***image1******image2***SAINTE MÈRE ÉGLISE, France—Units from Ramstein deployed to France Sunday to support the anniversary of the invasion on the beaches of Normandy that altered world history 60 years ago.
Airmen from the 86th Air Mobility Squadron, 86th Operations Support Squadron, the 37th Airlift Squadron and the 435th Fire Protection Flight took part in the weeklong event to honor World War II veterans.
“There is no greater honor as a military member than to be a part of this historic and monumental event,” said Lt. Col. Ben McMullen, 86th AMS commander.
Ceremonies to honor the World War II veterans along the beaches included the airborne drop over Sainte Mère Église, 21-gun salutes, sorrowful renditions of Taps and missing man flyovers.
The AMS spent most of their time at a small airfield just outside Cherbourg. Living and working out of tents, the AMS “Cheetahs” were responsible for command and control and passenger, paratrooper and maintenance operations for the supporting aircraft.
“It’s a challenge to bring 16 aircraft, from seven different squadrons and four different commands together, but these guys did it flawlessly,” said Colonel McMullen. “It’s what they do, and I’m proud of them.”
The highlight of the D-Day celebration came when more than 600 Soldiers and Airmen jumped into the same area that many of the veterans jumped into the early morning of June 6, 1944. Then, the Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division jumped from C-47s.
Three C-130 Hercules from Ramstein’s 37th AS flew in formation with six others and four C-17s from Cherbourg to the drop zone. According to an Army report, the veterans and observers who attended the ceremony applauded as each of the aircraft passed over the Iron Mike 2 drop zone and paratroopers filled the skies with each pass.
“It was just amazing to approach Normandy from the air, and be such a visible part in the ceremony,” said Capt. Alex Winkler, 37th AS pilot. “Flying the same routes the C-47 pilots flew gave us some insight to what they faced in 1944.”
The trip also proved to be educational for the Airmen supporting the events.
“I got a chance to talk to some of the vets and I learned a little history,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Niederhofer, 86th AMS crewchief. “I’ve seen some of the movies, but to actually be here and see where it all happened and to talk to the vets brings the significance home.”
“This was for them, today is their day,” said Colonel Randy Kee, 86th Operations Group commander, speaking of the vets. “For their dedication, courage and sacrifice we owe them more than our respect and appreciation can ever show.”