3rd Air Force Airmen walk in historical path

by Senior Master Sgt. Hollis Dawson3rd Air Force Public Affairs

With workbooks in hand, a group of local Airmen visited historical sites in the United Kingdom and Germany as part of a three-day study of the Allied Combined Bomber Offensive of World War II.

Maj. Gen. Mark Zamzow, 3rd Air Force deputy commander, led 28 3rd Air Force Airmen during a staff ride July 28 to 30 to explore the intricate details of the air campaign, the great sacrifices and the critical decisions that ultimately led to an Allied victory in World War II. The Airmen were guided on the three-day excursion by retired Army Col. Peter Herrly and three members from Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Among the stops were Bassingbourn British Army Barracks, the Duxford Air Museum and the Cambridge American Cemetery in the United Kingdom, as well as Schweinfurt, Germany.

Staff rides are case studies conducted on the grounds where events happened to put participants “in the shoes” of decision makers of a historical event in order to learn for future endeavors. First developed and used by the Prussian Army in the early 19th century, the historical studies, along with personal reconnaissance, offer valuable opportunities to develop professional leadership so the lessons learned from yesterday can be applied to the challenges of today.

“This staff ride deepened my appreciation of our Air Force heritage as well as the  importance of air power,” said Tech Sgt. Rebekah Pendergrass, the 3rd Air Force trip planner.

“This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to combine an in depth historical experience with a real world comparison of current issues with similar issues from World War II,” said Col. Kevin Walsh, 152nd Air Operations Group director of operations.

During the walk, the group was given vivid accounts of the individual battles, heroism and bravery.

“The detailed planning and execution of the Combined Bomber Offensive clearly highlighted the leadership’s innovation and the historical impact of the Army Air Forces during World War II,” said Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Henderson, 603rd Support Group superintendent.

On the last day, the Airmen boarded a KC-135 aircraft and flew from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, on the same route Allied bombers flew in August 1944 en route to their target during the historical bombing of the ball bearing plant in Schweinfurt.
“This is one of the most comprehensive staff rides I’ve ever been on,” General Zamzow said while thanking the team of presenters. His appreciation was echoed by the other participants.

“Being at the center of the aim point for the Schweinfurt Ball Bearing Plant and realizing the sacrifice of those 8th Air Force bomber crews is the one thing I remember the most,” Colonel Walsh said.