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    HQ ARRC utilizes USAREUR staff ride program

    HQ ARRC utilizes USAREUR staff ride program

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Michael Sword | INNSWORTH, U.K. -- Mr. Scott Desjardins, superintendent of the Normandy American...... read more read more

    INNSWORTH, UK – Twenty-four U.S. officers and non-commissioned officers assigned to NATO’s United Kingdom-based Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) recently took advantage of U.S. Army Europe’s (USAREUR) staff ride program during a visit to Normandy April 16-20, 2018.

    The staff ride focused on study and discussion of World War II’s Operation Overlord, commonly referred to as ‘D-Day’, from a Corps-level perspective and how NATO might execute a similar operation today.

    “It’s a great program that USAREUR has available for Army units stationed in Europe,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Adam Hallmark, the staff ride’s lead planner, of the USAREUR staff ride program. “Units can either select from a list of packaged European staff rides provided and overseen by a civilian contractor or they can create and tailor their own so long as it comes in under a certain budget cap; we went the latter.”

    Hallmark explained that going it alone in terms of logistical and academic planning versus using a contractor was a conscientious decision for two reasons: Money and in-house subject matter expertise.

    “After I gathered quotes from coach companies and hotels and coupled those with the daily per diem rates, I realized I could probably execute [the staff ride] cheaper than what the contractor wanted,” Hallmark explained. “Then when I discovered that one of our officers is academically certified by the Royal Air Force to lead staff rides, that sealed the deal in my mind.”

    However, Hallmark stresses that going it alone brought with it all the responsibilities that a contractor would normally take on.

    “A ton of emails and phone calls with various military and civilian actors, tedious paperwork, and a lot of long days, for sure,” Hallmark said. “I had a lot of help from our battalion budget officer in Belgium, but I essentially wrote the contract language for the coach company, reserved hotel rooms on behalf of the group, set up guided tours at various museums, liaised with foreign government entities and even secured access to Brecourt Manor (featured in the Band of Brothers mini-series), which is private property and off-limits to most tourists.”

    For Hallmark, the trip to Normandy was not his first; he’s made the trip twice before. However, the staff ride’s academic leader and subject matter expert, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Shugart, has made the trip six previous times.

    “The Normandy campaign is my favorite in American history,” said Shugart. “I’ve been fortunate enough to put my knowledge on it to use in the past leading not only Air Force units on staff rides, but Army units as well, such as the 173rd [Airborne Brigade Combat Team],” said Shugart.

    Between both Hallmark and Shugart and their collective knowledge of Normandy – both hold undergraduate degrees in History – they were able to formulate an itinerary that visited both well-known and lesser known battle sites, which formed effective backdrops for academic discussion.

    “We broke the staff ride down in categories versus trying to follow a chronological timeline,” explained Shugart. “Day One focused on the decision to invade Normandy with a visit to Southwick House outside Portsmouth [UK] and a cross-channel ferry ride to give everyone a sense of crossing it by ship 74 years ago.

    “Day Two focused on the British and Canadian sectors while Day Three focused on American airborne operations and Day Four on American amphibious operations,” he continued. “We concluded with Day Five focusing on the human cost with a visit to both the Normandy American Cemetery and the German cemetery in La Cambe.”

    But Shugart explained the staff ride did not just strictly focus on academic presentations by the staff ride members.

    “It’s important when conducting a staff ride that students are presented with the historical context in which an event took place in a manner they can relate to,” he said. “For that reason we included a healthy dose of visits to various museums along the way, which did a great job of not only giving more color to the operation, but also in telling the stories of individual soldiers and airmen who fought [in Normandy].”

    Shugart went on to explain that staff rides typically are geared toward educating officers and senior non-commissioned officers, but that the staff ride to Normandy conducted by the ARRC included soldiers at all levels.

    “This is the first staff ride I’ve ever been on,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Albert Jaramillo, a human resources specialist assigned to the ARRC’s U.S. National Support Element. “I think everyone in the Army is probably familiar with D-Day, but there’s so much [in Normandy] that I just wasn’t aware of and this trip really opened my eyes, not only in terms of what it took to pull it off, but what it must have been like for guys with my [military occupational specialty] to do their job back then without the comfort of today’s technology.”

    For any other units that may be planning a European staff ride, Hallmark offers the following advice:

    “Give yourself a little more wiggle room and start planning six months out versus 90 days,” he said. “Past that I’d say don’t hesitate to utilize the USAREUR program if you’re thinking about conducting a staff ride as it can take most of the financial burden off your unit.

    “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going with a packaged staff ride offered by the contractor and doing so will alleviate having to contend with most of the planning requirements,” he continued. “That said, if you elect to go it alone like we did then don’t hesitate to look me up in the global and reach out; I’m happy to fill anyone in on all the requirements.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 03.05.2018
    Date Posted: 05.03.2018 11:43
    Story ID: 275588
    Location: GB

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