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News > Multiple DoD agencies pull together to resurrect historic Remagen Drop Zone
National Guard Red Horse Civil Engineers from New Mexico operate heavy equipment across the wide expanse of the Remagen DZ at Fort Stewart, GA, bringing the vital assault landing strip back to life.
National Guard Red Horse Civil Engineers from New Mexico operate heavy equipment across the wide expanse of the Remagen DZ at Fort Stewart, GA, bringing the vital assault landing strip back to life. Georgia National Guardsmen from Savannah's Combat Readiness Training Center coordinated the massive expedited project as they continue preps for the nation's largest National Guard exercise, Global Guardian, scheduled for March 2013. (photo by Master Sgt. Bucky Burnsed)
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Multiple DoD agencies pull together to resurrect historic Remagen Drop Zone

Posted 2/8/2013   Updated 2/8/2013 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Bucky Burnsed
Georgia Air National Guard

2/8/2013 - COMBAT READINESS TRAINING CENTER, Savannah, Ga. -- Thanks to the cooperation and hard work of multiple U.S. military organizations - and, especially, the New Mexico National Guard - a resurrected Remagen Drop Zone (DZ) will be fully operational for Global Guardian 2013. The DZ will play host to heavy equipment drops, paratroopers, and C-130's creating huge dust clouds as they land and take-off from the historic Fort Stewart drop zone.

One of the real miracles of World War II­­­ occurred when lead elements of General William Hoge's 27th Armored Infantry Battalion (AIB), Combat Command B, US 9th Armored Division, topped the hills overlooking the German town of Remagen. It was March 7, 1945.

Allied Forces were attempting the final push across the Rhine River - the last geographic obstacle to Germany's heartland. Knowing all of the bridges over the Rhine had been ordered to be "blown" by Adolf Hitler in an effort to slow the advance, the men of the 27th AIB were amazed to crest the hill and see the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen still standing.

An immediate attack was launched as they could see German Army engineers preparing to blow the bridge. Before the bridge could be completely destroyed, it was secured by the heroic efforts of the 27th AIB. The war ended just two months later, thanks in part to what Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower called the "Miracle of Remagen."

Ever mindful of the U S Army's rich history, Fort Stewart, Ga., named one of its first drop zones after Remagen. The drop zone has seen more heavy equipment and paratroopers dropped there over its many years than could ever be counted. Originally the drop zone was designed as a short field, assault landing site for helicopters and the C-130 Hercules.

While helicopters enjoy the luxury of sitting down in just about any large clearing, large military cargo aircraft typically land and take-off from paved runways especially designed to accommodate the extreme weight of the aircraft.

The C-130 differs from most military heavy lifters in the fact that they are designed to land and take off on exceptionally short dirt runways. However, over many years, the landing strip at Remagen DZ has fallen into disrepair. While the area is basically a large, hard-packed Georgia red clay field and the Army continued to use the field for paratroop drops from helos, C-130's had actually not attempted assault landings in the area for many years. The surface had become severely rutted from weather, rain and its runoff.

Enter Global Guardian, the nation's largest National Guard exercise, scheduled for March and set to take place in Savannah. The commanders responsible for planning and implementing the exercise, comprised of elements across all military services, saw the obvious need for an area where C-130's could perform this tactical activity, thus enhancing the exercise' overall mission. Savannah's Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC), Georgia Air National Guard, served as Grand Central Station for Global Guardian, as it does for many military exercises throughout the year.

The idea soon emerged of resurrecting Remagen DZ as a fully functional landing strip for C-130's or even the emerging new, smaller C-27's. However, today's shrinking military budgets cast a pall over the possibility. Still, Col. Todd Freesemann, the CRTC's commander, accepted the challenge and commissioned the unit's operations personnel with the task.

Led by Ops Group Commander Lt. Col. Christopher Rachael, and Global Guardian liaison officer, Lt. Col. David Spisso, they began reaching out to the Army and the National Guard Bureau to find resources to pull it off. Working together, all agreed everyone would benefit from the project.

As a C-130 Aircraft Commander, Lt. Col. Spisso fully appreciates a nearby assault landing zone, "Training to land and take-off on these short dirt airstrips is critical for C-130 pilots as we maneuver the aircraft into the field at very precise angles of attack and at speeds that could produce a great deal of fear in the untrained. But the very act creates an exceptional strategic and tactical advantage."

CRTC's operations personnel further identified the 210th Red Horse Civil Engineering Squadron, a joint Air and Army National Guard unit, from the New Mexico National Guard with the right skills to come in and quickly resurface and remediate the old Remagen DZ.

This highly energized unit hit the ground running in mid-January, and in less than three weeks' time, using all types of heavy equipment borrowed from Fort Stewart, the CRTC and its Townsend Bombing Range, has successfully resurrected the historic DZ and assault strip. Working from very early in the morning until "dark thirty," the Airmen and Soldiers of the 219th removed large obstructions, moved thousands of pounds of dirt, and completely resurfaced the hard-packed red clay runway.

Colonel Todd Freesemann, speaking from his own West Point engineering background said, "I have to admit, realizing the scope of the work, I was not optimistic this project could be completed considering today's budget restraints. But this accomplishment serves as a strong testimony to how much can be accomplished when all of the military services work together to achieve a common goal."

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