Norwood soldier, 25, killed in Afghanistan

Army Cpl. Aaron Cruttenden

U.S. Army Cpl. Aaron Cruttenden was less than thrilled with his reassignment to a unit in which he’d regularly be clearing hidden bombs in Afghanistan, according to his stepfather.

He’d envisioned building runways and such.

“It’s not what he wanted to do,” Hotchkiss resident Scott Featheringill, 40, said Thursday. “But he said he’d do it because it’s his job.”

Cruttenden, 25, of Norwood, was doing just that Sunday on a mission in the Kunar province of Afghanistan when a transport vehicle he and colleagues were riding in drew small-arms fire from insurgents, Featheringill said of the military’s account to the family. When they dashed from the vehicle to take cover, Cruttenden and Spc. Dale Kridlo, 33, of Hughestown, Pa., were fatally wounded.

Cruttenden had called his mother in Norwood the day before, checking in as he usually did before taking off on a mission. He said he would be gone five to 10 days.

“He asked about his daughter, just one of our many normal conversations,” Featheringill said. “Never in a million years dreamed it would be the last.

“He was about six weeks from coming home.”

A deputy sheriff for Gunnison County, Featheringill was working Sunday when he got the phone call from his wife, Aaron’s mother, who had just been visited by an Army chaplain, informing them of Aaron’s death.

Enlisting in March 2008, Cruttenden was assigned to the 161st Engineer Support Co., 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade.

Cruttenden and Kridlo were combat engineers for route-clearance operations, both in their first combat deployment.

“Although route clearance is an extremely dangerous and challenging mission for any soldier, it is because of the bravery of heroes such as Kridlo and Cruttenden that routes are safer from IEDs for both coalition forces and the Afghan people,” Lt. Col. Alan Dodd, Cruttenden’s battalion commander, said in a news release.

“They laid down their lives in the service of others, and their sacrifice will not be forgotten in the 27th Engineer Battalion.”

Cruttenden will be promoted to the rank of sergeant, posthumously, the release said.

Plans for a memorial service had not been finalized as of late Thursday afternoon.


While fatigued and looking forward to returning home in December, Cruttenden was otherwise in good spirits and always eager to talk on the phone with his daughter in Nucla, 2-year-old Dusti-Rai, Featheringill said.

“He adored her, and she was his whole reason for joining the military ... health insurance for her and taking care of her,” he said.

Hopping around the map, partly because of Featheringill’s law enforcement career, the family in 1997 moved to Norwood, which Cruttenden still called home.

He lived in Norwood for the most part full-time, with the occasional trip to Arizona to take care of his grandparents, Featheringill said. Cruttenden is survived by eight brother and sisters.

“He touched a lot of lives and accepted everybody for what they were,” Featheringill said, adding his son loved pretty much anything to do with the outdoors.

“He didn’t like to hunt,” Featheringill said. “He didn’t have a mean bone in his body and by no means wanted to be in a situation where he had to take somebody’s life. But he came to terms with that and was willing to do it.”

In his son’s eyes, enlisting was the “right thing to do” for his daughter and country.

“Aaron always said you can bicker or cry about things, but you’re not going to fix them unless you do something about it,” Featheringill said.


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