Rare is the man who has a full life by the age of 31. Rarer still is the man who, simply through the quiet strength of his personality and the resolve of his character, can dramatically affect the lives of the people who have encountered him. Richard Daniel Krobock was that man.
From Rick Krobock's obituary at West Point
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Richard “Rick” Daniel Krobock had only been a CIA officer for five months when, in March 1987, he was killed in a helicopter crash in Central America.
At the time of his death, Rick was on a search and rescue mission in the region. No direct evidence was found pinpointing the cause of the crash.
Rick Krobock was born in Trenton, New Jersey, on December 5, 1955. He had two older brothers – twins – and moved frequently in his childhood. His dad, a graduate from the US Military Academy at West Point, moved the family to Scituate, Massachusetts, when Rick was 7 years old. Growing up in Massachusetts, Rick developed several close friendships and, despite his travels to far-off lands, he maintained those same friendships throughout his life.
As a teenager, Rick loved athletics – including hockey and track – and was twice selected to his high school’s all-start football team. He graduated from Scituate High School in 1974, worked that summer as a house painter, and then enrolled at the University of Massachusetts in the fall. He left the university the following spring and, unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, took an interim job at a gas station.
Rick’s life changed dramatically when he received a Congressional appointment and entered the US Military Academy at West Point as a cadet in June 1975. Having already finished a year of college, Rick easily adjusted to academic life at West Point and the rigors of his first summer. He was known as a serious student and trustworthy friend, a man of quick wit and focused determination. He was grounded – able to keep even the most challenging tasks in perspective – and could be relied upon to complete any assignment given to him. During his vacations, Rick could always be seen in his VW bus, driving back to his hometown of Scituate to visit family and friends.
Life in the Military:
Rick graduated from West Point in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and in History; his areas of concentration were National Security and Public Affairs. On active duty, he attended Army Ranger, Aviation, Airborne, and Armor Schools; received advanced training in Military Intelligence; and served in South Korea, West Germany, and the United Kingdom. Rick was also skilled in an interesting mixture of sports—he was an avid skier, a squash player, and a skeet and pistol marksman. He gained his pilots wings in 1981.
By the mid-1980s, Rick was considering a career change. He contemplated leaving the Army and returning to school to earn an MBA—presumably for a career in international business—or staying in the Army and changing his Military Operational Specialty to Foreign Area Officer. The latter, he thought, might satisfy his long-held interest in international affairs.
It was after an interview with a CIA recruiter, however, that Rick discovered a third path.
Life at CIA:
Rick opted to join the Agency in October 1986 while stationed at Fort Ord in California. He received an honorable discharge from the US Army after nearly eight years of service.
While in the military, Rick had achieved the rank of Captain. He commanded an attack helicopter company in a light infantry division, assuming responsibility for 35 officers and enlisted men, seven attack and four Aero scout helicopters, and a wide array of support activities required to keep his company and its equipment combat ready.
Rick’s military experience made him a natural fit for CIA’s Directorate of Operations, working on the Special Activities Staff. His expertise in piloting helicopters—which had become so important to military and paramilitary operations at the time—enhanced his appeal to the Agency.
Within a few months, Rick had completed several orientation and operational training courses. Sent on a temporary duty assignment to Central America, he provided support for Agency operations. He was the mission’s officer-in-charge.
His Final Mission:
In the early morning hours of March 26, 1987, Rick was the radio communications officer onboard a helicopter. The helicopter was on standby to provide search-and-rescue services for an Agency operation. As it was returning to the base the helicopter crashed, killing all aboard. The cause of the crash remains a mystery.
Richard Daniel Krobock was 31 years old. He was survived by his father, mother, and two older brothers. Rick was posthumously awarded the Agency’s Intelligence Star in recognition of his Agency service and sacrifice. A portion of the citation reads:
“While his tenure with the Agency was brief, his profound contribution, exceptional capability, maturity, and love of challenge and flying, earned the respect and admiration of superiors, colleagues, and subordinates alike. Mr. Krobock served his country with distinction, motivated by the highest professional standards and often at grave personal risks. His sacrifice was in the finest tradition of selfless service to his country and is indeed worthy of commendation and honor.”
Rick’s friends and colleagues remember a man of integrity; a quiet, selfless leader who cared deeply for those who worked for and with him. He was earnest, driven by a strong sense of duty for his country, and had a contagious positive attitude. Success for Rick was not defined by the medals he received or the honors he was bestowed: Instead, Rick defined success by the people he touched.