FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Six companies assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment "Golden Dragons," 2nd Brigade Combat Team, participated in Operation Battle Rattle, a combined three-part training event that took place Oct.15-16 on Fort Drum.
The companies prepared for the unknown by executing core competency drills of emergency deployment readiness preparation and rifle marksmanship qualification under stress (stress shoot) before competing for the division's physical fitness streamer during a 12-mile road march.
"Readiness has been a No. 1 goal," said Maj. Kelly Boian, 2-14 Infantry operations officer. "Adhering to the ability to be notified, recalled and deployed to local training or overseas contingencies is what 10th Mountain is about."
Mimicking the unpredictable nature of a natural disaster or emergency deployment situation, Soldiers did not know when the events would begin. It was only after the telephonic alert was activated that they received the mission briefing.
"It (the alert) started at 1 a.m.; we came in, got accountability of our Soldiers, drew our weapons and stepped off at 5 a.m. on a 12-mile road march that we had to conduct within four hours with no fallouts to earn the streamer," said Staff Sgt. John Duncan, a platoon sergeant with B Company.
Donning the required 65-pound rucksack and personal protective equipment worn during combat operations, B Company Soldiers left the company area, establishing their winning pace.
They navigated Fort Drum's paved streets, trekked through rugged training area terrain and doglegged around Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield to the finish line near Range 7, allotting leaders time to assess the mental and physical abilities of their Soldiers.
"Well, the event for the company is definitely a gut check for the new Soldiers coming into the 'Commando Brigade,'" Duncan said. "It also tests their mettle to see how tough they are. Around mile eight or nine, the new Soldiers started to give up and you saw veteran Soldiers pick them up."
Duncan added that the event encompassed esprit de corps, team building, physical fitness and building morale.
All of that was heightened after the team completed the road march with no fallouts, met time standards and earned the division's silver PT streamer, something no other company of 2-14 Infantry achieved.
With little time to waste between events, the Soldiers removed their rucksacks, accounted for sensitive items and grabbed a quick snack before they received a range safety briefing and moved to the firing line.
Pvt. Samuel Shaver, B Company, described how the physical stress of a road march affected his abilities to fire a weapon.
"I thought I was going to have a lot of trouble," Shaver explained. "When we took our rucksacks off, I was tired and really couldn't move at all, but when I got in there (firing line), I calmed down and shot a lot better than I thought I would."
Shaver struck 37 targets out of a possible 40. He credited his previous experiences with stress shoots with his performance.
"I've been to a few different types of stress shoots, so this wasn't my first time doing something like this," he said. "I think it helped a lot when you know what to expect coming into something."
Whether expected or unexpected, stressful or not, the infantrymen proved that they harbor a fighting spirit and exemplify the warrior ethos.
"Never quit," Duncan said. "These Soldiers never quit, and in the face of adversity, whether it's a 'battle rattle' to get a streamer or it's climbing a mountain in Af-ghanistan, if you never quit, if you start together and finish together, we will win any fight anywhere."