Brookfield native heads air campaigns in Mideast

When Air Force Maj. Gen. David Nahom had his second gold star pinned on his shoulder, it was without the pomp and circumstance one would expect at such a momentous promotion.

Nahom, a Brookfield native, had just arrived in Qatar as second-in-command of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, the air component of United States Central Command, and there was no time or place for a formal ceremony.

Soon after he arrived, Nahom received his second star while standing in his boss’s living room, as his wife and two daughters watched through video chat from the family home in the United States.

“It was a great honor, and I definitely felt a bit of pause for the responsibility I was getting ready to undertake,” said Nahom, who spoke to Hearst Connecticut Media from Qatar last week.

Congress confirmed Nahom’s promotion in March and he began work in April at Al Udeid Air Base, the largest military base in the Middle East, where he helps run the aerial war against the Islamic State, the Taliban, al-Qaida and other groups.

“For all the operations over here, it’s rewarding to be a small part of it, and very humbling to be alongside some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met,” he said. “We have pilots flying challenging and, at times, dangerous missions every day.”

Nahom said he was part of the command and control of the air campaign that helped the Iraqi military to retake control earlier this month of Mosul, the country’s largest city, three years after it was seized by extremists.

Mosul was left in ruins and hundreds of people are believed to have been killed and thousands more wounded during the campaign, leading to sharp criticism of the way Iraq and a U.S.-led coalition conducted its actions.

Nahom said the Air Force uses the most precise weapons available, and every effort is made to protect civilians when carrying out missions.

Qatar made headlines last month when four Arab countries — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — cut diplomatic ties and severed air, land and sea links with the country.

The four countries have accused Qatar of a list of grievances, including supporting extremism. Qatar has denied the allegations, and has characterized the bloc’s ultimatums as an affront to its sovereignty.

Nahom said the international conflict hasn’t affected his daily work on the base.

“It is something we do discuss on everyday basis,” Nahom said. “But overall, we’ve been able to operate and do what we need to do.”

Love of flying

Nahom’s love of aviation began at an early age. His father, Edmund, was a private pilot, and the two would take to the skies often, flying across the Northeast to places like Montauk and Martha’s Vineyard.

The younger Nahom learned how to fly a plane at Danbury Municipal Airport. He received his pilot’s license when he was 16 — before he got his driver’s license.

After graduating from Brookfield High School, Nahom left for the University of Colorado and got involved in ROTC. His first mission in the Air Force was on Jan. 19, 1991 — the first night of Operation Desert Storm. He flew his F-111 from Saudi Arabia into Iraq and returned with bullet holes in the body of the plane.

He has flown about 3,500 hours and has been promoted several times. Whenever he found out about the latest, he called his father first with the news.

Edmund Nahom was alive when Congress approved his son’s promotion to brigadier general in 2014, but died before the official ceremony.

“I am really proud; the whole family is proud,” said Nahom’s mother, Maria, last week, about the second star promotion. “I’m just sorry my husband isn’t here.” Maria lives in New Milford.

When he’s promoted, David Nahom said, he always thinks of his wife and daughters. They have lived in many places, including Italy, Japan, South Korea, Hawaii, Alaska and Washington, D.C.

“A promotion usually means another move and more time in the Air Force,” he said. “Both these things can be challenging as our daughters get older. When my oldest daughter got to seventh grade, she began the year in her seventh different school system.

“And I always think of my father as well,” he added. “He was the one I could talk about the jets, the flying, the deployments. Most people get tired of all the flying stories, he never did.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.