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Spirit of D-Day lives on as Team Little Rock maintainers keep aircraft flying

An Airman inspects the prop of a C-130J

Two Airmen high five in front of a C-130J

An Airman hugs the nose of a C-130J

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Lauland, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron team lead, gives a ceremonial pat on a C-130J Super Hercules prior to takeoff at Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport, France, June 6, 2019. Maintainers from the 19th AMXS were responsible for keeping C-130J Super Hercules in the air during commemorative events of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

Airmen hstand around a C-130J

Maintainers from the 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron keep an eye on the plane during engine startup at Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport, France, June 6, 2019. Maintainers from the 19th AMXS were responsible for keeping C-130J Super Hercules in the air during commemorative events of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

An Airman inspects the prop of a C-130J

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Frederick, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, positions the rotors of a C-130J Super Hercules into an unlocked position prior to startup at Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport, France, June 6, 2019. Maintainers from the 19th AMXS were committed to keeping C-130J Super Hercules in the air during commemorative events of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

An Airman signs off a checklist

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Lauland, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron team lead, signs off on his team’s checklist prior to handing the plane over to the flight crew at Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport, France, June 6, 2019. Lauland and his team meticulously worked through checklists the morning of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

An Airman draws with chalk on the side of a C-130J

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Bowman, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, chalks the historic letter and number on the side of a C-130J Super Hercules at Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport, France, June 6, 2019. Bowman and his team were able to get the lettering chalked in under 30 minutes, and the lettering allowed the personnel assigned to the unit to show off their heritage and demonstrate their ability to provide rapid, global mobility and agile combat airlift while commemorating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

An Airman draws with chalk on the side of a C-130J

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Devyn Freeze, 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, helps U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Lauland, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron team lead, chalk on the historic letter and number assigned to the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron during D-Day 1944 at Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport, France June 6, 2019. The lettering allowed the personnel assigned to the unit to show off their heritage and demonstrate their ability to provide rapid, global mobility and agile combat airlift while commemorating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

An Airman draws with chalk on the side of a C-130J

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Bowman, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, begins startup of the axillary power unit on the C-130J Super Hercules as part of his checklists at Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport, France, June 6, 2019. Bowman meticulously worked his way through checklists the morning of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day to ensure the plane was ready for handoff to the flight crew. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

An Airman draws with chalk on the side of a C-130J

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Devyn Freeze, 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, helps aircraft maintainers chalk the historic letter and number assigned to the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron during D-Day, 1944, at Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport, France, June 6, 2019. The lettering allowed the personnel assigned to the unit to show off their heritage and demonstrate their ability to provide rapid, global mobility and agile combat airlift while commemorating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

Two Airmen inspect the tire of a C-130J
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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgts. Jeffery Erdman and Christopher Bowman, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chiefs, check the wheel well of a C-130J Super Hercules as part of their checklist prior to startup at Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport, France, June 6, 2019. Erdman and Bowman meticulously worked their way through their technical orders the morning of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day to ensure the plane was ready for the day's aerial events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

An Airman inspects the tire of a C-130J
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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffery Erdman, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, locks the landing gear panel of a C-130J Super Hercules in place after inspection at Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport, France, June 6, 2019. Erdman ensured the plane was ready to fly for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin)

CHERBOURG, FRANCE --

June 6th is a date that has become synonymous with valor, sacrifice and dedication.

As Operation Overlord commenced, thousands of men boarded aircraft bound for the Normandy coastline of France. As dawn approached, the feet of the men touched down as the first wave of the invasion hit. The leaders of the Allied Nations held their breath in hopes that this operation would be the beginning of the end of Nazi-controlled Europe.

Such an undertaking could never have taken place without a full complement of air, land and sea assault. More than 10,000 aircraft participated in the air assault on D-Day. At the time, the ratio of maintainers to bombers was approximately 80 to 1. Maintainers were instrumental in prepping, fixing and launching aircraft during World War II.

75 years later, the same still holds true.

While technology has reduced the number of maintainers required to travel to a fleet of aircraft, the importance of their role has never lessened.

“This week was a little more unique because as we have been out here seeing the history first-hand, it has instilled a different sort of pride in my guys and they have applied it in their work,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Lauland, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron team lead. “Seeing what those men did back then and hearing their stories, it pays tribute to them to get our planes in the air and on time to the different events through the week.”

Team Little Rock participated in the commemorative events of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The 41st, 61st and 62nd airlift squadrons performed flyovers of historic World War II locations and supported mass personnel drops of U.S. and coalition paratroopers over the La Fiere Drop Zone near Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France.

Maintainers from the 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were committed to keeping C-130J Super Hercules in the air while honoring those who undertook the same charge in less certain circumstances with far less resources.

Prior to the departing to support the commemorative events, the 19th AMXS team coordinated with Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the pre-delivery of necessary equipment to the staging area in at the Cherbourg-Maupertus Airport in Normandy, France.

“A week prior to us arriving, crews from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, dropped off maintenance stands, tools, and common parts needed on a daily basis,” Lauland said. “It made our job easier here, and we didn’t have to worry about bringing a lot of that with us. It allowed us to concentrate on our work at hand.”

The history of D-Day and what was accomplished mirrors what the maintainers do today, demonstrating the global reach of mobility aircraft--something the U.S. and its Allies do better than anyone else in history.

“Flying crew chiefs keep the aircraft fully [operational] throughout the multi-day missions,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Michael DeSandre, 41st AS pilot. “Their knowledge and relentless work ethic fix virtually any aircraft malfunction and keep the aircraft a well-oiled machine so we can fly our dynamic missions. Our complex aircraft inevitably need maintenance, and our flying crew chiefs are absolutely invaluable.”

What started with C-47 Skytrains 75 years ago carries on with the C-130J Super Hercules today, showing the determination of not only its crews, but also the men and women who turn the wrenches and keep them flying.

Maintainers at the Home of Combat Airlift are fond of a motto: “Herk’s in the air—maintenance put it there.”

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