Colonel Cromwell enjoying a nice day at the office. Photo by Lacie Bartlett.
When Colonel Douglas Cromwell retired from the Marine Corps in 2013 after serving 34 years and embarking on missions in some of the most dangerous places in the world, he could have easily put his feet up and lived out his dreams of traveling the world with his wife.
Instead, the former Marine whose team fought al-Qaeda became one of the leaders of the Oxford School District.
Growing up in Greenville, Ohio, Cromwell could have never imagined his life path. He recalls telling his high school counselor, “Mr. Hile, I am never going to join the military.” Little did he know, just a few years later he would serve in the National Guard at Wittenberg University in Ohio.
“I always thought I was going to play pro football or major league baseball like all the other kids my age,” he said.
After leaving Wittenberg University, Cromwell joined active duty. He took part in an inner service transfer from the National Guard to the Marine Corps. He was stationed in Parris Island, South Carolina for basic training, then in Pensacola, Florida for a while.
“I was on my way to Guam when I received a call that I was accepted for the 128th Officer Candidate Class,” he said. “I went to Quantico, Virginia and basically did basic training all over again.”
According to the United States Marine Corps website, “The United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School is a training regiment designed to screen and evaluate potential Marine Corps Officers.” After completing OCS, Cromwell was named a second lieutenant in the Marines. Soon after, “colonel” was added to Cromwell’s name.
Cromwell has always held a persona of leadership and authority. Some of his most memorable moments during service would give anyone a sense of gratitude. He recalls a time in 2006 when he was serving in Afghanistan with a command whose job was to hunt and kill al-Qaeda.
“I was part of this group for two years,” he said. “In this time, I helped kill the al-Qaeda leader Zarqawi. He was in charge of the al-Qaeda in Iraq.” With a smile of recollection, he said, “That was a good day.”
He also recalls serving as a captain in the African country of Somalia distributing food to its people.
“Being in the Marines provided me with a good bit of discipline that I needed as a young man,” he said. “I have worked with some of the finest people I have ever met – people that are focused on a mission, taking care of each other – brotherhood.”
Cromwell believes his time in the Marines helped strengthen his leadership skills, his integrity and character. After retiring from the Marine Corps, Cromwell and his family moved to Oxford.
“I was not looking to retire for good after my time in service,” he said. “I was thrilled to embark on a second career.”
Cromwell spent his first few years in Oxford as the Marine Corps Junior ROTC teacher at Oxford High School. He said this transition was challenging at first.
“I had to remember that these kids were just in high school,” he said. “I was the chief of staff of the Second Marine Division. I was used to commanding Marines.”
Cromwell quickly adjusted to his new job and excelled in his position. Three short years later, he was named the new director of personnel, operations and planning. He oversees areas such as child nutrition, hiring new teachers, transportation, maintenance, information technology, and other school and business services.
Ashley Hilton, a fifth grade teacher at Oxford Middle School, said Cromwell has done an excellent job adjusting to his new position in the Oxford School District.
“The faculty and staff couldn’t function properly without his prompt attention to daily issues that arise,” he said.
Cromwell’s hard work never goes unnoticed by students and faculty of Oxford City Schools. His background in the Marine Corps gives him a firm standing ground.
“Cromwell does not back down to any challenges thrown his way,” Hilton said.
Cromwell said he strives to be a good person.
“I doubt anyone will remember me, but if they do, I want to be remembered as a person of character and integrity,” he said. “I want to be known as someone who did right by all people.”
Cromwell has a heart dedicated to service and leadership.
“He is such an asset to our school district,” Hilton said. “And we are so thankful to have him at our school.”