July 7, 2015 (by Lt. Col. David Simons) - Seventy years ago, U.S., British, French and other allied soldiers prepared for the historic landings in Normandy, France. The carefully planned invasion signaled the beginning of the final battles of World War II and eventually led to the downfall of Nazi Germany and the rebuilding of Europe. Today, Germany, France, and Britain, are three of our closest allies.
A USAF C-130H Hercules aircraft from the 165th AW, Georgia ANG, drops French Foreign Legion paratroopers on May 28, 2014 in Corsica, France. [ANG photo by MSgt. Charles Delano]
Airmen from the 165th Airlift Wing, Georgia Air National Guard and 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada Air National Guard, linked up in Corsica, France for a week of airborne operations prior to the 70th Anniversary of D-Day ceremonies. French and American paratroopers practiced historic reenactment jumps of the routes and drop zones used seventy years ago in Northern France.
Crews from the 165AW flew two C-130H Hercules cargo aircraft along with over thirty Air National Guard pilots, navigators and maintainers, to support the joint airborne operation. Prior to arriving in France, the team stopped at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the "Home of the Airborne", to pick up parachutes, weapons, and other equipment needed by the U.S. Army's historic 82nd Airborne Division. Upon arriving in Corsica, the Guardsmen stayed at a French version of one of the four Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Centers while performing numerous airdrops with paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne and French Foreign Legion.
The 165AW, led by Lt. Col. Don Pallone believes that this was a great experience because we should not forget the sacrifices made by the "Greatest Generation" to free Europe. And during the D-Day Memorial week it's important to remember our nation is one of defense and not a nation that conquers.
In preparation for the jumps, Lt. Col. Jonathan Drew, the aircraft commander, who has served as the command pilot on previous airborne drops, has concerns about safety of the jumpers and the aircrew in performance of these troop insertion techniques, especially when English isn't the primary language of the jumpers or the jumpmaster. Drew shared his concerns saying the easiest way to mitigate the challenge is to insure the jumpmaster can speak English or a translator is providing support. This is critical to the operation as safety is paramount. But each country has a different understanding of what is safe or what isn't. In the end, understanding each other's safety protocols will make for the safest jumps possible.
After completing the missions over Corsica, the 165AW made several airborne drops working with a group of over nine-hundred international military airborne troops for the big festivities taking place on June 8, 2014.