What kind of impact can lower-level organizations have on a grander scale? Learning this was the key takeaway for the 10 Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, on a three-day Leader Professional Development (LPD) trip to Belgium and Luxembourg, June 9-11.
The LPD was developed to allow a group of junior leaders from HHC, 12 CAB to learn firsthand about a series of battles and events that took place during the Battle of the Bulge and ultimately understand how everyone plays a key role.
Winston Churchill called “the greatest American battle of the war” the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes region of Belgium was Hitler's last major offensive in World War II against the Western Front.
While developing the LPD, there were different ideas on how to proceed.
“I thought it [the LPD] would be more effective with the research everyone was doing to go in chronological order and then go in small to big for the engagements to show the impact that lower-level organizations have on the greater scale,” explains Capt. Victor Ripley, commander of HHC, 12 CAB.
Soldiers who attended the LPD agreed on the order of events.
“I like how the LPD built up to go from one day to another,” said Sgt. Miguel Quesada, an aviation operations specialist assigned to HHC, 12 CAB. “Everything was in chronological order, and the build-up was very good. When we went to Noville [Belgium], you could look from the town views, and later to the three strategic points looking down on the city.”
Throughout the tour, the group attended many locations, including Lanzerath, Eisenborn Ridge, the region of Noville, the Belgium War Museum, and the Luxembourg American Cemetary. At Lanzerath, for example, an 18 Soldier reconnaissance platoon held off an entire German battalion of about 500 paratroopers for just under 20 hours in what's now known as the “Battle of Lanzerath Ridge.”
Each member took turns briefing the group about the key locations on subjects such as cross-boundary fires, German replacement policy, ethics, accurate reporting, and the delay of the SS Panzer Division.
When asked about their favorite part of the tour, the Belgium War Museum ranked at the top of the list. The museum offered audio narration through four fictional characters: a German lieutenant, an American soldier, a young teacher from the Communal school of Bastogne, and Emile Mostade, a 13-year-old boy.
1st. Sgt. Mandrell Douglas described how the four different character perspectives were beneficial in knowing who was talking. “It [the museum] had four different perspectives to hear what they were talking about and to hear someone from the German side,” said Douglas. “I’m always curious as I don’t know what they would be thinking.”
After the LPD back at Katterbach, everyone had good things to say about their dive into a bit of World War II history.
“Everyone was very engaged throughout the process, asking questions and assessing more information than just what the briefers put because everyone found it interesting to learn more and further the group discussion,” Ripley concluded.
12 CAB is among other units assigned to V Corps, America's Forward Deployed Corps in Europe. They work alongside NATO Allies and regional security partners to provide combat-ready forces, execute joint and multinational training exercises, and retain command and control for all rotational and assigned units in the European Theater.