173rd Airborne Association Visits "the Herd"
November 12, 2013
Vicenza, Italy - Sky Soldiers participated in the annual Running of the Herd road race here Nov. 7-8 along with Families and community members to honor Soldiers from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The event started in 2007 in Jalalabad, Afghanistan as a 24-hour relay race to commemorate the 48 Sky Soldiers who died Nov. 8, 1965, during Operation Hump. Run every year since either in Germany or Afghanistan, this year marked the first time the race was held in Italy. "The Herd" is one of the brigade's nicknames, coined during the brigade's time in Okinawa prior to the Vietnam War.
This year's event also brought 173rd Vietnam veterans during a visit by the 173rd Airborne Association. Association vice-president Terry Aubrey, who served with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment in Vietnam in 1969, said that when the brigade was reactivated in 2000, "the 173rd Airborne came back to life, but in that 28-year gap, you never lost sight of the fact that you were a Sky Soldier."
"We are very privileged to have had members of the 173rd Airborne Association here with us during the Running of The Herd," said Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Ferrusi. "I cannot say enough good things about the veterans who fought during the Vietnam War. I do not think they are given enough credit for the tremendous service they gave and the sacrifices they did at a time when being a Soldier was not nearly as popular and well-respected as it is nowadays."
While the visit was a sentimental journey for the Association members, treasurer Roger Conley pointed out the good work the 173rd Airborne Association continues to do.
"Through our Association, foundation and memorial foundation we celebrate past events in the history of the famed 173rd Airborne Brigade focusing on the ultimate sacrifice our brothers made to country and their Sky Soldier comrades fighting in so many battles that define the meaning of "the Herd," said Conley.
Association secretary and Vietnam veteran Tim Austin remembered the excitement when he learned at the replacement depot in Saigon that he was going to the 173rd. "Before I went to Vietnam I had written the field artillery battalion commander telling him I was coming and requesting he allow me into his battalion," said Austin. "I also wrote the same letter to the brigade commander."
During their visit to Vicenza, the association officers met with unit command teams, toured the new brigade facilities at Caserma Del Din, witnessed a combined airborne operation with U.S. and Italian paratroopers and attended the dedication of a memorial in a small community outside Vicenza to a Sky Soldier killed in Afghanistan.
Austin said he was impressed by the discipline and motivation in the Soldiers he met, from the youngest private to the brigade leadership. "I did not come in contact with any person in the brigade that was not glad to be here," he said. "It is therapeutic for me to be with this generation of 'Herdsmen.'"
"One of the reasons why I joined the airborne was because I knew where I was headed, and I was smart enough to know that I wanted to be with people that had your back and that's what this unit is all about," said Aubrey. "Being back here for the Running of the Herd and celebrating the 8th of November anniversary of those who gave everything they had during Operation Hump back in 1965 has been an amazing experience for me."