WWII hero speaks to newly inducted chiefs
By Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoy , 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 15, 2009
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A World War II hero congratulated two Vandenberg Airmen as they were inducted to the grade of chief master sergeant in a ceremony April 9 at the Pacific Coast Club here.
Edwin 'Doc' Pepping gave the two inductees, Chief Master Sgt. Carey Allen, the 576th Flight Test Squadron superintendent, and Senior Master Sgt. Joe Coble, the 595th Space Group Location Alpha quality assurance superintendent, the increasingly rare opportunity of speaking to a true war hero.
Mr. Pepping was a medic with the famed Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Mr. Pepping, now 87, jumped into Normandy on D-Day nearly 65 years ago. He cracked three vertebrae when his helmet hit the back of his neck after his group dropped too low and at too high a speed. He also suffered a concussion from the jump.
However, Mr. Pepping was unaware of these injuries and continued with his mission. Despite his injuries, the day after his jump he attempted to rescue a colonel from a burning tank while under fire. He later received a Bronze Star for his actions.
Mr. Pepping spoke about his experiences during the war to inspire the newly inducted chiefs as they continue their roles as leaders.
"The main thing is to be leaders," Mr. Pepping said. "Set a course and stick with it. These chiefs should be inspiring, inspiring those below them. They will be great leaders and encourage people to follow and go ahead and join in with them."
Mr. Pepping spoke of teamwork and how that affected his fellow soldirs during the war, no matter what unit they were assigned to.
"One of the most remarkable things is that it didn't matter if they were in the 101st," he said. "It didn't matter what unit you were in, everybody knew the job. And they all, in typical American fashion, got together and started doing whatever the officers led us to do."
That teamwork, according to Mr. Pepping, is what drove the American military to victory. And that made an impact on the newly inducted chiefs.
"Some of the key components he touched on were camaraderie and teamwork," Chief Allen said. "He talked about that with some of the jumps and some of the things they were involved in, and how important that was back then. And it's just as important today. If you've got a great deal of teamwork and camaraderie, you have a great organization."
While many Airmen may have a hard time comprehending what Mr. Pepping and his "Band of Brothers" experienced, he feels that as Americans, they would do the same. And, so would he.
"I would do it again in a second," he said. "And I think most of the guys that were there with me would say the same thing. Somebody was over there destroying lives, somebody evil. But the thing about Americans is, we have no ideas of defeat; none at all. We were over there to win a war. That was the whole feeling of everybody ... and it still is."