Warriors' Voices: MAJ Michael Hirtz, State Education Officer, Missouri National Guard
Michael and Diane Hirtz and their two children live in the small rural community of Glennonville, Missouri, not far from Campbell. On weekdays, Michael Hirtz may be found tending to the needs of students and staff as Director of Malden Alternative School. On Sunday, if he’s not at Glennonville’s St. Teresa’s Church, he may well be playing the organ at Sacred Heart parish in Poplar Bluff.
But one of his weekends each month belongs to the Missouri National Guard. It seems strange to note that it’s been this way for nearly a quarter of a century, as he is still in his early 40s. But it’s true. “I guess you could say I was following in my father’s footsteps,” Hirtz says of his decision to enter military service. “He was an Army parachutist in World War II. It’s something he was always proud of, something for which I was always proud of him.”
Now a state education officer heading a traveling group that briefs soldiers on benefits, Hirtz joined the Guard while still a college student in 1983. Over the years, some of the capacities in which Hirtz has served have included repair-parts officer, maintenance platoon leader, detachment commander, company commander, and munitions materiel management officer.
In 2005, Hirtz began a year on active duty with the 35th Area Support Group, which was stationed at Logistics Support Area “Anaconda”—or Camp Anaconda—at Balad, Iraq. Balad is a city about 45 miles north of Baghdad, and Camp Anaconda is its most outstanding feature. The complex was a military base during the rule of Saddam Hussein, a base whose two lengthy runways rendered it of great value to incoming American forces.
Today, Camp Anaconda itself is a vast, infrastructurally sound, fully functional U.S. military “city” in the heart of a desert war zone. According to Hirtz, the 35th ASG was tasked with maintaining and overseeing all systems pertaining to public works within the walls of this facility.
Hirtz, though generally soft-spoken, does not equivocate on the subject of the presence of coalition forces in Iraq. He feels that their objective is still “to provide stability for Iraq until they have it managed for themselves”. He continues: “I use the word ‘democracy’, but I mean any type of stable government that’s not a danger to the region or to the U.S. To me, that’s what we went there for, and we need to see it through”.
One issue that concerns Hirtz a great deal involves the perceptions of opposition forces with respect to what they observe on the U.S. homefront.
“When Americans are protesting in the streets, what the enemy is seeing is that we don’t want the military there. It gives them strength, not our military.”
Many things Hirtz noted while in Iraq might easily escape the attention of the U.S. civilian learning of wartime developments through intermittent focus on TV coverage. He points out that “some Iraqis are being paid to oppose us. Some are being terrorized into doing this…But we know of Iraqis that risk their own lives to work with the U.S. because they believe in what we’re trying to do”.
Hirtz says it is “painful to see what kind of positive effect we’re having there on a personal level with the Iraqis, and on the infrastructure, and to not hear those stories being reported in the media.”
Personal conviction is not a theoretical concept in Michael Hirtz’s world. Without it, he says, “we can no longer function as soldiers. We have to believe in what we’re doing—otherwise it would be unbearable”.
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