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Albert A. Herman Jr. ’71
Alumnus Helps to Light Up the Darkness in Iraq
James Bollman
Albert A. Herman Jr. ’71
photo courtesy The Reading Eagle

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 morning.”

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 the time.”

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 beat up.”

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 new plants.”

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 demand.”

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 appreciate freedom.

“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

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