A special celebration: U.S., Canadian special forces commemorate combined efforts during WWII
December 11, 2009
By Rick Wood
FORT LEWIS, Wash. -- As a CH-47 Chinook passed over a prairie training area near Fort Lewis's East Gate, 14 U.S. and Canadian Special Forces members jumped out on cue Dec. 2, during an annual event that highlighted the celebration of "Menton Week."
Family members, fellow Soldiers and guests watched as more than 290 paratroopers floated into the drop zone throughout the day.
First Special Forces Group Commander Col. Randolph Binford said the annual event was both fun and educational. "We look forward every year to doing this," Binford said, "It's absolutely a fantastic opportunity for us to come together."
Binford categorized the event as an opportunity to impress upon the current generation of Soldiers the sacrifice of their forefathers. "The opportunity to share that with Canadian Special Operations is a fantastic opportunity for our younger and older Soldiers," he said.
The week-long celebration commemorated the inactivation of the combined U.S. and Canadian First Special Service Force in Menton, France, on Dec. 5, 1944.
The "Devil's Brigade" achieved fame during World War II through its clandestine operations behind enemy lines. It was one of the first special forces units created.
The continuing legacy of that alliance includes working with our Canadian allies in Afghanistan and extends into today's global conflicts, Binford said.
The lineage and meaning of the joint-nation event transcends generations, he said.
Observance of Menton Week goes back to 1978 when Operation Maple Leaf, held at Fort Bragg, N.C., brought U.S. Special Forces and Canadian Special Service Forces together in a combined exercise. "We're celebrating the success of our forefathers," Binford said.
The cool, crisp air and mountain background harkened back to the training operations undertaken by the "Devil's Brigade" in 1942, he said.
"This is the stuff by which warriors are forged," Binford said. "Different decade, same hard knocks."
A Canadian special operator who took part in the day's airborne event said maintaining the tradition of cooperation was important to the welfare of nations that share the same history.
"You share the lineage," the warrant officer said, "It's a chance to get together and have a good time."
A 1st Special Forces Group specialist said preparation and safety were key factors in preparing for the drop.
"I thought about having a good jump," the specialist said. "I was mostly concerned with having a safe landing."
With an 18- to 20-feet-per-second decent rate, even a fun event can result in injury, he said.
More than 250 Soldiers jumped utilizing a static line and 35 demonstrated High Altitude Low Opening techniques.
A seasoned 1st SFG jumper who has made 27 jumps said his jump went flawlessly.
"It was probably the best jump I've ever had," the chief warrant officer said. "It's nice to get to jump with the Canadians."
For some participants, it was their first jump since completing Airborne school.
To stave off the cold and provide support for jumpers and guests, the 1st SFG family readiness group provided coffee, snacks and a place to warm up.
Family members said they enjoyed the week-long activities and the chance to see their loved ones in action.
(Rick Wood is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian)