U.S. Army Europe’s Combat Support Hospital takes Staff Ride to Southern France
COTE D’AZUR, France — Leaders of the 212th Combat Support Hospital traveled to the southern coast of France February 26 to learn leadership lessons from the Allied invasion of France during Operation Anvil-Dragoon.
The 36 leaders who went on the trip used the chance to explore history and learn from the leaders who served during the World War II operation.
“Being in Europe gives us a phenomenal opportunity to study our Nation’s past wars and learn from history and honor the sacrifice and dedication of the U.S. and Allied Soldiers and civilians who shaped history,” said Col. Brian D. Almquist, commander, 212th CSH.
The learning didn’t start on the beaches though. In the months prior to the trip participants watched documentaries and learned about the key events leading up to and during the invasion. They also read William Breuer’s book, “Operation Dragoon,” which integrates the stories of veterans of the operation with the records of history. Every participant on the trip also researched and created presentations on key figures from the operation.
“I hope that you take advantage to learn the history of our profession not only on this staff ride but also during the rest of your time in Europe,” Almquist told the participants. “One day you will look back at this staff ride and your time in Germany and it will be one of the lasting memories as you reflect on your military career.”
This was the second staff ride Samuel J. Doss, World War II historian and facilitator of the staff ride, has participated in with the CSH.
“In 2016 we went to Normandy in northern France and in 2017 we’re going to southern France,” Doss said. “Although Operation Overlord was meticulously planned and well executed, the Allies had some specific failures, such as the aerial bombing of Omaha Beach and the complete lack of training and doctrine in hedgerow terrain. In contrast, Operation Dragoon, known as “the other D-Day,” required very short-term planning and execution yet was enormously successful from D-Day, Aug. 15, 1944. Operation Dragoon should be better known and appreciated than it is.”
Over 4 days the group visited multiple sites related to the operations. At each of the sites members took on the role of their assigned key figure and taught their peers what they discovered during their research. Since not all of these figures were medical, it was an opportunity to learn about leadership from a different perspective.
“Sgt. (James P.) Connor’s actions on Cape Cavalaire embody the meaning and the resolve of the warrior ethos when overcoming adversity against overwhelming odds,” said 1st Lt. Anthony R. Duong, executive officer, 67th Forward Surgical Team. “His determination to stay in the fight after sustaining multiple wounds was inspirational to his men and continues to serve as an example of duty and selfless service.”
Connor was awarded the Medal of Honor for taking charge of his platoon during the assault after his platoon leader and platoon sergeant were killed. Lessons like Connor’s and others involved in the operation provided opportunities for the participants learn from the experiences.
“History elicits humbleness and invaluable lessons to those who reflect upon it,” said Sgt. 1st Class William L. Carlyle, licensed practical nurse 212th CSH. “Leadership at all levels would be remiss not to capitalize on this opportunity. The staff ride to southern France provided me an immersive experience into the successes, failures, and adversities by all sides during World War II and Operation Anvil — Dragoon.”
Although most of the leaders on the staff ride were either senior noncommissioned officers or officers, for Spc. Christian Zavala, licensed practical nurse, 212th CSH, it was an opportunity to compare leaders of the past versus his own leaders.
“Being the lowest ranking Soldier on this staff ride taught me a lot about leadership styles,” Zavala said. “Hearing stories of leaders from World War II and comparing them to our leaders in the 212th will help me as a leader one day. Being able to go on this staff ride was a rare opportunity and great experience.”
Source: US Army (USAREUR)