Reaching Final Orbit - Lt. Col. Scott Hermann
by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Wes Wright
April 25, 2018
Late one evening in 1988, an airman basic F-16 avionics technician tinkered with the electronics systems in the cockpit of the jet fighter at the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing, Hahn Air Base, Germany.
Wiping the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his fatigues, he paused to gaze up into a starry night sky, contemplating how fortunate he was to have the job he had. He had no way of knowing the realm of space would be where he would end his career 30 years later.
Set to retire in May, Lt. Col. Scott Hermann, chief of safety, 50th Space Wing, has the rare distinction of living the wing’s history. The 50th TFW was inactivated in 1991 and re-designated as the 50th SW in 1992.
“At that time, the 50th was an F-16 wing,” Hermann said. “We still had the Cold War mission. For perspective, this was before the Berlin Wall came down.”
Working on avionics was the first star in Hermann’s career orbit, a job he thoroughly enjoyed.
“Avionics is great from a job satisfaction standpoint because it’s very immediate,” he said. “A jet comes in broken; you fix it and you see it fly away and do another sortie. I love that. As a young man, I couldn’t believe the Air Force was letting me work on multimillion-dollar aircraft.”
It’s been said before the only constant in the military is change, and Hermann, assigned to the 313th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, was about to find that out when the Gulf War kicked-off in 1990.
“The 10th AMU went first,” he said. “I was on their aircraft generation team and helped get them out to the United Arab Emirates. Later, I deployed as an enroute support team to Spain.”
It was there Hermann would meet his future wife, Galynn, a KC-135 avionics technician, deployed out of Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Their romance quickly blossomed, both Airmen unsure as to where it would lead.
Uncertainty loomed large on multiple fronts. Hahn was shutting down. Meaning, while the United States was winning a war, Hermann was losing his home station.
“I had no idea where I was going when I got back,” he said. “Galynn went back to Tinker and I arrived home to a special assignments team, which determined my next location was Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.”
Scott and Galynn made the relationship work, marrying in 1993. Hermann decided at this point to switch Air Force Specialty Codes to Aerospace Medicine in order to increase the chances of him and Galynn being stationed together.
“The most rewarding part was the opportunity to receive the education,” Hermann said. “I love science, physiology and anatomy. Also, working in the hospital in the Air Force is a totally different world. There’s a much more civilian feel to it.”
Galynn earned her commission in 1999 and gave birth to their son Jeffery in February, 2001. Two weeks later, Scott departed for Officer Training School and technical training, separating the family for the next 14 months.
Galynn was the commissioning officer at Scott’s graduation.
“It was a very proud moment,” she said. “We both worked really hard to earn our commissions and it was an honor for me to conduct his ceremony.”
In 2002, after serving 13 years as an enlisted member, now Second Lieutenant Hermann, a space vehicle operator, was assigned to the 4th Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.
“I was starting to learn adaptability is a big part of being in this Air Force,” Hermann said. “Not only was this my third job change, I was now an officer, which is its own unique dynamic.”
Hermann pointed to three things he learned are key to having success in the Air Force.
“There’s always the constant of change,” he said. “However, I’ve found that if you have motivation, commitment and adaptability, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Hermann proved his adaptability as an SVO; he was selected to be an SVO instructor at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
“That was probably one of my favorite jobs,” he said. “I love helping people connect the dots as to what we do. Having the breadth of experience I did at that point helped me to do that. I found it very rewarding.”
While space itself may have undefinable dimensions, the Air Force space world is considered a small community among its operators. The current 4th SOPS commander, Lt. Col. Armon Lansing, was one of Hermann’s first students.
“You wouldn’t have known this officer was in the process of learning,” Lansing said. “He was so knowledgeable. We were the system experts that responded to satellite anomalies. It was one of the most intensive courses. His intelligence and breadth of experience really helped positively affect the future of space through his influence with students.”
Hermann’s next stop was the Joint Space Operations Center where in 2008 he became the first-ever chief of space defense. According to him, this was when the mindset of space operators started to shift.
“It’s the first time we started to change the mindset of thinking of things as hostilities first and anomalies second when something happens,” Herman said. “It is somewhat of an occupational art. Many jobs are checklist driven. There’s no checklist for the things we were doing. I had to ask myself ‘how do I adapt to this? How do I adapt physical tools as well as my own mindset and meld the two?’”
After a couple of headquarters jobs at various locations, Hermann finally found himself coming “home” to the 50th Space Wing for the final time as chief of safety.
Shortly after arriving, he visited the Heritage Hall in Building 210 and saw pictures of his old AMU hanging on the wall.
“I was blown away,” he said. “I saw pictures of people I knew. It’s a special feeling to know you’re a part of the history and legacy of this wing. It’s fun to be part of that evolution.”
James Mesco, historian, 50th SW, agreed.
“It’s certainly a nice thing to be part of the heritage like he is,” Mesco said. “While not unheard of, it’s rare to have this distinction. He’s seen this wing when we were flying F-16s and now we’re flying satellites. It’s special.”
Hermann finds the change and evolution to be one of the surprisingly exciting parts of being in the Air Force.
“In a way, the great thing about the Air Force is things are temporary,” he said. “You have the security knowing you’re going to be able to clothe and feed your family. On the career side, there’s always different people, places and jobs. Your unit gets decommissioned and then recommissioned. It’s been a fun ride.”
The 30-year veteran reflected further on his career.
“The Air Force is the greatest organization on the planet,” Herman said. “You’ll never be in another organization that has so many opportunities to advance. There’s no other institution that is so interested in deliberately developing you, especially if you choose to maximize those things.”
After 30 years of service, Hermann has decided to settle into final orbit and focus on his family. The young face that stared into the skies one night in 1988 is a little older now, but the same smile still crosses his face when he looks up at those stars.
“My family is what drove a lot of my decision to retire,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of special things, but it’s time to move on. Move on to what, I’m not sure just yet. I have some potential family business opportunities. I probably won’t know until after next year. There will be a lot of soul-searching.”
While there are many proud moments throughout his career, he is especially proud of being a part of the initial push to change the space operations mindset.
“Now, the mind shift is complete and there’s a lot of momentum behind the space warfighting construct,” Hermann said. “The next step is honing the tools and expanding the capabilities needed to prevail in conflicts that extend to space.”
“There’s a generation of older space officers who are passing the baton,” he continued. “There are a lot of young, smart energetic people who are ushering us into new kinds of capabilities. The path has been set down and now they can start running on it.”
“The foundation he and other instructors laid has allowed us to get to the point where we are now,” Lansing said. “He helped set the standard early on for so many SVOs today. There’s a standard of excellence and knowledge in place today because of him.”
While the colonel is quick to defer praise on his contributions to the 50th SW legacy, perhaps the words of a former supervisor in a letter he received Sept. 19, 1990, sum it up best.
“You have proven yourself as an exceptional Airman at each and every opportunity, accepting whatever tasks or responsibilities were asked of you. [Your] accomplishments and many others are indicative of an exceptional performer. Your conduct has been noteworthy in every respect and sets a fine example for others to follow.”