First Air Force officer leaving a strong legacy at Camp Guernsey

  • Published
  • By Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire
  • Wyoming Military Department
A history-making Air Force officer is leaving Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center after nearly seven years of building the camp's capability, and relationships with his team there.

Lt. Col. David Herder, camp deputy commander, is the first, and only, Air Force officer to hold a command position for an Army installation in Wyoming, and that is just one of the firsts he brought to the camp.

"2007 was our first attempt to be joint," he said of the effort to combine training for different branches of the military. "The playbook hadn't been written, so we said, let's see where this can go."

One obstacle for the only "blue-suiter in a green world," which referred to his Air Force uniform compared to his Army brethren, was the language, Herder said.

"It allowed me to ask a lot of questions. Plus I was able to teach Army what the Air Force could bring to the fight."

"He didn't know anything Army--how we talk, or how we do things," said Col. Rich Knowlton, the camp commander. "The deputy commander in any organization has a lot of responsibility. It's a tough job and he's executed it superbly. He has set us on the right path for the future. He'll be sorely missed."

Herder said he started out by studying Army regulations and identifying funding sources and building a professional staff, capable of executing the visions he had for what is now one of the nation's premiere military training sites and the fifth busiest Army airfield in the country.

"I saw our manning was deficient," Herder said of his early days at Guernsey. Fixing that issue was his number one accomplishment. "I got to pick people who were a good fit and had the same goals and ambitions to build."

Knowlton, who is one of four Army camp commanders Herder has worked for, noted his deputy's personnel prowess.

"He is outstanding with employees," Knowlton said. "He knows how to get them in the right positions and then to get them the correct pay for that position."

Camp Guernsey's air operations manager, Bob Kolbo, retired from the Wyo. Air National Guard several years ago, and accepted an offer to do his current job about five years ago.

"I've worked with (Herder) since the eighties," Kolbo said. "He's one of the reasons I came up here. It's been great with all the progress we've made. He had ideas and plans and I was able to execute them."

One of those ideas, and one that significantly increases the usefulness and value of the camp, was to build a tactical airstrip, much like pilots use in war zones. Herder said the idea had been 20 years in the making and became a true joint effort by the time it was completed in 2011.

"It allows us to train the way we fight," he said. Air operations at Guernsey have increased from about 4,000 in 2007 to about 13,000 last year.

"We can do unprecedented things here," Herder explained. "We had Marines here last year and we provided parachute training to them which otherwise would not be considered without our joint resources."

Herder also led the charge for a "catalog of services," said quality assurance officer Christa Bartel. It's a list of regulations and processes for billing units that train here, she said.

Herder's next assignment will be starting a new commander's inspection program when he returns to the Air National Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing's fulltime staff in Cheyenne in a few weeks. "Once again, we'll be writing a new playbook," he said.

"It's bittersweet," he said of moving out of the camp. "I have full support from them all. I think my Guernsey family would like me to stay. We have a great staff and a great relationship."

According to every one of those colleagues asked, that is a true statement.

"He is probably one of the best leaders I've ever had. He is genuine and passionate. He truly loves the people around him. He always stood up for us, whether wrong or right. We never worried about our back with him," Chief Warrant Officer 3 Raymond Vannater, supply management officer for the camp, said.

"It's been a tremendous experience. It's broadened my perspective and made me a more mature leader," Herder said of his stint at Guernsey. "I was basically the continuity here with four different commanders. We've had a lot of different visions, but I've been able to carry out that long term plan."