CHERBOURG, FRANCE --
June 6th is a date that has become synonymous with valor, sacrifice and dedication.
As Operation Overlord commenced, thousands of men boarded aircraft bound for the Normandy coastline of France. As dawn approached, the feet of the men touched down as the first wave of the invasion hit. The leaders of the Allied Nations held their breath in hopes that this operation would be the beginning of the end of Nazi-controlled Europe.
Such an undertaking could never have taken place without a full complement of air, land and sea assault. More than 10,000 aircraft participated in the air assault on D-Day. At the time, the ratio of maintainers to bombers was approximately 80 to 1. Maintainers were instrumental in prepping, fixing and launching aircraft during World War II.
75 years later, the same still holds true.
While technology has reduced the number of maintainers required to travel to a fleet of aircraft, the importance of their role has never lessened.
“This week was a little more unique because as we have been out here seeing the history first-hand, it has instilled a different sort of pride in my guys and they have applied it in their work,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Lauland, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron team lead. “Seeing what those men did back then and hearing their stories, it pays tribute to them to get our planes in the air and on time to the different events through the week.”
Team Little Rock participated in the commemorative events of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The 41st, 61st and 62nd airlift squadrons performed flyovers of historic World War II locations and supported mass personnel drops of U.S. and coalition paratroopers over the La Fiere Drop Zone near Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France.
Maintainers from the 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were committed to keeping C-130J Super Hercules in the air while honoring those who undertook the same charge in less certain circumstances with far less resources.
Prior to the departing to support the commemorative events, the 19th AMXS team coordinated with Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the pre-delivery of necessary equipment to the staging area in at the Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport in Normandy, France.
“A week prior to us arriving, crews from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, dropped off maintenance stands, tools, and common parts needed on a daily basis,” Lauland said. “It made our job easier here, and we didn’t have to worry about bringing a lot of that with us. It allowed us to concentrate on our work at hand.”
The history of D-Day and what was accomplished mirrors what the maintainers do today, demonstrating the global reach of mobility aircraft--something the U.S. and its Allies do better than anyone else in history.
“Flying crew chiefs keep the aircraft fully [operational] throughout the multi-day missions,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Michael DeSandre, 41st AS pilot. “Their knowledge and relentless work ethic fix virtually any aircraft malfunction and keep the aircraft a well-oiled machine so we can fly our dynamic missions. Our complex aircraft inevitably need maintenance, and our flying crew chiefs are absolutely invaluable.”
What started with C-47 Skytrains 75 years ago carries on with the C-130J Super Hercules today, showing the determination of not only its crews, but also the men and women who turn the wrenches and keep them flying.
Maintainers at the Home of Combat Airlift are fond of a motto: “Herk’s in the air—maintenance put it there.”