• CALL event honors D-Day Rangers

  • CALL personnel remember D-Day Landing and the Battle at Pointe du Hoc.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    The Center for Army Lessons Learned conducted a “Pointe du Hoc” team-building event June 29 at Harney Sports Complex, Gruber Fitness Center and Kinder Range for CALL soldiers, staff and Department of the Army civilians.
    The event was inspired by the D-Day Landing and the battle at Pointe du Hoc on June 6, 1944. It is the second CALL event of its kind following the “Mogadishu Mile” teambuilding event on Nov. 17, 2017.
    “We are doing it again to keep our military skills current and ensure CALL continues to be a learning organization, learning from battles both past and present,” said Capt. David Beale, CALL collections officer.
    The Battle at Pointe du Hoc, France, was one of many that took place on D-Day. Then-Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower assigned Rangers of the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions the mission to land on Omaha Beach, scale the 100-foot cliff and destroy six German 155mm artillery positions at the top of the cliff in support of Operation Overlord. Though the Rangers were met with several obstacles, including rough waters, German fire, a nearly impossible climb and relocation of the artillery, they accomplished their task by late morning June 6.
    At 11 p.m. June 6, the Rangers came under a series of German attacks lasting into the early hours of June 7. A small relief force arrived the evening of June 7 with a larger force from the 116th Infantry arriving the morning of June 8.
    In all, 100 Rangers were killed, more than 200 were wounded and more than 40 were listed as missing.
    “The Rangers’ actions at Pointe du Hoc were one of many critical events that took place on June 6,” Beale said. “The seizure of the cliffs and destructions of the German battery prevented the Germans’ ability to control the landing beach with fire. This prevented loss of life on the main landing beaches and helped make Operation Overlord a success.”
    During the team-building event, teams of three conducted four events to correspond with the experiences of the Rangers.
    First was a modified Combat Water Survival Test at Harney pool to mirror the Rangers’ experience as they disembarked from the landing craft and made their way to the beach. During the swim, participants had to jump in the water and ditch their equipment while fully submerged underwater. After, they regathered their equipment and swam 50 meters in full gear.
    “I was tired after using almost every muscle in your body (and) physical exertion in the water,” said Lt. Col. George Chigi, CALL Analysis Division chief. “All of your gear and your kit dragging you down as you’re trying to swim, I was pretty exhausted but not to the point where you couldn’t fight, which is the point of it. You push yourself to the point where you’re pretty tired, but you still need to fight on.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Second was a two-mile run immediately following the swim in wet gear to mirror the Rangers running across the beach to the edge of Pointe du Hoc.
    “While we’re running we’re thinking ‘Oh my God, they went through this with everything that they had,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Samuel Snyder, CALL military analyst. “When we started running we took everything off, but it was painful. It was hard, so kudos for those guys and I feel it for them.”
    Third was a climb up the 30-foot rock wall at Gruber mirroring the Rangers’ ascent of the 100-foot cliff. Each participant had two tries to complete the climb.
    “The wall climb was the hardest for me,” said Maj. John Roy, CALL military analyst. “It was hard keeping my center of gravity close to the wall and getting my feet in the right spot; I had a hard time and my upper body strength was giving out.”
    Fourth was a firing event at Kinder Range using World War II-era weapons, including an M1 Garand rifle, an M1 carbine, a M1911 pistol and a M1927 Thompson submachine gun in the standing, kneeling and prone positions to simulate when the Rangers seized the battle.
    “Even though we’re not on the regular Army, (the shoot) makes you feel like you actually continue to practice in case you go somewhere,” Snyder said. “You don’t lose that connection with the weapons. It feels good shooting those weapons.”
    Beale said experiencing the events themselves makes CALL a better organization.
    “CALL is about driving change in the Army and part of how we do that is by being a learning organization. It’s great when we learn from units returning from deployments or combat training centers, but it is also good when we can experience things ourselves,” he said. “By learning about soldiers’ experiences in past battles and testing ourselves physically, we keep ourselves grounded to what our customers need.”
    Roy said the event is about understanding the past.
    “You have to understand your past to know where you’re going,” Roy said. “Coming from (the Command and General Staff College), history was a big piece of that and understanding where we come from and what our military’s done through the years.
    “It’s very important to remember that and keep that fresh in our mind,” he said. “We’ll see things again and if you don’t learn from the past, then you’re not going to do well in the future.”
    Chigi said looking into the past shows how little things have changed.
    Page 3 of 3 - “The way we fight looks difficult and it is, but it’s very simplistic,” he said. “You maneuver, you fire, you suppress the enemy, you destroy the enemy. The principles of how we fight don’t significantly change.
    “We’re relearning old lessons,” Chigi said. “If we can take a look at some of the older lessons in the past, which is what the Center for Army Lessons Learned is all about, we catalogue and maintain a lot of the Army’s history and lessons learned.”
    While the event was about teambuilding and learning from past battles for CALL personnel, for James Graham, son of Trevor Graham, CALL archive technician, it was a way to prepare for basic training July 17.
    “It was fun to do,” James Graham said. “(The Army) was one of those things where I want to do something with my life. I want to travel, I want to go everywhere.”
    Trevor Graham said he thinks his son will have a leg up going into basic training after doing the event.
    “Every single one of these guys grabbed him in the locker room and gave him some guidance to the Army,” Trevor Graham said. “They all gave him a tidbit of information that a lot of people don’t get before they go to basic.”
    Beale said he hoped CALL personnel got a feeling of camaraderie and pride in CALL and had an opportunity to learn from history.
    “This event (brought) together the military and civilian members of CALL, building our team and letting us get to know each other better,” Beale said.
    “As the Army focuses on large-scale ground combat against peer adversaries, … learning from operations like the landings on D-Day and the seizure of Pointe du Hoc will help us inform the current force and drive change in the Army.”
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