December 15, 2009
Capt. Brad Roehrig, assistant professor of aerospace studies/ROTC, knows that all too well after spending the six hottest months of 2009 at Joint Base Balad northwest of Baghdad, where temperatures reached into the 120s.
“That was the most heat I’ve ever felt in my life,” Roehrig said. “When you walk out, it’s basically like stepping into an oven. When you get back to your office, you hang up your uniform and it takes about 10 minutes for your uniform to cool down. It’s hot!”
For what was his second tour in Iraq, Roehrig served as the J6 deputy director of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Basically, that means he had about 500-800 Special Forces troops depending on him and his team for all their communications in a variety of situations.
“Their main job was to advise the Iraqis,” Roehrig said. “We had to make sure the Iraqi communications worked. When our guys went out on missions with the Iraqis, we made sure all their radios worked, and there is a lot that goes into those radios to make them work. There were also the Predator video feeds that we had to keep working.”
His group was also charged with maintenance of the classified and non-classified communication networks at the base, plus accompanying Special Forces units on convoys. Though Roehrig was stationed at the largest base in the region and did not draw any combat missions this time around, safety for all the soldiers was still relative.
“We got shot at every once in awhile, but it’s pretty safe” Roehrig said. “Mortars and rockets, we got hit with those every couple of days. You always have it in the back of your mind that at any minute they could shoot at you. So, you are always on your toes a little bit.”
Shortly after his return to ASU, Roehrig was awarded the Bronze Star medal for meritorious service in Iraq. According to the brief accompanying his medal, “Capt. Roehrig distinguished himself by displaying initiative and serving with distinction as the J6 deputy director, providing critical communications support for three Special Operations Task Forces, eight Advanced Operating Bases and 46 Operational Detachments Alpha deployed across the Iraq Theater of Operations.”
A native of Sheboygan, Wis., Roehrig has been in the Air Force for 15 years. In addition to his two tours in Iraq, he has also had assignments to Germany, Korea, Arizona, Wyoming and Virginia. He came to ASU after serving two years as deputy commander of the 17th Communications Squadron at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo.
“I wanted to make a difference and do something positive with the cadets,” Roehrig said. “A motto I go by is ‘would I like working for that person?’ If I see characteristics or traits that I don’t like in cadets, I try to fix them to make sure that the best product enters the Air Force.”
With two years left on his ASU assignment, Roehrig is also using the time to go to school as he works toward his Ph.D. in computer information systems/security through North Central College in Arizona. For his next assignment, he is hoping for either the Pentagon or Special Forces Command.
Roehrig and his wife, Yuni, have been married for 12 years and have two children, Matthew, 10, and Gracie, 8. The whole family is happy that Roehrig is safely back at home.
“It was hard for them when I was gone, but they did pretty good” Roehrig said. “I was surprised how good they did, but Yuni kept them really busy. She is finishing her degree, so doing homework and watching the kids at the pool was no fun. Next summer is going to be much easier for her than last.”