Assistant program manager for aviation built close bonds in Saudi Arabia

By Ms. Kelly Francois, OPMSANGJuly 5, 2017

Col. Herrera's last flight in Saudi
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- There is no doubt that Col. Ray Herrera, OPM-SANG (Office of the Program Manager, Saudi Arabian National Guard) Assistant Program Manager for Aviation will be missed by not only the military and civilians that worked with him, but many from the Ministry National Guard (MNG) will feel his absence.

For two years, Herrera worked right beside Maj. Gen. Rashid Zahrani, the Chief of the MNG Aviation. "I had the privilege of working with Maj. Gen. Zahrani," Herrera said. "It was my first time working that closely with a host nation leader and it was a great experience; the General is smart and savvy and he has a vision for MNG aviation," Herrera added. "We learned a lot from each other, I know we will keep in touch."

Herrera said, "The best part of my assignment was working with professionals at OPM-SANG while helping MNG achieve their goals of providing combat capability in its rotary-wing force." Herrera adds, "I take pride in the first completed gunnery performance mission-ready exercise designed to meet MNG mission requirements, while also being there as they received the last of their AH-6i complement." "It was great to see the growth of the MNG program and the OPM-SANG organization that supports it," Herrera explained.

"The OPM-SANG aviation division has grown from 23 to 49 personnel," Herrera explained. "When I started, I was wearing a lot of hats, in two years we have grown exponentially to a full complement," he added.

For his outstanding service with OPM-SANG, Herrera was awarded the Legion of Merit. "It's everyone on the team at a very critical juncture in this program's history. Bringing together the equipment and the training and looking to the future to foster a self-sustaining entity--this award is a culmination of everyone involved, I attribute this to them," Herrera said. Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, Program Manager for SANG, has relied on Herrera's experience and knowledge of aviation to help make key decisions that will help guide the future of MNG Aviation.

On June 15, Herrera will depart Saudi Arabia for his next assignment with U.S. Army South at Joint Base Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. "I really enjoyed my time at OPM-SANG," Herrera said. "I enjoyed a combination of the culture and the people, I even managed to get open water diver qualified during my tour, and that's something I've always wanted to do for me personally."

Herrera will miss many things when he departs, "The team--you build a close bond--the unique challenges of working your craft combined with the culture can be a challenge, but so rewarding when you meet the challenges," Herrera said.