Robert Tralles Herres (1932 - 2008)

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Managed by: Doug Robinson
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About Robert Tralles Herres

Robert Tralles Herres (December 1, 1932 – July 24, 2008) was the first Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Early life and education

Herres was born in 1932, in Denver, where he attended East High School. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1954. He earned master's degrees in electrical engineering and public administration from the Air Force Institute of Technology and The George Washington University, respectively. He completed Air Command and Staff College in 1965 and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1971.

Military career

After graduating from the Naval Academy, he chose a commission in the Air Force because he saw a better chance at flying duty. After pilot training, Herres' early assignments were in fighter-interceptors, first as a pilot and then as an air electronics maintenance officer. Upon graduation from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1960 he transferred to Europe, where he served as a technical intelligence analyst and, later, as a flying training supervisor.

Upon completion of Air Command and Staff College in 1965, Herres joined the Air University staff to instruct in weapons employment planning until entering training at the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

In August 1967 Herres was assigned to the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program at the Space Systems Division of Air Force Systems Command in Los Angeles as an astronaut and chief of the Flight Crew Division. After program cancellation in 1969, he returned to the Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, where he served as deputy chief of staff for plans and requirements. He left Edwards in August 1970 to attend the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Herres became vice commander of the 449th Bombardment Wing at Kincheloe Air Force Base, Michigan, in June 1971 and commander the following year. In April 1973 he was assigned to Southeast Asia for duty as commander of the 310th Strategic Wing, U-Tapao Royal Thai Naval Airfield, Thailand. He returned to Kincheloe in September 1973 to resume command of the 449th Bombardment Wing.

From March 1974 to June 1979, Herres served in various aspects of the command and control systems field at Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Electronic Systems Division of Air Force Systems Command and at the headquarters of the U.S. Air Force at The Pentagon.

Herres became commander of Air Force Communications Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois in June 1979. He later assumed command of SAC's 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana in July 1981, and became the director for command, control and communications systems for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 1982. He was assigned to Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado as commander in chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Aerospace Defense Command, and commander of the Air Force Space Command in July 1984. He was promoted to full general on August 1, 1984, and became the first commander in chief of the United States Space Command upon activation of the unified command in September 1985.

Herres was selected as the first Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in February 1987. He served in that position until 1990, at which time he retired.

Awards and decorations

Private sector career

Herres later served as chairman of USAA Group, a Fortune 200 company. He was USAA's Chairman and CEO from 1993 to 2000 and continued as Chairman until May 10, 2002.

During General Herres' tenure as CEO, USAA's Internet site was launched; the SSA senior bonus was instituted to reward the loyalty of long-term members; and a formalized way for employees to capture member feedback was created so that USAA could improve its services based on what the membership was saying.

Under his leadership USAA enhanced its financial management discipline, project management discipline, and began its focus on a one company image. General Herres left the company financially stronger, more efficient, and positioned for future growth.

General Herres died July 24, 2008, succumbing to brain cancer after a two-year battle.

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General Robert T. Herres, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Timeline

Age 76