Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Herbert stands in front of the Yerington City Hall, which is named after the longtime Nevada guardsman.
Photo by Steve Ranson.
YERINGTON — On a spring-like Wednesday morning in Yerington, retired Maj. Gen. Robert Herbert mingled with friends and fellow guardsmen he hadn’t seen in years.
Current and retired guardsmen, along with a number of community members and government officials from Yerington, gathered at the former Nevada Army National Guard armory south of the airport to honor Herbert, whose name has now become a permanent fixture on the remodeled building. The facility is now known as the Maj. Gen. Robert T. Herbert Administrative Building.
Steve Ranson/LVNWhen Herbert first learned his name would be affixed to the facility, he was speechless.
Yerington Mayor John Garry, right, holds a proclamation with retired Maj. Gen. Robert Herbert.
“I never thought I accomplished enough to justify having my name on a building, but there were people who thought otherwise,” he said.
Socially distanced in the former armory’s drill hall, guests listened to comments from Nevada’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, and Yerington Mayor John Garry, who was first elected in 2019. They also saw a portrait of Herbert placed on an easel. Garry said the acquisition of the armory was a dream come true.
Over the years the Nevada Army National Guard has re-examined its usage of a number armories in rural Nevada, which are miles away from the major population bases for drilling soldiers. The guard approached the city of Yerington about the availability of the armory, and negotiations began in early 2020.
“As a representative of the community, I am grateful to receive this facility,” Garry said, explaining the former city hall had seen better days. “When this (the armory) became open, it was a Godsend.”
Steve Ranson/LVNGarry — who also praised his predecessors, George Dini and Jim Sanford — said an abundance of gratitude has come from the city, but he was a little surprised to learn that Herbert would be the honored guardsman. The first-term mayor said he expected the honoree would have been selected posthumously.
Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, left, the state’s adjutant general, and retired Maj. Gen. Robert Herbert stand outside the Yerington City Hall before the ceremony begins.
Garry explained he read Herbert’s biography and accomplishments that spanned over 45 years and was impressed. He said people of this caliber are in leadership positions in the military and government.
“We are well served,” Garry added.
Herbert, now in his early 60s, said afterward the National Guard and communities have a close relationship.
“Being a guardsman is awesome because you are so embedded with the community,” he pointed out. “You understand the community, and you have the opportunity to take care of the community.”
Herbert served on former U.S. Sen. Harry’s Reid’s staff for 20 years. At the time, Reid was Nevada’s senior senator, and the Democratic lawmaker slowly rose to become the majority leader until he didn’t seek re-election in 2016. By working with Reid, Herbert helped procure more than $200,000 in equipment and improvements in infrastructure, a fact noted several times during Wednesday’s presentation.
Steve Ranson/LVN“Every National Guard installation in the state was either built, replaced or refurbished including the Yerington armory during the 20-year period while Gen. Herbert worked in Reid’s office,” Berry said.
Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry stands in front of a portrait of retired Maj. Gen. Robert Herbert.
Berry, who became the state’s adjutant general 18 months ago, said the armory built in 1959 has been a familiar landmark for about six decades in the Mason Valley, and now it begins a new chapter to serve the citizens of Yerington. The first troops to use the armory belonged to an air defense unit and most recently, A Troop, 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry drilled at Yerington before deploying to Afghanistan in 2009.
Herbert, a military brat who enlisted in the Army in 1975 as an 18-year-old, climbed through the ranks to become the highest-ranking general in the Nevada Army National Guard since the early 1980s when Maj. Gen. William Engel was adjutant general. At first, Herbert wanted to join the U.S. Air Force, but he soon learned from a recruiter that he needed four years of college to fly. Instead, he enlisted in the Army and found himself flying over both East and West Germany four years later.
Herbert’s next assignment took him to Fort Ord, Calif., home of the 7th Aviation Battalion, where he met another pilot, Randy Sayre, a 1971 graduate of Churchill County High School in Fallon. During their time at Fort Ord, Herbert told Sayre he was thinking of leaving the Army and applying to the airlines to become a pilot.
“Randy had told me about the test pilot job that was available in Nevada,” Herbert recalled. “He was fortunate to get his job with the gaming commission. He told me to apply for that (test pilot) job. That’s how I got to Nevada.”
Steve Ranson/LVNHerbert spent most of the 1980s as a warrant officer before receiving a commission as a second lieutenant in 1989. He climbed through the ranks and became a brigadier general in 2013 and a major general four years later. Although he served as a civilian in Reid’s office, Berry said Herbert drilled in Nevada as a traditional guardsman where he held key positions in aviation until he became director of Joint Staff, Nevada Joint Forces Headquarters in Carson City and then Special Assistant to the Chief, National Guard Bureau for National Security Policy, Carson City. The son of an Army master sergeant, Herbert also earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and completed National War College. He is the recipient of many decorations and achievements including the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award and the Legion of Merit.
A portrait of retired Maj. Gen. Robert Herbert will hang in the Yerington City Hall along with a proclamation naming the building the Maj. Gen. Robert T. Herbert Administrative Building.
In the early 1990s, Berry said the previous adjutant general asked Herbert to improve the state’s aviation assets.
“Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Tony Clark tasked Herbert to help convince lawmakers to bring Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters to the state, an effort to replace the Nevada Guard’s aging Huey and Skycrane airframes,” Berry said.
According to Berry, it’s fitting the Yerington armory is named after Herbert and for his accomplishments to the communities and state. Berry said the Nevada Army National Guard supports the transition of armories into renovated facilities for future state and community use.
“That is why we’re here today,” he said. “It makes sense for taxpayer money. It makes sense for our rural communities, and it makes sense for the state of Nevada.”
Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry makes a point during his opening speech.