Getting personal: Helping Iraqis special forces
August 27, 2008
Maj. Christopher Herrmann is glad to be home. The 3rd Air Force director of operations and intelligence completed a yearlong deployment to Iraq this summer, where he helped train and stand up Iraqi special forces.
In the process, he lived with the fledgling forces and helped them get the C-130s they needed to get down to the fight in Basra earlier this year.
For his efforts, he received the Bronze Star last month.
Congratulations. So how long exactly were you down there?Just under a year, two weeks shy. I was a single deployer working outside of the Air Force, with the Army, basically.
So you were working right there with the Iraqis?Right. I lived on an Iraqi compound with the Iraqis, inside the greater Victory Base Complex.
What did you take away from working so closely with them?They are a hard working, very gracious people. There are people there, especially the [special forces] that are committed to standing up a diverse Iraq, where people can live regardless of their religious orientation. The Iraqi special forces was a mixed force of Sunni, Kurd and [Shiite], and it worked just fine.
Were there a lot of guys from the Saddam regime, or was it all new soldiers?Part of the officer corps were former Saddam regime. A lot of them were ... unlike our special forces where you’re in the military and after a period you get crossed over to the special forces, their special forces are recruited right off the street.
You had a long deployment by Air Force standards. Was that something that required an adjustment?Going down, initially, there’s the excitement of the unknown. You’ve got the excitement of learning a new job, skills and meeting new people. After your mid-tour break, the hardest thing I’ve had to do in 23 years in the military is get back on that plane. Because I knew what I was going to face, the daily routine and the living environment. I knew what I was going back for, and six months more of it.
You helped the Iraqi special forces get air transport for the Basra offensive. Tell us about that. Basra, I think, is going to turn out to be a strategic turning point in the war. At least it’s looking like that now, and I think history will bear that out. When the Iraqi prime minister decided to move the Iraqi special forces down to Basra ... the Air Force chopped, or gave, to this [operation] two C-17s and two C-130 sorties to move the requirements the Iraqis had. I coordinated with all the Air Force agencies.
What’s going through your mind as this thing is about to kick off? You know you’re sending troops out on a combat deployment. You know these guys are going to fight. And you don’t know how many are coming back. So you’re trying to make sure they have all the airlift to take everything they felt they needed.
What needs to happen next for Iraqi air power and special operations? The biggest challenge I think they see, and I hope it isn’t a slander, but it’s part of the Iraqi mindset. Forward thinking is a bit of a problem, and logistics and maintenance is a problem. You and I take care of our car, do preventative maintenance, stuff like that. We’ve struggled hard to teach them that.
When did you find out about the Bronze Star and how do you feel about it? I found out that it had been approved a few days before I left. It still had to go back to [Central Command] for Air Force approval. I guess it was the first or second week of July.
So what’s next for you? I’ll finish out my tour here and then retire.
Any big plans?I miss flying every day. I’m a C-130 guy. There isn’t a day that goes by that I didn’t wish I was out flying.
Will you stay in England?I love living overseas. I’ve spent 23 months deployed or TDY in my four years so far. My poor wife went through an awful lot left behind here while I was downrange. I could not have gotten through the tour without her. Her support was the one thing that got me through it.