By Mr. Mike Casey (Combined Arms Center-Training)September 30, 2013
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- Col. Brian J. McHugh praised World War II veterans for their service and explained how the Army is training their grandsons and granddaughters.
Veterans of the 71st Infantry Division visited Fort Leavenworth on Sept. 26 as part of their reunion.
Later they heard McHugh's presentation at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11499, Basehor, Kan.
Soldiers of the 71st ID fought in France, Germany and Austria from 1944-1945, liberated concentration camps and eventually shook hands with advancing Soviet troops.
McHugh is the military deputy to Brig. Gen. Mike Lundy, the deputy commanding general of the Combined Arms Center -- Training (CAC-T) at Fort Leavenworth. CAC-T provides training support and training development throughout the Army.
"When I was offered a chance to speak to the 71st veterans, I asked : "Who wouldn't want to speak to the greatest generation?" McHugh said. "I'm humbled to be in your presence. What you did was amazing."
McHugh explained how the Army is combining live, virtual, constructive and gaming technologies to train Soldiers and develop leaders. He described how virtual simulators for armor and helicopters prepare Soldiers, expand training space and save taxpayers' money.
"We are doing our very best to train your grandsons and granddaughters so they accomplish their missions and come home to their families just as you did," he said.
The veterans were very impressed with the Army's training technology.
"It's so superior to what we had," said Earl Flanagan, who was a tech sergeant and a forward observer in an artillery unit.
He recalled how he practiced artillery direct fire gunnery skills on cardboard silhouettes of tanks that moved along a straight line track. "It was best training available at the time," he said.
While training was important, Flanagan said, the American Soldiers creativity and initiative allowed the 71st to outwit and outfight the Germans. "We thought outside the box," said Flanagan of Alexandria, Va.
A few days before the war in Europe ended, the 71st ID liberated Gunskirchen, an Austrian concentration camp. At the time, an officer described the scene:
"As we entered the camp, the living skeletons still able to walk crowded around us…to touch an American, to touch a jeep, to kiss our arms -- perhaps just to make sure that it was true."
The veterans were accompanied to Fort Leavenworth by Rose Finkelman, whose late husband, Wolf, was a prisoner in the camp. The Houston woman said her husband was always grateful for the men of the 71st for saving his life.