WASHINGTON, D.C. — When Greenville native Tim Ritter is called to serve his country, he will always step up to the plate.
So when Ritter, a Naval contracting officer division chief, was asked by a friend to join a Department of Defense for the United States Army mission to Afghanistan with a goal of dwindling down the number of private contractors in the area so more troops could come home, he didn’t hesitate to sign up.
“While in the Navy I enjoyed my experience, but never felt like I was in the thick of things, so when I got a call from an old friend asking if I would be interested in going over to Afghanistan to help straighten out some of the Army contracts, I was very intrigued,” Ritter said.
The reason he was needed was because in order for military personnel to leave, contractors must begin to clear out first. Ritter felt this a great way to offer his services.
And serve he did.
“Mr. Ritter led the overhaul of the contractor accountability system across RC-South, encompassing over 22 percent of all contractors in theater,” stated a narrative that accompanied one of two awards Ritter earned as a result of his tour in Afghanistan. “His efforts and multiple trips across theater resulted in the integration three tracking systems into one, giving a complete picture of over 15,000 United States, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and National Support Element contractors stationed in the South, South West and West.”
Ritter, 43, was given the Superior Civilian Service Award (the civilian equivalent of the Active Duty Bronze Star) for “exceptional service while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom” as well as the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal for “exceptionally meritorious service as the chief of business operations, operations contract support while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.”
“I was stationed out of Kandahar, but I had to go from base to base to base evaluating contracts,” he said.
It was a task much different than his time with the Navy.
Ritter was in Afghanistan from Aug. 30, 2013, until April 30, 2014.
“It was very rewarding and fulfilling, yet also very scary,” he said. “It was a war zone, it was scary. There is a reason it’s called a war zone.
“I enjoyed supporting our nation,” he said. “It was rewarding, but it wasn’t fun.”
Ritter has spent more than a decade in the armed forces, whether with the Navy or as a contractor. After graduating from Greenville High School in 1990, he immediately joined the military.
Alison Barberi, whose late husband Carl was Ritter’s high school principal, said a young Ritter and her husband had formed a bond and the elder suggested the Navy to the younger.
“When Tim graduated and asked Carl for advice, Carl suggested Tim join the Navy like he did because it would be good for him,” Barberi said. “He would learn more about the world and it would help pay for a college education after he was out.”
So Ritter obliged and ended up making a career out of the Navy. While enlisted in the Navy, Ritter was stationed at NATO Headquarters Brussels Belgium, and commissioned the DDG 57 USS Mitscher. He received the following awards during that time: Navy Commendation Medal, two Navy Achievement Medals, National Defense Medal, NATO Medal and three Good Conduct Medals.
While a Naval civilian, Ritter helped repair the USS Cole, for which he earned the Aegis Excellence Award and the Outstanding Civilian Award. He has earned several civilian awards since then, including the two most recent for his time in Afghanistan.
“Tim is a very hard worker. He is very appreciative of any opportunities presented to him and if he does well with those opportunities he gives credit to those around him because be knows its all about team work and he is thankful for those who gave him a chance,” Barberi said. “I know from personal experience that Tim would give anyone the shirt off his back.”
Alex Kemp, a longtime friend of Ritter, agreed.
“I’ve known him for over 30 years and he’s never met a stranger in his life. He’s a real people guy,” Kemp said. “If he goes to work for someone, he does the best job he knows how. He is a one-of-a-kind guy.”
But for all he’s earned, Ritter was modest, saying it wasn’t for recognition, he simply was a proud American.
“I wanted to serve my country,” he said.