On a sunny May morning at the historic Fort Moultrie, a young first lieutenant stands firmly at attention as his new captain insignia are pinned to his uniform. Captain Galen Kreutzberger, who joined the Charleston District as a first lieutenant in Feb. 2022, achieved more than he could have imagined in his 15 months in the Lowcountry.
Galen Kreutzberger grew up in Harrison City, Pennsylvania. An avid soccer lover still to this day, Kreutzberger played throughout his childhood. His love for the game led to his first introduction to military life when he attended soccer camp at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
"The camp was a lot of fun. What stood out to me was the players," said Kreutzberger. "All of those cadets at West Point looked very mature and had a great way of looking at things. Seeing them made me think that's the type of person I would like to be."
Determined to become the type of person he saw on the soccer field, Kreutzberger underwent the rigorous West Point application process. He was accepted and graduated in 2019 with a Chemical Engineering degree. His first assignment was the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
Being thrown into the fire is something Kreutzberger would find frequently happens to him. As a new second lieutenant arriving at Fort Irwin, things moved fast and before getting entirely situated, he was assigned as the night battle captain leading the tactical operations center.
"The idea of being thrown into things came quickly to me," said Kreutzberger. "My role was to run the limited staff in the TOC and help set the conditions for the morning. It was an interesting experience because I am trying to learn the roles of our units, their support units, the soldiers and where I fit into all of it."
Despite all the challenges, he handled them in stride. However, another lurked on the horizon, the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. Along with the rest of the world, he was sent home for several months.
Upon returning, Kreutzberger was thrown into the fire again when he found several of his superiors had left for other commands or been promoted. With no replacements, it left four lieutenants, including him, to serve as the unit's staff officers.
"As a new second lieutenant being told you're gonna be a staff primary for the primary plans officer, I couldn't help but think, 'whoa, I don't know anything that's going on.' I didn't let that stop me and I learned the best way to go about it is to take it by the fire hose and get the job done," Kreutzberger said.
After excelling in his new role, he was given the opportunity to take a temporary assignment with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Having never been to the southeast before, Kreutzberger listed Charleston as his first pick.
Arriving in Feb. 2022, the captain had no experience working for a nearly all-civilian agency. To add to the challenge, he didn't have the slightest idea of what USACE did. He soon would find that it was not roadway construction, as he'd previously thought, but a wide-ranging set of missions touching almost all aspects of the community.
In most USACE districts, the only Army personnel are the commander and deputy commander, with occasional lower-ranked officers serving in support roles. Stepping into the Charleston District, Kreutzberger joined the commander and deputy commander as the only officers.
Within three months of arriving, District Deputy Commander Lieutenant Colonel Joe Owens left for a new assignment. Kreutzberger had demonstrated his abilities and was soon selected to fill the role in the interim.
"As the interim deputy, I represented the executive staff and the commander's needs. It was a very valuable experience because I saw how a lot of field grade officers brief their higher-ups and the interaction from the top-down," Kreutzberger said. "It was incredibly beneficial since it is not something a junior officer like me normally gets to see."
Part of his role as deputy commander was assisting the senior chiefs when they needed something to reach the commander. Kreutzberger would work with them to find a solution or path forward and then present it to the commander. As a first lieutenant, he briefed the South Atlantic Division deputy commander, something usually done by more senior officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels.
Through it all, he saw the passion those working at Charleston District had and quickly learned about an organization's best asset.
"I learned your people are your most important asset. The people here love what they're doing, they're motivated about it, passionate about it and they truly enjoy working for the district," said Kreutzberger. "I don't think I've met anyone I wouldn't want to work for here. If you ask anyone a question, they'll drop what they're doing to help you."
The young soccer player from Harrison City never saw himself where he is today, nor did he regret his decisions. He took every challenge head-on and persevered through struggles many may not have. Charleston was the best assignment he could have ever had.
He received a promotion shortly before leaving to cap off his time at the district. Upon his promotion to captain, he couldn't help but realize the immense role he would now have in people's lives.
"This is the first rank where you lead a company's worth of soldiers. Though you now can bar soldiers from reenlistment or separate them from the Army, you also can give them a second chance," Kreutzberger said. "You might be the only person that's given them that second chance. You can help them and others figure out their path forward and find what they want to do in life, just like people did for me."
Kreutzberger left the Charleston District at the end of May 2023. Following a well-deserved rest with his family, he will go to the Engineer Captains Career Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. There, he will also complete a master's degree in one of the many engineering fields.
No matter where he goes next, he will always remember the Charleston District.
"By far, I'll remember the people the most. The knowledge everyone has here and their perspective on things is just world-class. Everyone is upbeat, positive and happy to be here every day you come into work. Whatever my responsibilities were, the district and its culture make me want to work hard," said Kreutzberger.
Throughout his journey, everything Kreutzberger has done reminds him of why he serves and what it means to be an officer in the United States Army.
"What service is to me is giving back. I was fortunate growing up and serving is my way of doing that," Kreutzberger said. "The benefit and why it's so impactful is because you're directly impacting many people positively. To me, that's what service is, helping more than just yourself. I can't tell you enough how proud I am to do that for the United States Army."