By Larry Jasper, National Editor
Meet Major Isaac Adam Greenberg of the Department of Florida. Greenberg grew up in Tucson, Arizona, attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and served ten years of active duty. During that time, he served two tours in Afghanistan. Greenberg is currently a member of the U.S. Army Reserve.
In between all that is a lot more. Greenberg is the very definition of a mensch. Greenberg attended the Tucson Hebrew Academy before going to High School and said that school is where he made life-long friends and found a love for Judaism. “I am very appreciative of my parents for giving me the opportunity to attend a school that provided me with a Judaic education that influenced my personal growth,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg also recalls his time at Sahuaro High School fondly. He served as the Senior Class Vice President and played linebacker for the Cougars. He led the state in tackles in 2000 and committed to play collegiate football in California. A trip to Washington, D.C. changed that path, and Senator John McCain nominated him to attend West Point.
Greenberg arrived at West Point just two months before September 11, 2001 to begin his military career at USMA. Everything changed for him at the Academy on that day 20 years ago. The terrorist attacks shocked the United States and put the military academy on guard. Greenberg said that at the time there were rumors about West Point as a potential target for both strategic and symbolic reasons, potentially targeting 4,000 future Army officers in the Cadet Mess Hall during lunch. The evening of September 11, the Academy had a vigil, which included the entire Corps of Cadets lined up in darkness as the bugle played taps for the fallen. Greenberg said you could hear cadets crying and that moment solidified Greenberg’s feeling that he wanted to serve our country and lead soldiers.
After that day, the plebes were not hazed by the upper classmen, but instead were treated as humans – future officers who will eventually go to war together. The upper classmen were more concerned about what lay ahead and focused on ensuring the freshman class was prepared for what was to come – war. They focused on tactics, leadership, and other combat related topics.
One highlight of Greenberg’s time on campus involved joining the choir. The group would leave campus to visit synagogues and Hillel houses. In 2005, they performed at the White House during Hanukkah.
Greenberg received his commission as a Military Intelligence Officer in 2005. He received his commission from Rabbi Major Carlos Huerta, one of his mentors at the academy. Huerta served 22 years and was instrumental in instilling a sense of Jewish identity and advocating Tikkun Olam. Huerta served as the Jewish chaplain at West Point for nine years and in 2003 volunteered to go to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. Huerta is an example of what it means to be a selfless servant and inspired Greenberg and the other Jewish cadets preparing to go to war.
Greenberg deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 with the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, New York. He served as the Battalion Intelligence Collection Coordinator supporting a light infantry unit in the mountains of Afghanistan which engaged in daily firefights. A few days into his first deployment, Greenberg realized providing intelligence and strategic battlefield resources to the frontline of an armed conflict had a huge impact. “I learned early in life, and especially in Afghanistan, that life is full of obstacles and there are many ways to approach any situation. Obstacles are opportunities to learn, grow, and teach,” Greenberg said. In 2009, Greenberg deployed to Afghanistan a second time, serving as the Head of Intelligence for his battalion. He played an integral role in counter rocket attacks, combat patrols, and base security.
Greenberg eventually left Fort Drum and moved to Fort McPherson, Georgia. That’s where he met his wife, Felicia. They have two sons, Noah who is six and Asher who is four. In Georgia Greenberg served as an Intelligence Exercise Planner with the U.S. Army Central Command, supporting missions in Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. In 2012 Greenberg took command of the 715th Military Intelligence Battalion at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. He served his final year of active duty with the 25th Infantry Division.
Greenberg says his sister Anna died from a rare form of cancer in 2013, but she taught him a lot about keeping a positive attitude. “My sister Anna taught me a lot about life during her cancer journey – about living life with a positive attitude. Anna also taught me to be kind to all, live for today, and don’t give up… I’ve seen a lot through war and my sister’s battle with cancer that has influenced me to live life with a smile and laugh,” he said.
In August, Greenberg worked behind the scenes trying to help Afghan translators and their families get out of the country safely. He provided the names of dozens of linguists and their family members to the staff of Congressman Bill Keating. As the threat level increased, Greenberg worked with the Congressman’s staff to get letters to those who helped U.S. forces. Some were able to leave the country successfully. Greenberg said he felt it is a Jewish responsibility to help the Afghan people – similar to how some chose to help Jews living under the Nazis in Germany.
On August 23, Greenberg spoke to one of his linguists and gave him specific guidance on how to get out of the country. Unfortunately, that same day a suicide bomb exploded at the gate to the airport. That family now needs to find another way to get out Afghanistan. Greenberg said the past few weeks has been an emotional rollercoaster.
Recently Greenberg participated in a discussion, “Saving Lives: A Jewish Voice in the Afghan Refugee Crisis,” with Rabbi Erez Sherman from Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. The conversation included Greenberg’s primary interpreter from 2009. Abdulhai Shirzad fled Afghanistan in 2015 with wife and child and now lives in Germany.
Shirzad is still trying to get himself and his family to the United States.
Greenberg currently works for Lockheed Martin and lives in Orlando, Florida, where he is trying to start a new JWV post.
Volume 75. Number 3. 2021