Military News

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

CGO staff ride explores the history of airpower at Operation Market Garden

by Capt. Lauren Ott

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 during WWII.

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.

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