Hometown Hero

Grand Junction Lions Club

October 27, 2015

Carrie Acree

            The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.”

            So, naturally, the Girl Scout motto is “Watch out for Boy Scouts.”

            Actually, the Girls Scout motto is also “Be Prepared.” But that part about watching out for Boy Scouts is still good advice.

            Preparation is a sound philosophy is many circumstances.

            Scouting teaches youngsters to grow up. Teaches them about how to be an adult.

The Boy Scout law is to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

The Girl Scout law is similar, emphasizing traits like learning to be honest and fair,    friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and being responsible for what they say and do.

Imagine a world where everyone followed those laws. The world would be a better place. It would be like a world full of… well full of Republicans.

            Part of the challenge of teaching young people to grow up is finding adults who can lead those young people into adulthood. And I need to remind a few of you that the word adulthood has much different meaning than the word adultery.

            So how do you prepare the preparers?

            You look for people who are ready, willing, and able to guide others down the path of learning to guide others. People with the ability to command others, as well as command respect. People who are responsible, and capable of teaching others to be responsible. People who are dedicated, and inspire that dedication in others.

            You can find people like that in many walks of life, but perhaps those traits are most common in the military.

            The trick is finding someone who will stick with the leadership program. Or finding someone who comes back to lead over and over. And it’s tough dealing with leaders who have to be out of town… a lot… for months at a time… in a war zone.

            It takes a special person to meet all those requirements, who cares about the young people enough to sacrifice a lot of free time to lead them, who continues to serve even when deployed overseas as part of the Army Reserve.

            Yes, we’re talking about a scout leader who is also an officer in the Army. An officer who has been a leader with the Boy Scouts, and the Girl Scouts, a soccer coach, a soccer referee, a church leader, a camp director, and many other volunteer activities for about 20 years.

            It’s hard to lead from a distance, such as when deployed onto the other side of the globe, but this year’s recipient did so. If not directly, then certainly by example.

            It’s disruptive to the family, her husband, her children, her scout troops, her teams and others. But more than scouts need to Be Prepared. So does the Army Reserve.

            Part of the challenge of the Army Reserve is deployment, usually on short notice, to strange lands, meeting and dealing with unusual people, and many unfamiliar or weird customs – places like Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Salt Lake City. Our recipient has been deployed to all of those locales, though Salt Lake City might have been the least dangerous.

            You need to Be Prepared, which sometimes means getting meals cooked in advance to take some pressure off a spouse. You can’t really cook a year’s worth in advance, but you can prepare some.

            Life doesn’t come with a Pause Button. So you have to Be Prepared.

By now, our 2015 Hometown Hero knows the real reason she’s here today. So let me pause in my narration a moment to introduce her by name. Sitting over by the entrance is our newest Hometown Hero, Carrie Acree.

           

Now let me tell you a little more about Carrie…

Carrie was born on July 10, 1967 in Lubbock, Texas, and graduated in 1985 from Coronado High School. And as anyone who watches the CBS Evening News would know, which is almost no one, CBS anchor Scott Pelley also graduated from Coronado High School.

In high school, Carrie was a varsity soccer player. The goal keeper. That experience would be important later when she started coaching.

Carrie later graduated from Sam Houston State University with a B.A. in Criminal Justice. She is one step away from a Masters degree in education from Texas Tech.

Carrie was in the ROTC at Sam Houston, and after college went to Officer’s Candidate School in Alabama, where she came out a 2nd Lieutenant.

Carrie’s first deployment came just six months later, when she was sent to Saudi Arabia as part of Desert Shield and then Desert Storm. She was there for 18 months managing an administrative team.

She was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in 1993, and then Captain in 1996.

Also in 1996, she married Richard Acree in August, then was deployed to Bosnia in November. This time she was there for 9 months, managing an administrative team as well as logistics for 13 locations over a 350-square-mile area in Bosnia.

In 1998 and 1999, Carrie was running a summer camp for troubled teenagers, and having babies. Son Batton was born on April 13, just a few weeks before the camp began. Son Nolan was born on July 27, 1999, in the middle of camp.

Picture this: a bunch of troubled teenagers in a kind of boot camp, being commanded by a woman, a Captain in the Army, who is nine months pregnant. If you are feeling sorry for the pregnant woman, you may not have the full picture.

Carrie and her husband Richard moved to Grand Junction in 1999, where she began working as a teacher at Pomona Elementary. And daughter Holli was born on June 5, 2001.

That time as a teacher at Pomona was interrupted by her second deployment, this time Operation Noble Eagle, assisting with the logistics for some 4,000 troops at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. At four months, it was Carrie’s shortest deployment.

Back in Grand Junction, she was teaching again, this time Clifton Elementary. And volunteering again. But another deployment, this time to Iraq, ended that teaching job. In Iraq, she managed civil military projects at 72 villages around Baghdad.

            After that deployment, she found a substitute teaching job, this time at Appleton Elementary then became a quartermaster for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. Meanwhile, she’s again a scout leader and a soccer coach.

            And again, that job was interrupted by Carrie’s 5th deployment, and her second to Iraq. This time she served as the Executive Officer, the XO, for a battalion as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This was the longest deployment – nearly 2½ years. And during that time she was promoted to Lt. Colonel.

            While Carrie was not in combat, she faced her share of dangers. According to a fellow officer, her convoy was blown up a few times.

            Carrie’s decorations include:

  • Bronze Star Medal
  • Meritorious Service Medal (twice)
  • Joint Service Commendation Medal
  • Army Commendation Medal (four times)
  • Army Achievement Medal (twice)
  • Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal (five times)
  • National Defense Service Medal (twice)
  • And about a dozen other decorations.

And fairly unique to Carrie, she received the German Ukunde Bronze Physical Fitness Medal. Few qualify for that award, and you know how serious the Germans are about physical fitness.

            Carrie has been back in Grand Junction since February of 2010, serving as the Operations Officer for FEMA Region 8. In that capacity, she worked logistics with the Colorado wildfires. Even more significant, she worked logistics after the tsunami in Japan.

            After the nuclear reactor had its meltdown, all the Defense Department families were evacuated. Carrie was at DIA coordinating with all the agencies, like the Red Cross, who were working with the kids, many of them coming in without parents. Among other solutions, Carrie arranged for a bounce house to entertain the kids, and let them burn off some energy, during a very stressful time. Not just a problem-solver, but someone who always cares about kids.

            In all of that time back and forth, Carrie managed to lead Boy Scout troops, Girl Scout troops, sometimes one of each at the same time, coached soccer, and served her church.

            Plus, she introduced the Venturing program for teenage boys and girls into the Grand Valley. This is a new program, and Carrie is the leader.

            Professionally, in addition to positions with the Sheriff’s Office and as a teacher with District 51, she has worked at Barnes & Noble. She is currently the Veteran’s Benefits Coordinator at Colorado Mesa University. Deployment makes keeping a steady job difficult.

            There are stories of Carrie helping her kids, even while deployed. Reading with her daughter, helping her sons with homework. Her reputation as an officer dedicated to her family was widely known.

           

            This is a very complicated story of a very busy woman. I hope we’ve kept it all straight.

Congrats to our 2015 Grand Junction Lions Club Hometown Hero: Lt. Col. Carrie Acree.




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