by Capt. Lauren Ott
USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs
9/16/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Twenty-five
officers traveled together from Ramstein to Arnhem, Netherlands, as
part of a staff ride to learn about airpower in Operation Market Garden
General Frank Gorenc, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa
commander, organized the staff ride program to foster the deliberate
professional development of USAFE-AFAFRICA Airmen.
This iteration was aimed at company grade officers and offered them an
historical perspective and greater understanding of the history between
the United States and its European allies with a special focus on the
role that airpower played.
"There is so much military history throughout Europe, which is the
foundation for our heritage, that we'd be remiss not to take these
opportunities to see these historic locations while we're here," said
Col. William Lewis, USAFE-AFAFRICA Chiefs of Staff office.
History often focuses on the ground forces, but frequently omits the
role airpower played in shaping history. These staff rides are designed
to show participants how Airmen affected that history.
While soldiers are fighting the battle on the ground, "there's an entire
war going on above them, trying to support them not only with [close
air support], but to resupply them, to get them medivaced, to provide
[intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance] and command and
control. That's all happening at the same time," said Lewis.
"If nothing else, it teaches our Airmen on this staff ride, it informs them, it makes them proud," said Lewis.
The intent of this program from Gorenc is to inspire a quest for more knowledge in his Airmen.
From Bastogne to Verdun, Market Garden to Schweinfurt, each staff ride has a different lesson to teach about airpower.
"Some are more focused on leadership, some are more focused on
innovation, overcoming obstacles, like bad weather and bad targeting
data. Some of them are more about overcoming adversity," said Lewis.
This ride's focus, Operation Market Garden, was considered a failure as
the largest airborne operation during WWII, yet there is still a lot
that can be learned.
Maj. Gen. Timothy Zadalis, USAFE-AFAFRICA vice commander, who served as
the ride's senior leader mentor, noted that if you don't study history,
you're condemned to make the same mistakes. Despite technological leaps,
we still see similar challenges today that were faced during the
execution of Operation Market Garden.
This staff ride followed Highway 69, later nicknamed "Hell's Highway"
due to the obstacles that were faced along the way, from Eindhoven to
Arnhem, Netherlands. The ride stopped at various landing zones, drop
zones, and bridges that were central to Operation Market Garden.
In Operation Market Garden, allied troops were to secure a number of
bridges over canals and major waterways in a push to get troops across
the Rhine, but the operation ultimately failed.
The staff ride participants were placed right in the middle of key locations where the operation occurred nearly 71 years ago.
"When you stand somewhere where an historic event occurred, you bring
that event to life more than you ever could get from sitting in a
lecture listening to a professor or a historian speak, or even reading
in a book. To physically stand on these grounds, gives learning new
meaning and depth," said Zadalis.
But this wasn't just a sight-seeing tour.
The majority of the academics were conducted by Mr. Peter Herrly, a
retired Marine colonel, and Dr. Ernest Roth, who holds a doctorate in
Combined Bomber Offensive and German Air Defenses. The duo helped paint
the picture of what occurred during Operation Market Garden for the
staff ride participants.
"It's one thing to read something and see something in black and white,
but when you're in a place and you've got someone setting the stage for
you of what happened, and you have the additional atmospherics of how
the local people feel about it, it becomes a lot more real," said Capt.
Raymond Seinkiewicz, staff ride participant.
Sienkiewicz said that not only should Airmen learn from history's
mistakes to keep from repeating them, but they must also develop both
personally and professionally.
The USAFE-AFAFRICA staff ride program will continue to mold and develop
Airmen, with the next ride being scheduled for the end of September to
St. Mihiel, France to learn about airpower during WWI.