Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Toughest Lion

Col. Chris Riga

In case you think the Columbia recruiting pitch is only about all the exciting jobs New York has to offer, you might also want to focus on the toughness that playing football in this city instills in so many players.

And perhaps the toughest Lion there is has a lot more to deal with than a crowded subway train when it comes to getting to work every day.

I'm talking about Chris Riga '87, captain of the 1986 Lions who happens to be the Group Commander of the 7th Special Forces Army Airborne.

Riga joined the Army right out of Columbia. The last uniform he wore that wasn't an Army uniform was a Lion uniform.

Riga came to Columbia after a PG year at Northfield-Mount Hermon Prep School and four years at Westfield HS in Massachusetts.

At Columbia, he was a called a "madman" on the field even though he was gracious and kind off the gridiron. The Columbia Spectator did this feature piece on Riga prior to the 1986 season that discussed his leadership on defense as the middle linebacker. Despite Columbia's 0-10 record that year, Riga made Honorable Mention All Ivy.

But his service to our country is so much more important. And because of that, I wanted to include below his complete and latest Army bio:

Colonel Christopher N. Riga enlisted in the U.S. Army in August 1987 following graduation from Columbia University, and served as an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division. 

In September 1991, Col. Riga attended Officer Candidate School. He was commissioned as an Infantry Second Lieutenant upon Graduation from Officer Candidate School Class 01-92 on 30 January 1992, and served as a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer in the 82nd Airborne Division and the 75th Ranger Regiment. 

In 1998, Col. Riga graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (A). He served as a Detachment Commander and Assistant S-3 from 1998 to 2002.  Col. Riga then attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Ks. 

After graduating from CGSC, Col. Riga returned to 3rd Special Forces Group (A). He served as the Bravo Company Commander and Operations Officer for 3rd Battalion from 2004 to 2006, and as the Group Operations Officer and CJSOTF Deputy J-3 from 2006 to 2007. Col. Riga was then assigned to the United States Army Special Operations Command where he served as the DCS G3 Executive Officer, and as the Assistant Chief of Staff. From August 2009 to July 2011, Col. Riga served as the Battalion Commander, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (A). During that time, he served as the Special Operations Task Force-South Commander, Kandahar, Afghanistan, from September 2010 to April 2011. 

Following command, Col. Riga served as the Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Army from July 2011 to June 2012. Col. Riga graduated from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government as an Army War College Fellow. Col. Riga was assigned as the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Commander in July of 2013 and most recently served as the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Commander - Afghanistan from November 2013 to August 2014. 

Col. Riga has served in combat in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, multiple rotations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also served with the Multinational Force and Observers while assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, in Operation Safehaven while assigned to the Ranger Regiment, and Operation Joint Forge as a Detachment Commander. 

Col. Riga’s awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal for Valor with three oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal for Valor with four oak leaf clusters, and other achievement, service and foreign awards. He has earned the Combat Infantryman Badge (two awards), Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Ranger Tab and Special Forces Tab.


oldlion said...

It would be nice to see him get that first star. Terrific report Jake. We need to turn out more guys like Chris Riga.

WOF said...

Can't think of a better leader than Chris. He was crazy on the field and one of the greatest gentleman off the field. His intensity was legendary. I doubt anyone has ever had a bad thing to say about him and I am not surprised at all with all of the success he has achieved.

Thanks for the update, Jake, this is great!

Big Fan said...

Former Lion John Keefe '15 enlisted in the USAF to become an AF Special Operations Pararescueman (PJ).

Coach said...

Jake: thank you for that terrific piece on Chris Riga. I had no idea that he was in the military. He was a wonderful football player and a real leader that everyone on the team admired.

Todd Peterson said...

I served under Chris back in C co. 2nd Batt. In the 82nd. I was a sgt. And he was my PL. Great memories of training rotations with him- NTC, JRTC, to name a few. Chris was tough, led from the front, extremely cool and all of us loved him. Hope he gets a star soon. Sgt. Todd Peterson