Second Lt. Carlton Griffin was commissioned in the U.S. Army by the Commander in Chief himself-President Barack Obama. In 2010, Griffin graduated from the extremely rigorous and prestigious U.S. Army Ranger School, which is the "final crucible for most infantry officers to prove themselves," he says, adding that out of a class of about 200 people who begin, only about 30 will graduate on their first try.
Indeed, the course is 61 days of "physical and mental exertion," where soldiers carry up to 90 pounds of combat equipment while they cover more than 200 miles of "tactical foot movements," on just 2,200 calories a day and zero to five hours of sleep each night.
Griffin was no stranger to physical and mental exertion even before Army Ranger School; he was named the most outstanding Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) graduate in the United States in 2009. Griffin received the prestigious Raytheon /Hughes Award Trophy in April 2010, topping more than 4,500 other students in the nation. Established in 1964 by the Hughes Aircraft Corporation, the Raytheon/Hughes Trophy Award recognizes the top Army ROTC graduate in the nation annually; the decision is based on outstanding academic achievement, physical proficiency, and military expertise.
Since graduation, Griffin has served as an Airborne Rifle Platoon Leader in the 1st Platoon, Battle Company. He conducted training and airborne operations in Italy, Germany, and Ukraine, and also conducted joint training with more than 15 European partner nations. He is currently deployed to Afghanistan in a unit whose mission is to strengthen institutions and security forces before the United States transfers full control to the Afghan government. Griffin also leads his battalion's Mortar Platoon, and a special team that removes improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
His dedication to the Army and to the country has been apparent to those who watched his development closely at Northern Arizona University. "Lieutenant Griffin excelled in everything he set out to accomplish while he was enrolled in our program and set the standard for all other cadets to emulate," said Lt. Col. John Nelson, professor of military science and commander of the award-winning Lumberjack Battalion, which has produced the top cadets in Arizona for the past three years. Nelson goes on to say, "Not only was he a top performer, but he is also a leader of unquestionable integrity, discipline, and determination."
Griffin's exceptional work ethic was paramount in his ability to accomplish so much in his college career, appearing on the Dean's List each semester and completing his degree with a 3.97 grade point average. While friends and classmates may have been socializing on a Friday night, he was hard at work maintaining his grades, and sought out extra help from his professors whenever possible.
Griffin grew up in Flagstaff, graduating from Sinagua High School in 2005, with two parents who have served in the military and a sister who currently attends Northern Arizona University. His degree in International Affairs, he says, gives him the broad perspective needed to make complex decisions in his professional life, and he is grateful to the professors who took sincere interest in their students individually-especially Gretchen Gee, a professor in the department.
"She's an excellent teacher," Griffin says, recalling Friday afternoon lunches when Gee would spend time with her students. "She even came to my commissioning ceremony."
To Griffin, Northern Arizona University and Flagstaff were the "total package" for somebody who was looking for an education in a setting that was not too small, but not too big either, with proximity to outdoor recreation at places like the Grand Canyon or city life in Phoenix.
While he doesn't know what the future holds, Griffin would like to pursue graduate school, and is for now doing something he loves. "It's great to serve something higher than yourself." Griffin offers some advice-and humor-to the students who follow in his Northern Arizona University footsteps. "Be thankful and realize the opportunity you have," he says. "And if you know someone in ROTC who has to get up every day at 5 a.m., keep your music down."