By Capt. Robert N. DurrApril 13, 2017
Kaiserslautern, Germany (Rhine Ordnance Barracks)--Soldiers from the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command participated in a staff ride at Fort Eben Emael and Bouillon, Belgium and Sedan, France April 10-12. The first-hand historical study at the military historic sites, led by retired British Army Brigadier John Smales, captured the lessons derived from each campaign during the early stages of World War II.
Capt. Kristen Daisy, the staff ride organizer and planner, highlighted the significance of establishing proper procedures and practices, especially defense posture.
"The intent of the 10th AAMDC Staff Ride to Fort Eben-Emael, Belgium, Bouillon, Belgium and Sedan, France was to focus on the importance of proper defense designs against threats that include disruptive capabilities," Daisy said.
During the 1930s, Belgium took substantial efforts into developing a viable defense system. This new system of fortifications like Fort Eben Emael, was supplemented by demolitions plans for in depth and widespread inundations in low-lying areas. However, Belgium maintained strict neutrality and refused to participate in staff discussions with France and Britain in order to coordinate their defensive preparations.
"A lot of times we get so caught up in our procedures and policies that we fail to adapt and overcome adversities. Eban-Emael and the fall of France highlighted what happens when we don't adapt as leaders," Daisy said.
Belgium's refusal to participate in open dialogue and coordinate with its allies set the stage for the events leading to the collapse of its strongest defenses around Liege. The defenses, including Fort Eban Emael, that were expected to hold for a week were overrun by German forces within two days.
Some of the lessons the soldiers in the 10th AAMDC learned at Sedan, France were of the three means of air defense: means of detection and tracking, fighter aircraft and antiaircraft weapons to protecting important areas and troop units, France lacked every single one. Additionally France lacked a centralized control measure of air defense and the responsibilities were split between the air force and the army.
"As a Logistician for the only Air Defense of Europe, I know we must be flexible, creative and overcome adversity," Daisy said. "Regulation can always change, but the lives we impact by failing to be creative thinkers won't last long against an ever changing enemy."
For the soldiers in the 10th AAMDC, retired British Army Brigadier John Smales provided valuable insight and perspective of air defense operations during World War II. Smales enjoyed his time teaching and mentoring the soldiers from the10th AAMDC as much as they enjoyed learning.
"You've made it so easy for me because you responded, showing interest and very politely laughed when I made a joke, which you understood," Smales said. "I've enjoyed myself enormously too and I very much hope I might meet some of you again."