After learning about the Battle of Normandy in their textbooks, three Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), students travelled more than 4,500 miles to Normandy, France to take in the sight firsthand.
With support form the Office of International Education and Development, Lt. Col. Edwin Escobar, FAMU’s Army ROTC Professor of Military Science, led students on a Normandy Staff Ride. Staff rides are written into the Army ROTC curriculum, and they allow students to travel to an historic battleground and obtain an interactive and hands-on experience that focuses on opposing forces, logistics, tactics, strategies, and the mindset of the soldiers who actually fought in the battle.
With the anniversary of the battle recently passing, Lt. Col Escobar said it is important that students were able to honor those that lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy, while becoming better prepared for their future careers in the service.
“Traveling to France and visiting Paris and Normandy, developed our Rattlers to be culturally astute with a basic level of regional knowledge and D-Day expertise,” Escobar said. “They’re now better prepared for deployments worldwide in support of full spectrum operations.”
Efforts to ensure students are receiving global opportunities are being made campus wide. According to Lt. Col Escobar, it was the dedication of University leadership and alumni that made this trip possible.
“I could not have succeeded without the support from FAMU leadership, most importantly, Dean Valencia Matthews from the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities,” Escobar said. “Much of the financial contribution came from alumni and other fundraising events.”
Escobar added, “We will continue to execute President Mangum’s globalization initiative, increase Rattler’s international exposure and begin planning for next year’s Staff Ride, the Battle of la Drang, in Vietnam.”
In addition to learning more about the battle, students were able to tour other classic sites, which included the Eiffel Tower, Moulin Rouge, and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
LaDonna Carney, a recent graduate who attended the staff ride, said she was grateful for the opportunity to travel abroad to gain further insight on a topic that she began studying the prior semester.
“When I was studying the battle of D-Day, it was interesting, but it was not something that I just wanted to keep reading about in a book,” Carney explained. “The videos and documentaries made it a bit more interesting, but when I went to Normandy Beach everything started to connect. I began to visualize what I had read about in the books. I started playing the images in my head from the documentaries that I watched.”
Though she enjoyed taking in the sights in Paris, Carney said her favorite part of the trip was the time spent in Normandy, because she developed a special connection from her classroom experiences.
“At first it seemed unreal that the war and invasion that I learned about, wrote about, and watched documentaries on took place right where I was taking selfies and collecting sand,” Carney said.