Florida Tech is an innovator when it comes to learning beyond the classroom, and six seniors from Florida Tech’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Panther Battalion had the ultimate hands-on educational experience in March when they took a battle analysis trip to the D-Day beaches of Normandy, France.
Led by Scholarship and Enrollment Officer John Hudacek, who spent weeks on the logistics and planning for the trip, and historian Bob Taylor, the associate dean at the College of Psychology and Liberal Arts and head of the School of Arts and Communication, the trip took students from Central Florida to London to Normandy.
This was the first ROTC Senior Battle Analysis trip overseas. Previous trips have centered on visits to Civil War battlefields and other domestic sites. The students said it was unforgettable.
“Learning about incredible battles in history class is interesting but you don’t really grasp what actually happened,” said Eric Pereira, a computer sciences major. “Seeing the terrain for yourself, looking at craters in the battlefield and the damage done, makes everything feel all too real.”
Once the group arrived in London, they visited Winston Churchill’s underground planning bunker. Next, they moved by sea to the beaches of Normandy where the cadets visited Pointe Du Hoc, Omaha and Utah Beach. Other stops included Ste. Mere-Eglise, the Pegasus Bridge, and on the final day, the World War I battlefields of Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood. The trip culminated at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, where the cadets retired the colors of the ceremony.
“Standing on the same beaches where many men spent their last minutes on the fateful day of June 6, 1944 was such as intense experience. It’s hard to put into words how heavy my heart feels after visiting those sites,” said Julia Hutton, a strategic communications major. “Freedom is not free and I’m forever thankful for the troops that paid the ultimate price.”
Other students on the trip were Chase Causey, Hank Abell, Alexia Pearah and Alicia Maldonado.
Hudacek thanked Florida Tech for its support of the trip and noted that Florida Tech’s ROTC program is also supported by a donation from the Northrop Grumman Corporation.
“It was a life altering moment for the Cadets to stare down the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc, walk the sand of Utah Beach, and charge the bluffs of Omaha,” said Lt. Col. T.J. O’Connor, Florida Tech professor of military science.