COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Noncommissioned officers are the backbone of the Army. NCOs enforce standards, maintain discipline and manage Soldiers, up and down the chain of command.
For Sgt. 1st Class Hady Yousry Saleh, age 38, being an NCO comes easy. Having been in leadership roles for more than two thirds of his career, he is now the acting Company first sergeant and noncommissioned officer in charge of Army Space Control Planning Team 3, 2nd Space Company, 1st Space Battalion, 1st Space Brigade - a role he said he enjoys.
“There’s a satisfaction I take in caring for Soldiers that has been with me since early on in my career,” Saleh said. “They are the brothers and sisters I never had growing up.”
From being a team and squadron leader, to a platoon sergeant, to the leadership role he is in now, Saleh relishes in the management of Soldiers and has gained experience in dealing with people, not only from his travels in the military, but from his upbringing.
The Salehs came to the U.S. from Alexandria, Egypt, in 1990. His father, who was an architectural engineer in the construction of the Egyptian Tank Plant near Cairo in the 1980s, took a job as a chemical engineer in Tucson, Arizona, and the family of three immigrated to the Southwest.
“People think coming from Egypt, I was coming from the hot desert,” Saleh said. “But Alexandria is on the coast. It’s like the Miami Beach of Egypt, so going to Tucson was quite a change.”
Saleh was just seven years old, but knew English, as well as French, German, and Arabic, all of which he had learned from the school he had gone to in Alexandria. Assimilation was easy, he said.
“Everyone thought we were Mexican,” Saleh said. “Then I picked up Spanish being surrounded by Hispanics.”
Saleh is a people person, so fitting in has never been a problem anywhere he goes, and he’s been places. After high school he worked an assortment of jobs, sometimes two or three at a time, from selling knives to cars to donuts. But it was after seeing the events that were unfolding in the Middle East, and being from that area, he decided to bring his cultural knowledge and language skills to help out the country that had granted him citizenship, and he joined the Army at 24 years of age in 2008.
“I was a little older and had more life experience under my belt than your average enlistee,” Saleh said. “I thought, what better way to give back to the country that I was now a citizen of, than to join the military to support my wife and daughter.”
Saleh went into intelligence (35F) and ended up in the 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, the “444,” as nicknamed. He deployed to Afghanistan twice in two years with the unit in 2012 and 2014. Some of the many duties he performed were counter improvised explosive device analysis, satellite communication team leader, intelligence team leader, targeting, surveillance and reconnaissance, and running operations for the BCT. There were losses in his unit from enemy fire, especially during the first deployment - “a rough one,” he called it.
After coming home and transferring to the Joint Intelligence Center at U.S. Central Command at MacDill, Air Force Base, Florida, he deployed in 2015/2016, again to Afghanistan where he was in charge of 21 Army and civilian personnel as the NCOIC of the regional special operations task force in Bagram.
Finally, in 2019/2020, he returned to Afghanistan, this time in SMDC, to make history as part of the final Army Space Support Team to deploy to the country. It was his fourth trip to the country in eight years.
“I can look at a map of Afghanistan and tell you locations without seeing names,” Saleh said. “Going through tour after tour after tour over there, you start seeing what the local nationals who are helping us are going through, and they become family at that point.”
Saleh expressed his sentiment over the events that transpired last summer in the rapid Taliban takeover of the country.
“A lot of Soldiers didn’t know how to deal with it,” he said. “We took a lot of losses last year, but good things came out of it. A lot of us vouched for the local nationals that helped us out over there to get them out of the country before it fell. We succeeded in getting some out.”
Saleh said he personally helped get one family out who had a son working at the post exchange at the small camp he was deployed to in Kabul during his last trip.
“I made a lot of lifelong friends over there,” he said. “Not just Soldiers, but local nationals and the guys and interpreters that helped us out, and I still keep in contact with a lot of them. I keep in touch with the majority of people I have deployed with; the ones that are still around. It’s good to have that network because you all were in a similar situation and you all still have each other. We did our part the best we could. I don’t regret one minute I spent in that country making those memories.”
The fourth Afghanistan deployment was one of the more tight-knit teams he has ever been a part of, Saleh said. A very niche role, the final ARSST in Afghanistan filled a space operations/intelligence role for the newly-formed Information Warfare Task Force-Afghanistan, led by Army Special Operations Command. They planned and coordinated operations for Afghanistan district and provincial centers, police and army checkpoints, convoy operations and vehicle recovery operations.
“Not only did we do our space situational awareness, we also gave SOF (Special Operations Forces) a lot more information and capability of what space brings to the fight, as well as supporting direct operations and troops on the ground,” Saleh said. “We built networks and bridges across the entire operational spectrum from the lowest private all the way up to the two-star we worked for.”
Saleh has now been in SMDC for two-and-a-half years and has enjoyed his time in the command, but has to find a new home due to a lack of intelligence slots in the brigade. He now looks to bring his space operational skills and intelligence knowledge and experience to the U.S. Space Command.
“This has been one heck of a broadening assignment,” Saleh said. “When you come to Army space, you are learning about a totally different battlefield; one you don’t get subjected to unless you are an FA40 (space operations officer) or you are stationed with one of the teams (ARSSTs or SCPTs). When you come in as an intelligence guy with a couple special operations deployments under your belt, it opens doors. It definitely has for me. It gives you the tools needed to bring that knowledge to the space fight.”
Saleh is one semester shy of getting his bachelor’s degree in pre-law from Liberty University. He recently bought a house with some land in Colorado Springs and lives there with his wife of 13 years, Heather, and his four children: Jasmine, age 16 , Arianna, age 11, Alexander, age 7, and Nora, age 2.
He’s considering a career as an attorney when he retires from the military.