FORT LIBERTY, N.C. — The bold and audacious military maneuver known as D-Day helped turn the tide of World War II, opening Europe to the Allies and a German surrender 11 months later.
But before the largest seaborne invasion in military history could take place, U.S. Army pathfinders would parachute into Normandy to establish drop zone markers and guide Allied aircraft onto the target areas.
Nearly 80 years later, the heroic actions of World War II troops are commemorated with annual demonstrations, observances and memorials. For D-Day 79, more than 600 U.S. Soldiers and Airmen from over 20 units took part in multiple events throughout France’s Normandy Region.
Next year, a Security Assistance Management Training Organization, or SATMO, Soldier plans to be among those ranks.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Dupertuis, Foreign Affairs Counter Threat, or FACT, Detachment noncommissioned officer at Fort Liberty is scheduled to conduct a commemorative jump with the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team in France for D-Day 80.
Prior to his assignment to the FACT, where he and his Soldiers train overseas personnel how to thwart and evade threats, Dupertuis — a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie — regularly jumped from perfectly good aircraft as a paratrooper.
“Starting in boot camp, I always wanted to go airborne, but there was never a slot for me until I got to Fort (Liberty) as a sergeant first class,” he said. “I’ve always appreciated and respected the historic lineage of the airborne community and the roles they served in events like D-Day.”
Nerve-wracking and terrifying are the terms he used to describe his first jump, but he quickly became hooked, serving as a rough terrain paratrooper with the 57th Sapper Company and eventually achieving the distinction of jumpmaster.
But as he progressed in his career, it meant having to step away from jump doors.
Seeing that he was unhappy about no longer being on jump orders, Dupertuis’ fiancée devised a plan. She reached out to the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team, or ADT, and scheduled him for their nine-day training course for experienced jumpers, then promptly planned their Spring 2023 trip to France.
The WWII ADT is a non-profit living history organization that hosts annual jump schools certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. Their goal is to educate the public about military paratroopers. Students wear period-correct uniforms from head to toe, and train, eat and sleep in an original WWII hangar at Frederick Army Airfield in Oklahoma.
The ADT accepts service members, veterans and civilians with varying levels of experience. Once they successfully complete training and conduct jumps, they are invited to be members of the team.
“We had a few scheduling conflicts; I was originally supposed to take the course in 2021, but we had our twins and then I had (temporary deployments),” he said. “I was finally able to get out to Oklahoma and go through the training.”
Like the men who jumped into combat 80 years ago, the WWII ADT conducts their demonstrations out of their Douglas C-47 and C-49 aircraft. Dupertuis noted that jumping out of these airframes differed from the C-130 Hercules or C-17 Globemasters he was used to in that they were instructed to walk out rather than jump, so that was a learning curve he had to overcome during the training.
Now that he has completed the necessary training, he has 10 more months of anticipation and reflection on what it means to be part of next year’s D-Day 80 events.
“The airborne demonstration team does a great job of maintaining the memory, and the pride and the bravery of all the Soldiers that participated in that campaign,” he said. “Being a part of something like this is a really big honor to me just because I have a massive amount of respect for everything those guys did and went through.”
That respect stems from his own experiences downrange, having deployed multiple times to the Middle East and comparing the conditions he dealt with to the exponentially worse conditions WWII Soldiers faced.
“They truly were the Greatest Generation, and I don’t want that memory to die,” he said. “I don’t want people to forget what the men and women of that time did for our country.”
SATMO is a subordinate organization to the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command (USASAC) and deploys U.S.-based teams to execute security assistance missions outside the continental United States. SATMO has successfully deployed training and advisory teams to every geographic combatant command, hence the motto "Training the World, One Soldier at a Time." Their mission is vital to achieving U.S. national security objectives and stability in key locations throughout the world. For more information on SATMO, visit www.army.mil/satmo.