By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsNovember 30, 2017
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Nov. 30, 2017) -- After a day of drills and skills training on the ice, Soldiers trying out for the All Army ice hockey team gathered outside the rink for an ice breaker social Nov. 29 at Fort Drum.
Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander; Col. Kenneth D. Harrison, Fort Drum garrison commander, and other senior leaders welcomed the Soldier-athletes to the installation and assured them that the Fort Drum community would be cheering for their success and ready to support their efforts. He told them that they have a lot of fans in the local area looking forward to seeing the first All-Army team challenge the Canadian Army team Dec. 16 at the Watertown Municipal Arena.
"We're really excited that Army Hockey is here and what you all are going to do," Piatt said. "We hope that you feel welcome here. I know you're all Soldiers and are used to dealing with anything that is thrown at you without complaint."
"But you're also athletes doing something very important and you have to let people take care of you, and take care of all the details, so you can focus on your practices and the games," he continued. "We're proud to do it because we want to see you win."
Piatt provided the group with a short history of the origin of the 10th Mountain Division, noting that its formation couldn't have been possible without the recruitment of superior athletes. He said that it wasn't even the Army's idea to create a winter warfighting force to fight in the mountains during World War II. Charles Minot Dole, founder of the National Ski Patrol, convinced the War Department of the value of such a specialized division, and he was tasked with recruiting the best skiers and mountaineers to fill its ranks.
"We had world-class athletes, Olympians and world-record holders in various sports, and that was the foundation of the 10th Mountain Division," Piatt said. "They had to go up and create a base camp in the mountains of Colorado. They were told to go up in the mountains, make a camp, put this division together, learn how to fight with a doctrine that doesn't exist in the U.S. and do it with people who had never been Soldiers before. Thank God, they were really good at it, and the Army knew what to do with them."
Piatt said that the division commander, Brig. Gen. George Hays, had the utmost trust in his troops and was not one to give motivational speeches. But before executing the Mount Belvedere battle plan in the Italian mountains, which would include scaling the seemingly insurmountable Riva Ridge that was secured by German forces, Hays addressed the Soldiers before the nighttime mission.
"He told them one thing: he said that no matter what, keep moving and I'll meet you at the top," Piatt said. "And that has inspired this division from that day forward. There's nothing that we can't do if we keep moving together. And I think the same way about this -- if you come together now, listen to your coach, play hard, and no matter what -- no matter what -- keep moving. We know the task ahead will be hard, but we know if you follow the motto of this division, you guys will come out on top."
The Soldiers will have another social event during the three-week trial camp when they visit Lake Placid, the site of the historic 1980 Winter Olympics when the U.S. hockey team defeated the defending gold medalists from the Soviet Union in what was dubbed the "Miracle on Ice." The group will be able tour the same building where the game was originally played and view some of the displays and exhibits inspired by the stories of the Winter Games during their visit Dec. 10.