By U.S. ArmyNovember 29, 2013
FORT DRUM, NY -- Some 200 Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, celebrated the unit's combat history during the physically and mentally challenging "Allons Avalanche," which also fostered section-level teamwork.
The challenging event was intended to not only to test the current members of the unit, but also to celebrate the brave, selfless service of past Allons Soldiers. Allons Avalanche also helped ensure current 2-15 FA Soldiers understood the unit's rich and decorated history.
As the snow fell, 31 six- and seven-Soldier teams began a 6.2-mile road march.
Teams were required to complete obstacles honoring Soldiers who previously served in the unit and answer historical questions about Allons' actions during WWI, WWII, Korea, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom along the route. Questions included identifying the town where Allons Soldiers first experienced combat and naming the unit awards earned during specific operations.
"Participating in Allons Avalanche was a great experience," said 1st Lt. Ryan Nehus. "I am brand new to the unit and this event gave me the opportunity to learn the history of the Allons Battalion as well as forge relationships with my team members."
The first stop along the route tested each team's cooperation as they pulled Humvee across a parking lot. This task was designed to credit the battalion's accomplishments during their 2013 deployment in support of OEF. During this period, Allons Soldiers conducted sling load operations for the 105 mm and 155 mm howitzers as platoons occupied five positions to support and protect coalition forces in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. Allons Soldiers fired more than 2,600 rounds against enemy forces as they supported and advised the Afghan artillery soldiers.
The Soldiers continued to march on to the second task to challenge teams to evacuate a simulated casualty to an area designated as the "helicopter landing zone." The station honored Capt. Blake Keil, a former A Battery commander, who earned the Silver Star for planning and leading multiple operations combating enemy forces around Mahmudiyah, Iraq, in 2007. During the deployment, 98 percent of the unit earned a combat award while performing duties similar to motorized infantrymen.
The third test paid tribute to Allons Soldiers who fought in the unit's first conflict in WWI in which the unit expended about 285,000 rounds of shell and shrapnel. During the challenge, teams replicated the hardships of ammunition resupply, which required each Soldier to pick up and carry 10 sandbags while wearing a chemical protective mask.
With the end in sight, the fourth station tested Soldiers' strength and endurance by requiring them to high crawl to a simulated casualty, transport it to a secure location and fire three full rotations on a howitzer. The challenge paid tribute to Master Sgt. Jimmie Holloway, a former member of A Battery, for his actions while he served near Changbong-ni, Korea, in 1951.
Holloway put himself in danger numerous times to save and protect his fellow Soldiers. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, specifically for travelling through 150 yards of open ground, while under heavy enemy fire to drag a wounded Soldier to safety. He again exposed himself to enemy fire when he uncoupled a howitzer and swung it into firing position and then directed artillery rounds onto opposing forces.
The final physical test required teams to push a howitzer the length of the beach at Remington Pond. The task honored WWII Soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach, France, in 1941. Soldiers fought for 73 consecutive days after landing and earned five campaign streamers: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. The Allons Battalion also earned the Belgian Fourragere and was cited in the Order of the Day of the Belgian army for its combat action in Ardennes.
"Allons Avalanche really pushed us to work together and increased the camaraderie between forward and rear Soldiers," said Sgt. Johnathan Burnell, a member of the first-place team.
2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment