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    U.S. Army Europe’s Combat Support Hospital takes Battle Staff Ride to Normandy

    U.S. Army Europe’s Combat Support Hospital takes Battle Staff Ride to Normandy

    Photo By 94th Airlift Wing | NORMANDY, France – Forty-five leaders of the 212th Combat Support Hospital at Utah...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    212th Combat Support Hospital

    By Maj. Mary Andrea Ugaddan
    212th Combat Support Hospital Public Affairs

    NORMANDY, France – Forty-five leaders of the 212th Combat Support Hospital conducted a Battle Staff Ride April 3 to 5, in Normandy, France and surrounding areas. The focus of the staff ride was leadership in the face of the adversity during the Allied Invasion of Normandy on D-Day.

    “I hope you are as excited as I am,” said 212th CSH Commander Col. Brian Almquist during the group’s pre-departure brief. “This is an excellent opportunity for professional development and team building, learning about, and walking the grounds of, one of the most significant battlefields of World War II. This is certainly an experience of a lifetime!”

    Preparing for the staff ride, the team met for a series of four leadership professional development sessions viewing documentaries and reading articles related to D-Day. The team was also assigned study guides to include Cornelius Ryan’s book, “The Longest Day,” which is a compilation of accounts that transpired as the history of D-Day was unfolding. Each leader also researched key figures and presented a narrative as if they were in that person’s shoes as the team retraced their steps through multiple battle sites.

    “Listening on the lives of different Soldiers and their contributions to Operation Overlord really made the trip special. It added a personal dimension and I felt a connection with them,” said Capt. Joe Petfield, an orthopedic surgeon from the 160th Forward Surgical Team (FST) who gave a presentation on Maj. Gen. Maxwell Taylor, a battle-tested Commander who led the 101st Airborne’s jump into Normandy.

    “Examining Maj. Gen. Taylor’s life was a great exercise on personal development. His courage and leadership serves as a role model for Army leaders of any era, said Petfield. “I have no doubt that this experience with my 212th CSH colleagues will be one of the highlights of my Army career.”

    Day one kicked off with a stop at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, a small village where paratroopers suffered heavy casualties being shot at or getting sucked into a burning house as they landed. Today, a mannequin of a paratrooper with his parachute caught on the spire of the church still stands, commemorating Pvt. John Steele of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, who was taken prisoner by the Germans, but later escaped.

    The group then proceeded to analyze the objectives of airborne operations as they related to the capture of Utah Beach, visiting other related sites to include the La Fiere Bridge, Angoville-au-Plaine, Brecourt Manor, the Locks at La Barquette, Neuville-au-Plain, and finally the Utah Beach and Museum. At Utah Beach, the group was given the opportunity load onto a Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) while using their imagination how it would be like wearing their full gear in it and then unloading in waist-deep water charging to the beachhead.

    On the second day, the group explored the German battery at Longues-sur-Mer, learned about the contributions of the French Resistance, studied the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc, and examined the bloodiest amphibious assault on Omaha Beach while they trekked for approximately three hours along the beach to the bluffs leading to the American Cemetery.

    Col. Almquist also led the group in an emotional toast, pouring a bottle of locally grown red wine on Omaha Beach and paid tribute to the fallen.

    The staff ride finished off at a German radar station overlooking Arromanches and Gold Beach on day three and discussing logistics on D-Day and the ingenious Mulberry Harbour.

    Lessons on leadership and mission command were certainly abundant. Maj. Dave Fisher, an operating room nurse, discussed the well-led assault on Brecourt Manor by 1st Lt. Richard Winters of the 101st Airborne, famously portrayed in the Band of Brothers HBO series, as he executed his mission order to destroy a German artillery battery and overcame a much larger force. The group also visited the bronze statue in his likeness, named “Leadership.”

    “Seeing what great past leaders had to endure give good future leaders the chance to learn valuable lessons from their experiences,” said Fisher.

    Examples of leadership came from all of ranks as Capt. Tonia Jordan of the emergency medical treatment platoon, told the story of 17-year old Pvt. Robert Murphy, an 82nd Airborne paratrooper, who despite landing miles away from his intended zone and accidentally cutting his ammo bag as he cut his parachute, continued towards his objective using his marker light and assisting other paratroopers he found on the way.
    Jordan also observed how Pvt. Murphy exercised disciplined initiative to overcome obstacles.

    “If these brave men had waited for senior leaders to tell them what to do every step of the way, the results of World War II would have forever been changed,” said Jordan.

    Maj. Chris Angeles, a nurse anesthetist with the 67th FST, presented the actions of Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley, commander for the U.S. First Army in the Normandy invasion, and noted that flexibility was an important trait for Soldiers to have.

    “The courage and actions of individuals can turn the tide of battle. Especially on Omaha Beach. With things not going to plan and Omar Bradley considering abandoning the beachhead, the men knew their mission, stepped up to take lead and took the beach anyways,” said Angeles.

    As a team of healthcare professionals, the staff ride members were keen not only on gaining insight on military operations and tactics on D-Day but they were also curious on gleaning the medical aspects of that era.

    1st Lt. Keisha Green described the 400-bed tent hospital with 40 doctors, 40 nurses and about 200 enlisted men from the accounts of Marian Elcano, a nurse of the 45th Evacuation Hospital. The first nurses landed on the beachhead four days after D-Day. Along with 3 other Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH), the 45th Evacuation Hospital “leap-frogged” across Europe following troops as they moved across the battlefield. Patients didn’t stay long in the hospital; they were typically evacuated in one or two days.

    Green quoted from an article she found referencing Elcano: “The presence of nurses at the front improved the morale of fighting men because soldiers realize that they would receive skilled care in the event they were wounded. They maintain that hospitalized men recovered sooner when nurses cared for them. Troops in the field figured that ‘if the nurses can take it, then we can’.”

    Medics performed valiantly as well, in many occasions rescuing others while under fire. Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Robinson, a certified pharmacy technician, told the group the story of Cpl. Waverly Woodson, Jr. who was one of five combat medics on board a landing craft tank. Woodson was hit by shrapnel as the craft hit a mine on the approach to Omaha Beach on the initial hours of D-Day. After being aided by his fellow medic and disembarking in four feet of water, Woodson ran to a tank roll amidst heavy machine gun fire and set up an aid station. There he treated gunshot wounds, mended gaping wounds, transfused blood, amputated a right foot, and even resuscitated four drowning men. Thirty hours after landing on Omaha Beach, Woodson collapsed and was taken to a hospital ship. Woodson was credited with treating 200 casualties on the beach on D-Day. Woodson was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions.

    For Robinson, Woodson exemplified leadership in the face of adversity.
    “A man of character will always rise to the occasion and be righteous in word and action,” said Robinson.

    The group came back to Miesau April 5, each of them forever changed by this experience.

    2nd Lt. Shane Curran, executive officer of 160th FST, believes this staff ride is a great event for his personal and professional development.

    “Seeing the challenges the Allies faced at Normandy was an inspiring experience. Being able to walk on the grounds that our soldiers did brought history to life,” said Curran.

    Maj. Janice Daniel, a nurse anesthetist, expressed great admiration for the heroes of Normandy.

    “They exemplified leadership with their bravery, courage, willpower and tenacity to rally individuals to follow them into a battle of uncertainty,” said Daniel.



    Date Taken: 04.05.2016
    Date Posted: 04.22.2016 11:00
    Story ID: 196216
    Location: NORMANDY, FR 

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