OTF Soldier Story for August 9, 2010 - Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hertig
Current Unit: 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)
Current Position: Infantryman
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Myer, Va.
Hometown: San Diego, Calif.
Years of Service: 21
As far back as he can remember, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hertig always knew he wanted to serve in the military. Although he originally planned on serving in the Marine Corps, in the footsteps of his father and uncle, he ultimately joined the Army in order to be an Infantryman.
“When I attempted to enlist in the Marines, they couldn’t guarantee me placement in the Infantry field and with my scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, the recruiter recommended a job in intelligence or aviation,” he said.
Knowing he wanted to be on the frontlines, he decided to join the Army.
“Service to the community and country is a big part of my family, especially with the men. However, I knew I wanted to be in the Infantry more than I wanted to be in the Marines,” he said.
More than twenty years have passed since Hertig first saw combat while deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, yet two things have remained constant throughout Hertig’s military career—his commitment to leadership and his desire to serve in the Infantry.
Last year, during his deployment to Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, he traveled throughout the country conducting various combat missions based on intelligence and activity reports. While there, he noted the progress made in Iraq since his previous deployment in 2003.
“Despite how our efforts are portrayed in the news, I was happy to see the transition and how Iraqis are taking ownership of their security,” he said. “It is impressive to see how far they have come in a short amount of time.”
A committed leader on the battlefield, the well-being of his Soldiers is critical to him.
“If I am taking all my boys overseas, then I want to bring them all home with me. My goal is to accomplish the mission and bring my men home safely,” he said.
This dedication and commitment to his Soldiers was clearly demonstrated in 2003 while deployed with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. As part of the initial invasion of Iraq, Hertig led a convoy through Baghdad to secure the northwest corner of the city and prevent Iraqi forces from leaving the area. During the mission, which lasted for more than 24 hours, the convoy came under heavy enemy fire leaving several Soldiers critically wounded.
Although a staff sergeant at the time, Hertig volunteered to lead a caravan back through the city to transport the wounded Soldiers to a location where they could receive further medical aid. During the four-hour return mission, they continued to experience heavy enemy fire. Under Hertig’s leadership, 12 wounded Soldiers were successfully taken to the medical treatment center; however, the unit lost one Soldier during the excursion.
“It was rewarding and humbling in the same instance,” he said. “We did something almost impossible to do and I’m proud of what we did. Yet it reminds me that even with your best efforts, you will still fail in some cases.”
For his meritorious service that day, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal. Hertig also received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during his 2003 deployment.
Hertig was recently reassigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), where he currently serves as the equal opportunity advisor. One of the most historic and prestigious units in the Army, The Old Guard is the Army’s official ceremonial unit and is responsible for escorting the President, conducting memorial affairs for fallen Soldiers and representing the Army at other special events. However, as the oldest active-duty Infantry unit in the Army, the unit is tactically proficient in its Infantry skills and stands ready to defend the National Capital Region in the event of an emergency and to deploy overseas when needed.
“I’ve always wanted to be a member of the Old Guard, and it is truly an honor to serve with them,” he said. “A lot of people only see the pomp and circumstance, and they forget we are an Infantry unit. We have the white gloves and dress blues, but we also have the full battle rattle.”
He lives in Burke, Va. with his wife, Sarah, and two daughters, Miachela (13) and Madison (9). After living on post at Fort Benning, Ga., for much of his military career, Hertig is excited to get involved in his local community and plans to serve as a volunteer firefighter.
“I’ve always wanted to be a volunteer firefighter. My dad was a police officer in San Diego and I have a lot of respect for emergency responders,” he said. “If I am going to live in the community, I want to give back.”