Remembering Normandy

by Senior Master Sgt. Hollis Dawson
3rd Air Force Public Affairs

***image1***Typically, most lessons learned from the past are from history books.  However, 3rd Air Force Airmen got a unique chance to relive history by retracing the footsteps of U.S. Soldiers in Normandy who orchestrated one of the most epic battles in U.S. history – the D-Day invasion.

Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop, 3rd Air Force commander, and 24 of 3rd Air Force’s youngest Airmen walked the Normandy countryside during a staff ride Oct. 23 to 24 to explore the intricate details of the battle, the great sacrifices and the critical decisions which ultimately led to U.S. victory.

The Airmen were guided on the two-day excursion by Army Col. (ret) Peter Herrly.  They visited Pegasus Bridge at Bénouville; Omaha, Fox Green, Easy Red and Utah Beaches; and other historical sites.

Armed with their workbooks in hand, the group discussed strategy, political environment, and the successes and failures as they walked the hollowed grounds.

“I didn’t realize the magnitude of the entire operation,” said Senior Airman Keven Morse, 603rd Air Operations Center intelligence analyst. “Our leaders lay out strategies, but the individual execution of their piece of the plan is what determines success or failure.”  

Airman 1st Class Ashleigh Krein, a 3rd Air Force Information Manager, said, “I learned that the D-Day invasion didn’t start on the 6th – it started months prior.  Standing on historical Omaha Beach, where thousands of men fought made me realize that one day I may be called upon to do the same.”

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

“I will never forget the story of how a young Soldier named Pender repeatedly went back through enemy fire to retrieve radios,” said Airman 1st Class Jeffery Marino, a C-130 Electronic Environmental Specialist assigned to the 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.  “That was a very courageous thing to do.”

On the last day of the walk, the Airmen had lunch with the Mayor of Sainte-Marie Dumont, Henri Milet. 

“The French people have a great sense of appreciation for the young men that came to free us,” Mr. Milet said.  “Seeing your faces today reminds me of the brave young men from that time … my heart is with you always, wherever you are.”

“I’ve been on six or seven staff rides during my career, but this is by far the best one I’ve ever been on,” General Bishop said as he coined and thanked Colonel Herrly for an excellent recount of the entire campaign.