Operation Tribute to Freedom

OTF Soldier Story for April 11, 2011 - Col. Michael Herman

Colonel Michael Herman

Current Unit: Joint Forces Headquarters
Current Position: Human Resource Management Officer
Component: South Dakota National Guard
Current Location: Rapid City, S.D.
Hometown: Aberdeen, S.D.
Years of Service: 29

In 2009, the Army asked Col. Michael Herman to serve as the Senior Advisor and Coalition Commanding Officer at the Consolidated Fielding Center (CFC) in Afghanistan, and he readily answered the call to serve. An officer with the South Dakota National Guard for nearly 30 years and as the battalion commander for the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at South Dakota State University, he was well versed in training and mobilizing large groups of Soldiers for duty.

“I chose to deploy because I wanted to do my part in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,” he said. “I wanted to focus on Afghanistan because that’s where my expertise is, and I had spent much of my military career training Soldiers. It was the perfect fit.”

Prior to his deployment, Herman served as the professor of military science at South Dakota State University, teaching the next generation of cadets, officers and Soldiers. His organizational dexterity and experience in training new troops would prove essential overseas, where he was faced with an enormous new challenge.

When Herman first arrived at the CFC, there were very few training personnel on the ground and equipment was sparse. Under his leadership, however, that quickly changed. Over the course of 15 months, Herman supervised 68 Afghan National Army (ANA) units comprised of more than 29,000 Afghan troops. His experience as an officer was critical when it came to teaching ANA Soldiers both technical and leadership skills.

“Working closely with the Afghan Soldiers was very rewarding,” he said. “Though many of them had no military experience, they were eager to learn all they could from us. They wanted to be independent and able to secure their own borders.”

Stationed at Camp Blackhorse in eastern Afghanistan, Herman spent his days traveling between forward operating bases, meeting with top coalition force leaders and Afghan officials to discuss Soldier mobilization strategy. He also had the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan troops being trained.

“My deployment allowed me to experience a broad spectrum of relationships,” he said. “My command sergeant major was from Nepal and one of my training officers was from Scotland. The day-to-day interaction with the coalition Soldiers who hailed from more than 15 countries as well as working with the ANA Soldiers was extremely rewarding.”

Shortly before returning home last fall, Herman was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service and exemplary leadership throughout his deployment. Though he initially committed to a year-long deployment, Herman agreed to stay an additional three months to complete the mission. By the time he returned stateside, he left behind more than 140,000 trained and mobilized Afghan troops—clearly exceeding the original goal of 134,000.

Now at home in Rapid City, S.D., Herman continues to serve the South Dakota National Guard as a human resources officer. He plans to retire from the Army this fall, and looks forward to spending more time with his family, including his new grandson.

“I am going to miss this occupation immensely,” he said. “I can’t think of a better profession than being a Soldier and an officer.”

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