FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Feb. 7, 2014) -- Amidst extremely cold weather, 27 three-man teams from across the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) and Fort Drum, N.Y., met early in the morning at Range 1 last week to compete in this year's Mountain Winter Challenge.
The Mountain Winter Challenge is the first in a series of four seasonal events the division conducts throughout the year to promote esprit de corps and to recognize the division's finest Winter Warfare Team.
The event, which took place Jan. 28-30, not only pitted teams against each other, but also against "Old Man Winter," with temperatures as low as 16 degrees below zero with wind chill factor.
"This event is really about the lineage and history of the division; the skills that made those Soldiers successful, and how we continue to challenge our Soldiers today to maintain those skills," said Maj. Lucas Connolly, one of the event organizers, who serves with 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
The course competition consisted of a snowshoe event, sled pull, marksmanship, cross-country skiing and a mystery challenge.
The snowshoe event required competitors to negotiate a wood-ed trail course while carrying their designated weapons and hydration system.
During the sled pull event, Soldiers were required to transport a military sled with gear weighing approximately 150 pounds, while navigating obstacles without discarding or losing any of their cargo.
Participants received a break from the cold during the marksmanship event, which took place at an indoor range. Soldiers engaged targets in the prone, kneeling and standing positions.
The cross-country skiing event required participants to negotiate groomed and ungroomed trails while carrying their weapons and hydration systems.
The final mystery challenge was assembling a tent.
All of the teams were recognized during a ceremony Friday, at Monti Physical Fitness Center here.
"This challenge wasn't about making it to the finish line," said Brig. Gen. Michael L. Howard, 10th Mountain Division (LI) deputy commanding general - rear. "It was about getting to the finish line and being able to make a difference in the fight.
"The participants in front of you range from the rank of private to lieutenant colonel," he continued. "They range from the ages of 18 to 41 years old. They come from all military occupational skills -- infantry, medical, aviation, mechanics, communications (and from the) band. We truly had the whole division's participation."
Lt. Col. Scott C. Nauman, commander of 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, was the only battalion commander and the oldest competitor in the Mountain Winter Challenge.
"You are as young as you feel," he said. "Someone thought 41 was pretty old; once I get there I'll let you know about it."
For the second year in a row, the "Polar Bears" from 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, took home top honors, the Mountain Winter Challenge trophy and Army Commendation Medals.
Howard presented the honors to 1st Lt. Timothy W. Schmidt, Staff Sgt. Alexander L. LaRoche and Spc. Clint E. Goldizen, who won first place with a time of 2:32:02.
"You can't beat a polar bear in its own environment," LaRoche said.
Nauman, 1st Lt. Cory D. Curran and Sgt. Jeremiah S. Rollins, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, received Army Achievement Medals for finishing in second place with a time of 2:49:35. First Lt. Yevgen Gutman, Sgt. Zane C. Zornes and Spc. Thomas Cox, also with 4-31 Infantry, received Army Achievement Medals for third place with a time of 2:49:55.