Albert A. Herman Jr. ’71 celebrated
Independence Day in Baghdad, Iraq.
“My senior deputy minister was supposed to
meet me for the Fourth of July celebration,”
recalls Herman, who works for the U.S. State
Department, helping to restore electricity to Iraq.“I couldn’t get him on the phone. I called people
and I found out he had been kidnapped that
Herman’s co-worker, an Iraqi citizen, traveled
with personal security. But that was not enough to
keep him safe. Iraqi citizens are required to stop
at government checkpoints.
“The people who kidnapped him were
dressed in police uniforms and they got him at
the checkpoint,” says Herman, 61. “It happens all
Luckily, his colleague was either released or
escaped later that same day.
“He doesn’t like to talk about it,” Herman
says. “Ten days later you could still see the marks
on his arms from the handcuffs. He looked pretty
As a U.S. citizen working for the U.S. government
in Iraq, Herman travels in a bullet-proof
government vehicle accompanied by four military
personnel. As they drive from the U.S. fortified
Green Zone to check on power plants, they do
not stop at checkpoints.
When the war started, Iraq had a dilapidated
electrical system built in the 1980s. The power
plants were not well-maintained.
“They had 4,000 megawatts capacity,” says
Herman, a senior consultant to the minister of
electricity in Iraq. “Since then, through the
donation of U.S. assistance, their capacity has
increased to more than 8,000 megawatts. We
have rehabilitated some old plants and built some
Herman is halfway through his one-year
contract. He may stay another year if he is
needed, he says.
“Next to security, I believe electricity is the
single most important commodity that people
need,” he says. “We are now supplying about half
of the demand. We will black out an area for three
or four hours at a time based on supply and
There are great challenges ahead, he says.“In North and South Iraq, they have electricity
about 14 or 15 hours a day,” he says. “In Baghdad,
they only have electricity eight or nine hours a
day. This is because most of the power plants
are located outside of Baghdad. We are trying
to work that out, so everyone in Iraq gets the
same amount of power. Of course, essential
services like hospitals and the military have power
24 hours a day.”
A Berks County native, Herman received a full
scholarship to Albright College. He started college
in 1962, and then left to join the Navy.“I got the wanderlust when I was in the Navy,”
says Herman, who has worked in 36 nations
around the globe, and has traveled to another 60.
After the Navy, Herman started working for
Gilbert Commonwealth Inc., where he served in
many positions over 28 years. While he was working,
he returned to Albright and earned a
bachelor’s degree in economics. Between 1992
and 2006, he served as president of
A2H Energy Consultants, Berks County, which
provides energy and economic consulting to
customers around the globe.
His hectic work schedule helps distract him
from missing his wife, Janet Albert-Herman, and
their five children and stepchildren.
Herman works about 16 hours a day. He
shares a trailer with a co-worker, and his living
space measures 14 feet by 10 feet. The trailer is
one of many which surround the U.S. Embassy. To
relax after another 120-degree day, he watches
DVDs of the TV show 24.
“Working in other countries was harder in the
past,” he says. “We didn’t have e-mail. Now my
wife and I exchange e-mails all day and I call her
three or four times every day. She is wonderful.”
And, she completely supports his work.
“I’m extremely proud of him!” says Albert-Herman. “Al was born to do this type of work. I
could never do it, but I’m very good at keeping
the home fires burning.”
Herman says his travels have taught him to
“I have lived in countries where dictators
rule,” he says. “I have seen a lot of poverty and
brutality, which I hate with a passion. I feel very
strongly about trying to help the people of Iraq.
Every time our convoy passes little kids, they wave
and give us the thumbs up. We are working for
their generation. They deserve to be free.”
– Francine M. Scoboria