By Staff Sgt. Mark A. Moore IINovember 18, 2015
When a Soldier affixes the powder keg, crossed bayonets and mountain tab to their uniform they join that legacy and symbolically stand with those who have fought before them.
They become standard bearers responsible for upholding the customs, courtesies and history of the divisions mountaineering legacy.
While the alpine style of mountaineering used during WWII is no longer prevalent in todays' Army.
There are still a small group of Soldiers stationed in the mountains of Vermont, who preserve the Army's mountaineering legacy and train Soldiers on modern techniques applicable to today's current missions.
The need to maintain proficiency on modern mountaineering was identified by those returning from deployments who struggled with the difficulties of navigating steep rough terrain.
The Army answered the call-to-action by establishing Active Army Reserve mobile mountaineering training teams who traveled state-to-state administering blocks of instruction to units of action.
Training demands quickly out grew the team's capabilities to teach via mobile units and the requirement to establish a brick and mortar institution was recognized.
The above variables led to the erecting of the Army's Mountain Warfare School, Camp Ethan Allen Training Site, Jericho, Vermont, in the early 1980s.
Sgt. 1st Class Max Rooney, senior instructor, AMW'S, explained that their mission is to be the foremost experts in military operations in the mountainous environment.
Harnessing those expertise's were 27 Soldiers assigned to C Company, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, who brought the mountain back to the 10th Mountain Division (LI), during their attendance and graduation of the Rough Terrain Evacuation Course held Oct. 31 through Nov. 6.
The course requires no prerequisites to attend and is open to all Soldiers regardless of military occupational specialty.
"Our target audience is anyone," stated Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Neskey, rough terrain evacuation course medical instructor. "It's not just a medic course, it's actually better that people other than medics know these skills. Normally a medic is tied up with real casualties and doesn't have time to plan an evacuation route."
The seven day course focused on stabilizing casualties, medical evacuation over rough terrain, high altitude illness detection and prevention, cold weather injury prevention, basic mountaineering knots, areal hoist operations and concluded with a rough terrain evacuation drill where Soldiers tested their new skill set.
Sgt. 1st Class Trey Albertson, evacuation platoon sergeant, C Company, described the courses fast pasted exchange of information to be the equivalent of "drinking from a fire hose," and was moved by his Soldiers efforts to absorb the material presented.
"I was impressed with my Soldiers and their ability to retain the information," explained Albertson. "I loved seeing them at night tying knots to things all over the room and practicing hoist systems."
During the final event Albertson identified Spc. Kevin O'Brien a health care specialist to act as their platoon sergeant.
O'Brien, having no prior leadership experience, had been charged with planning a three mile route through the mountainous Vermont wilderness with 26 of his teammates pulling a 185 pound medical mannequin to a helicopter extraction point in tow.
"At first I was a little nervous, but as the event progressed I started to get more comfortable with my position and was able to take charge better," said O'Brien.
His confidence was raised by his teams' willingness to work together and from the guidance given by Albertson.
"Luckily I had Sgt. 1st Class Albertson there," said O'Brien. "He gave me advice on how to command and control, how to make decisions and how to listen to other people's ideas. Ultimately the decision was mine to take their ideas or use my own."
O'Brien's team's efforts were complemented by dry weather which made the terrain easier to navigate and voided the need to emplace hoist systems used to pull or lower casualties over steep inclines.
Within the first two hours they had reached check point one, within four hours they had arrived at the helicopter landing zone and were prepared to evacuate their casualty.
"Over the weeks they grew really well and today's field training exercise was just a huge demonstration of how they can get through rough terrain and not use a (hoist) systems, but they knew exactly when and where to plug and play those things," said Albertson.
Albertson, six years removed from the conventional Army due to recruiting duty and an assignment at a hospital expressed his satisfaction with returning to his roots in the medical field.
"This is one of the most enjoyable and still completely applicable training events that I've had in 14 years," he explained. "I express constantly to these Soldiers that going to these courses is not something you'll always get to do regularly in your career."
Albertson who thinks the real importance of this training will be how they apply it later, looks forward to taking what they have learned in Vermont back to Fort Drum and growing upon it.
Something Rooney describes as vital to the growth and maintenance of the mountaineering skill set.
"We have a limited ability to run a huge numbers of Soldiers through our courses," explained Rooney. So we rely on the 27 folks who are here going back into the Army (Fort Drum) to take this information and spreading it out. Information is like fluid, it's going to find that path of least resistance and hopefully everyone gets their feet wet with it."