who have made positive and significant contributions to the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps. Inductees include five Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, the inventor of the Gatling gun, the “Father of U.S. Rocketry” and Mr. J. M. Browning, who many believe is responsible for the small arms superiority enjoyed by the U.S. today. Col. Crocker is the first Army National Guard (ARNG) inductee, the first Mississippian, and one of only 391 individuals who have received this high award.

    Col. Crocker was nominated for the award when he retired in 1998 by Lt. Gen. Edward D. Baca, former Chief of the National Guard Bureau. Col. Crocker’s career spanned 34 years with 22.5 years on active duty. He was nominated for this award because of his "untiring dedication to providing the best support possible to soldiers in the Army National Guard and the U.S. Army."

    "I started out in maintenance units where we took care of the trucks, radios, and anything else the soldier in the field needed to do their jobs," Col. Crocker said. "Later on I started working more and more in logistics."

    It was during the Gulf War in 1990 when Crocker was promoted to colonel and ran the night shift for the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics. The rapid buildup of troops and material for the war against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein following the dictator's invasion of Kuwait was massive.

    "It was a very interesting time and we had enough supplies to last six or seven months of combat and support," Col. Crocker said. "Ultimately, we only needed 100 hours of support but who knew?"

    According to the list of accomplishments outlined during his induction ceremony, Col. Crocker’s service began when he enlisted into the Mississippi Army National Guard (MSARNG) in 1964. After completing basic training at Ft. Polk, La., and Advance Individual Training at Ft. Hood, Texas, Col. Crocker went to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the MSARNG.     Col. Crocker served in different capacities in the MSARNG until he went on active duty in 1979. He attended the Ordnance Officers Advance Course in 1979 and remained on active duty until he retired in 1998.

    His assignments included readiness officer for the ARNG (Pentagon), ARNG Logistics Advisor to the U.S. Forces Command (Atlanta), ARNG Advisor to U.S. Army Tank Automotive Command (Warren, Mi.), Industrial College of the Armed Forces (Washington, D.C.), Advisor to the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics (Pentagon), Director of ARNG Logistics (Pentagon), Director of the ARNG’s  Installations, Logistics and Environment Directorate (Arlington Hall Station, Va.) and Deputy Director of the ARNG for Support (Arlington Hall Station, Va.) where he served until his retirement.

    Col. Crocker said it was a neat experience for he and his wife to be honored at the same time. He said he has been blessed all these years to have been given a woman who would support him as she has done and who is a great mother.

    "You know, God looked down on me one day and said, 'This guy is going to need some help.' So he sent me Colleen," Col. Crocker said. "He was right."

    The Crockers have a daughter who is a registered nurse, and two sons who are serving in the U.S. Army.

    During the ceremony, Col. Crocker was reunited with many of the men who he served alongside and the commanders he said he was honored to know.

    "No one person can get this kind of job done," Col. Crocker said. "It takes a great many people and I worked with the best."

    Col. Crocker said his overall satisfaction is in knowing that he leaves the National Guard in a much better state of readiness than before. In the recognition declaration, it was said Col. Crocker never sanctioned buying old technology for ARNG Units. His focus was always on procuring future weapon systems and the support it took to sustain them.

    As long as the ARNG accepted older systems, it would never be included as a full partner in the U.S. Army, Crocker said. He worked closely with his counterparts on the Department of the Army staff and in many cases used ARNG money to procure and issue new systems to the ARNG before Active units received the new equipment. Col. Crocker’s guidance to his staff was “it only cost ten cents more to go first class and if we are not concerned about who gets the credit for good actions, we can get a lot more done.”

    Col. Crocker’s other awards include Legion of Merits (1 OLC), Department of the Army Staff Badge, Meritorious Service Medal (5 OLC), Army Commendation Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (2 OLC), National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Service Ribbon and many others. Col. Crocker also was awarded the Ordnance Corps Samuel Sharp Award, the Field Artillery’s Order of St. Barber Award, and inducted into the MSARNG’s Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.

    Col. Crocker and Colleen Crocker returned to Neshoba County upon his retirement and live in the East Neshoba community. He said he keeps busy with church activities and a host of other projects.

    "Oh no, I'm not one to sit around," Col. Crocker said. "I have always been busy and I'm going to stay busy."