5th QM Det. helps commemorate Operation Market Garden

By Staff Sgt. Michael J. Taylor, 21st TSC Public Affairs
Sept. 24, 2010

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- On September 17, 1944, thousands of paratroopers descended from the sky by parachute and glider up to 150 kilometers behind enemy lines. Their goal was to secure two bridges across the rivers in Holland so the Allied armies could advance rapidly northward and turn right into the lowlands of Germany, thereby skirting around the German defense line. The operation was called Market Garden.

This year, to help commemorate the 66th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden, 56 Soldiers of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 5th Quartermaster Detachment – along with nearly 700 other American, German, British and Dutch paratroopers – took part in a combined airborne operation in Ede Sept. 18.

With 5th QM Det. paratroopers conducted two separate lifts with six passes per lift, dropping 60 paratroopers during each pass from U.S. C-130J Super Hercules, British C-130J MK5 Hercules and German C-160 Transall aircraft.

“This was amazing for me. No matter where the airborne Soldier comes from or what country he comes from, there is always camaraderie there – a brother hood,” said Sgt. 1st Class Herschel L. Gillins, 5th QM Det. noncommissioned officer in charge.

“The fact that we’re airborne connects us all,” said Spc. Dustin N. Colwell, a rigger with the 5th QM Det.

A paratrooper can go up to another paratrooper, no matter where they’re from or what army they serve under and they are instantly bonded, Colwell said.

According to Gillins, more than 26,000 spectators were expected at the reenactment. Also in attendance were several World War II veterans who actually took part in the operation 66 years ago. Operation Market Garden was an Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in World War II. It was the largest airborne operation of all time, involving more than 34,600 men of the 101st, 82nd and 1st airborne divisions as well as a Polish airborne brigade.

During the commemoration, many of the paratroopers landed and were bombarded by civilians, children and adults alike; wanting to shake the paratroopers’ hands and help them recover their parachutes.

“As soon as I hit the ground, I was swarmed by local nationals wanting to help me with my chute and grabbing patches off me,” said Gillins. “It made me feel pretty proud and honored. It was amazing. It really was.”

After the drop, the Soldiers were able to watch the Jan Hilgers Memorial Air Show. During the air show an assortment of German aircrafts maneuvered through the air – twirling, looping and banking over the drop zone.

Later that evening, the 5th QM Det. Soldiers – along with the German, English and Dutch soldiers – took part in a time-honored paratrooper tradition and formally exchanged their airborne wings with one another.

“This is one of those opportunities that I never thought I would get when I first enlisted. Hearts and minds – that’s all I can say,” said Colwell.

After the wing exchange, all the soldiers from the participating countries walked around and shook hands as they congratulated their allied peers.

“To me every airborne operation is special, but to partake in a commemorative jump – especially like Market Garden – it’s completely different,” said Colwell. “It’s heartfelt, and you get this feeling over you when you’re jumping with other countries and you see all these people out here. It just makes you feel good as a paratrooper, good as a Soldier.”