FORT BRAGG, N.C. –
The Army Reserve’s 353d Civil Affairs Command is coordinating travel for active-duty and reserve Soldiers from the United States to France and back for the 75th Anniversary D-Day celebrations.
More than two dozen Army Reserve Soldiers United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) are headed to Normandy, along with more than 250 active component Soldiers from several locations around the country.
The groups, including Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, the 29th Infantry Division and others, came together at Fort Bragg to fly across the Atlantic Ocean May 30-31.
“We’re moving close to 300 people over the course of two days from two different departure air fields,” said Maj. Aaron Dombroski, 353d CACOM’s lead planner for the mission.
The CACOM is a subordinate unit of United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), which has been a part of the D-Day ceremonies for decades.
This year, CACOM planners worked with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, but the 101st Soldiers did not travel to Fort Bragg, Dombroski said. The 101st contingent is significantly larger than in past year, so they used their local airfield instead.
United States European Command requests air support for the Normandy event every year, and the 353d planners facilitate using the empty space on the planes to transport Soldiers to the event, he said. In total, nine aircraft were involved in the D-Day trip.
While at Fort Bragg, the CACOM team coordinates billeting, food and local transportation for the troops coming from out of town who have to spend a night or two at Bragg before heading out, Dombroski said.
The CACOM started planning in December for the event, heading to Europe for a planning conference, he said. They returned home and brought the information back to share with the other stateside units.
Then, Dombroski and his staff worked with EUCOM and U.S. Transportation Command to bring the aircraft and the personnel together at the right time.
Once the Soldiers arrive in Europe, they spread out to conduct their roles in the various airborne jumps and ceremonies, and the Army Reserve planners take a pause until its time to return home.
With nearly 80 different ceremonies, the days can be very long, but it’s worth the work, Dombroski said. The CACOM also is providing three Soldiers to be interpreters this year.
“It’s humbling to be there as part of the formation,” he added.
On jump day, more than two dozen Soldiers from USACAPOC(A) will be parachuting, including the 353d CACOM commander, Brig. Gen. Robert Cooley.
“Brig. Gen. Cooley is one of a handful of generals who will actually jump,” Dombroski said.
When everything is over, the CACOM Soldiers go back to work, matching up people to open spaces on aircraft, but there is one difference on the return trip, he said.
On the way back, the pilots have to stop for required crew rest, so some of the Soldiers stay overnight at St. John’s in Canada. Others are hosted at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst by the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion, one of the 353d CACOM’s subordinate units.
After that, it’s back to Fort Bragg for the Soldiers and they return to their home units from there. The CACOM planners coordinated an overnight stay at Bragg for about 60 Soldiers who needed it, Dombroski added.