By: Sandra Thompson
MSgt Hertzig was born in Wallace, Idaho, in 1960 and grew up in Brigham City, Utah. While going to school during the Cold War, Eric had a different perspective of the military and war because many of his teachers were prior military. “My junior high and high school teachers were all World War II, Korea, and Vietnam veterans. These people instilled a sense of service along with a desire to take a stand against totalitarianism, in some capacity, as a duty to the community I was growing up in.”
At age 19, he found himself in a series of dead-end jobs; feeling rebellious he was ready to get out on his own. He decided to join the Air Force in March 1979. “I walked into the recruitment offices and asked who could get me into basic training the quickest. Every recruiter except one told me I could join but there was a waiting period of 30 – 180 days for a training slot. The Air Force recruiter said he could get me a training slot in less than 30 days if I entered service in an open general position. I chose to do so; and the Air Force recruiter was able to process my enlistment, and I entered basic training 6 days later.” About a week into basic training, he was told it was time for him to decide what career field he would like to enter. He was offered 6 different jobs, but only one offered an immediate opportunity to work overseas. He chose to join the Security Police career field as a Security Specialist as opposed to a Law Enforcement Specialist. He completed basic training and technical school at Lackland AFB and then went to Camp Bullis to complete Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD) training.
Eric’s first duty station was at Davis Monthan, AFB in Arizona, where he supported the Titan missile operations. While there he also received a nuclear security identifier, so with an ABDG identifier he was also assigned to the mobility cell to support contingency operations. Eighteen months later he was reassigned to Osan AB, Republic of Korea (ROK). While there he participated in an exchange program with the Korean Army, serving as liaison between US and Korean Forces; this lasted for a year. He would serve 2 more 1-year tours in Korea, one year at Kunsan Air Base, where he worked with the Korean Coastal Defense Battalion. Upon returning to the US, he was assigned to Strategic Air Command serving at Plattsburgh AFB, NY; Ellsworth AFB, SD; and Malmstrom AFB, MT. During his 23-year career, he was also assigned to Sembach AFB, Germany, for a 4-year tour; Muscat, Oman, for 13 months; and Oranjestad, Aruba, for 9 months. “Along with too many deployments to detail, suffice it to say, I deployed to nearly every hot spot in the world during my career spending more time with Army and Marine infantry than with Air Force Security Police.”
Some of Eric’s most memorable moments in his career include being deployed to Egypt to secure a dirt airstrip in the middle of the desert. “Duty was miserable, rumors were rampant, and everyone was on edge. I lived in a hole manning a machinegun. One night, illumination flares started going off. There was something in the wire, and about 10 minutes after the flares started going off, I received orders to fire on our FPL. I fired about 2 belts when the cease fire order was given. In the morning, I found out I had been firing on a pack of jackals!”
Eric was also deployed to Sarejvo as a patrol leader. “The patrol was heading back to base when we happened upon two Air Force members taking pictures near a minefield marker. I halted the patrol and approached them asking them if they knew they were in a minefield. They assured me they knew of the minefield. When I asked them if they were aware they were on the wrong side of the marker and in the actual minefield, they both nearly passed out. I called EOD, and everyone got home in one piece!”
Eric was ready to retire in 2001; unfortunately, 9/11 happened. He got caught in what the military calls “stop loss’ where no one can retire or separate from the military. Finally in 2002, he was able to retire. After retirement he moved to St. Louis, MO, where he says “I was Mr. Mom for about 6 months until I completed all the self-help projects around the house, after which I worked as a security supervisor for a year or so. Finally, I started working for the Missile Defense Agency in the security department assisting in security system design.” Eric currently resides in Elkmont, with his son Andrew. He also has a son Elden; a daughter-in-law, Misty; and a daughter Erin. He has one grandchild named Darien.
By: Sandra Thompson
Director, Alabama Veterans’ Museum