86th Infantry patching ceremony
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Bannister, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, places the 10th Mountain shoulder insignia on Col. Andrew Harris, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) commander, during a repatching ceremony Saturday at Ca... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Camp Ethan Allen, Jericho, Vt. -- Soldiers of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Vermont National Guard removed their unit patch and donned the 10th Mountain Division (LI) patch during a ceremony Saturday in Vermont, formalizing the ongoing partnership between the two units.

"It is a privilege and honor to serve with the 10th Mountain Division," said Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, during the ceremony. "Know that today you are a part of history."

The 86th IBCT was selected to participate in the U.S. Army's Associated Unit Pilot program. The AUP program was initiated to enhance unit readiness and reshape the Army's forces to more effectively meet national security requirements in the midst of the Army's end-strength reductions.

"We see a shift in the Pentagon thinking where the Soldiers of the Army, the Reserves and the National Guard serve side-by-side to protect our nation," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. "I've said many times on the Senate floor, the Guard has never let us down, and we can't afford to let our Guard down."

Leahy continued to express how he is "endlessly overcome with pride" in the Vermont National Guard and their devotion to their state and the nation, and he went on to call the 10th Mountain Division patch a symbol of "tremendous pride and opportunity."

The patching ceremony solidifies the units' relationships and allows the 10th Mountain Division to continue to build upon partnerships and strengthen its fighting force as one of the most deployed divisions in the Army.

"Today's event is a great example of how we are doing business as a Total Army," Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, Army National Guard director, said in his remarks during the ceremony. "In this complex world, an Army of 980,000 means more reliance by the Army on its two reserve components."

Kadavy went on to say the National Guard and Reserves must be ready to step up and assist their active-component counterparts in the fight on terrorism.

The 10th Mountain Division also serves as the primary Total Army active-duty partner in the Northeast, maintaining partnerships with nine Army National Guard and four Army Reserve units over a footprint that includes New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Louis-iana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Massachusetts.

"Tenth Mountain has 13 different partners across nine states," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Bannister, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, adding that the core of those elements was from the Vermont National Guard. This partnership mutually benefits each unit, enabling the use of both the Vermont National Guard and Fort Drum facilities to train and prepare for future exercises and upcoming deployments.

Bannister referenced the "nest" as he spoke of Fort Drum, the home of the 10th Mountain Division, as the base for future synchronization and training between the 86th IBCT and 10th Mountain units.

He touted the National Guard leadership as his "battle buddies," adding that they were looking for "policy top cover to help us fund activities to thicken our integration with our formations." He also highlighted the closeness of the two units by pointing out that all that the leadership changed was the patch, because the 86th IBCT already wore the Mountain tab.

The 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, located at Fort Polk, La., also was selected to participate in the AUP program, partnering with the 36th Infantry Division "Arrowhead" National Guard units from Camp Mabry, Texas.

As part of the program, 3rd Brigade changed out the 10th Mountain Division patch for the 36th Infantry Division National Guard patch on Sept. 17. The Patriot Brigade is one of several Army units slated to participate in the Army's AUP program partnering with National Guard units across the force. It is the only active-duty unit to wear the National Guard patch.