Colonel Walter Herd ’83 publishes Unconventional Warrior
U.S. Army Colonel (Ret.) Walter Herd ’83 has published Unconventional Warrior [McFarland & Company, 2013], a memoir of his time as a Special Operations Commander in Afghanistan in 2003-04.
Herd, a Centre Distinguished Alumnus, was the highest-ranking officer on the ground with a command of some 4,000 elite soldiers from all branches of the U.S. military and five other coalition nations. A sixth-generation soldier, Herd became a master parachutist, a combat scuba diver, a Green Beret and an Army Ranger. He conducted combat missions against the Taliban by using the Special Forces mandate to work by, with and through the local population, otherwise known as unconditional warfare.
“Victory is defined when others are capable and motivated to secure their own lands from becoming a terrorist sanctuary,” Herd says. “As such, our main effort must focus on facilitating by, with and through success. The end state is to ultimately support those fighting this global war [using] indigenous forces.
“I’ve really become concerned about our national strategy as far as fighting this global war on terror,” Herd continues. “One of the points in this book is that we’re fighting this war incorrectly—not poorly, but ineffectively. The second reason for writing the book is to bring forth the discussion of fighting unconventionally. It’s not the way we’ve been fighting it; it’s not the way America likes to fight wars. The fact that we’re still fighting it after 12 years is indicative of the fact that it didn’t go according to plan.”
After two years writing Unconventional Warrior, Herd sent the manuscript to the Pentagon for a security check. Once they gave the green light, publication of the book moved forward.
“Another reason for writing the book is to reduce the disconnect between the American people and the American Army,” Herd says. “The Army has a pretty good idea what it’s like on the civil side of society; the opposite is not true as far as civilian understanding. So that was one of my objectives.”
Herd retired from the Army in 2007, but he is busier than ever.
“We’re raising a couple of great daughters, Hannah and Caty Herd ’16, at Herd Hills Farm, our family farm in Simpsonville, Ky., as well as some horses and some hay,” Herd says. “I’m working full-time for the Army as a civilian as the director of a program called the Army Transition Assistance Program, helping soldiers transition from the Army back to the civilian sector with the support of 700 counselors at 75 locations around the world. It has gone through a serious re-engineering in the last couple of years, almost tripling the program’s size.”
Whenever possible, he acts as a consultant for strategic planning, does motivational speaking and leadership development.
“I need three more lifetimes because there are about five more careers I would love to do,” he says.
But for this lifetime, Herd credits at least some of his success to the lessons he learned at Centre from some of its most iconic educators.
“Centre teaches you how to think, to really be critical. I’ve faced so many problems for which there was no clear answer, and critical thinking guided me through those challenges. And I took every class offered by three professors at Centre: Michael Hamm (history), [the late] Charles Lee (history), and Max Cavnes (history). They were great!”
By Cindy Long