By Spc. Liane Schmersahl, 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade Journalist November 23, 2016
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Leave it to 10th Mountain Soldiers to ruck all the way to the North Pole -- or, at least, to the 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade's headquarters.
Carrying ruck sacks filled with toys and nonperishable food items, the 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade Muleskinners embarked on a four-mile ruck march Wednesday, stepping off as a brigade before the first signs of daylight.
"We're here today as the best sustainment brigade in the United States Army," said Command Sgt. Maj. Ann Sydnor, brigade senior enlisted adviser, standing in front of the formation. "And we're here this morning to get in a little bit of PT and do a lot of good."
The brigade formed up in the "Sword Field" near the Muleskinner Dining Facility dressed in winter PT uniforms and carrying ruck sacks filled with items intended for donation to "Mountain of Toys," an initiative by the Sergeants Major Association and the Fort Drum Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program.
From there, approximately 400 Soldiers marched to the brigade headquarters to unload their donations of new, unwrapped toys and nonperishable food items from their rucks.
The toy donations will go to Fort Drum Soldiers and Families experiencing need as the holidays approach, said Sgt. William Buttner, 10th Sustainment Brigade BOSS representative, and the food donations will be split among several local charities for disbursement to those experiencing food insecurity.
"Things can be extremely stressful around the holidays, especially for Soldiers who are trying to still fulfill the mission but also unwind with Family," Buttner said. "So if we can help to unburden the load that comes along with the holiday celebrations, we as an organization are doing right by our Soldiers and their Families."
Buttner said the brigade donated more than 850 toys and numerous nonperishable food items, adding that the initiative is already ahead of last year's numbers.
The ruck march replaced the brigade's regularly scheduled PT, routing Soldiers approximately two miles to the drop-off point (where they were greeted by Santa and one of his elves) and two miles back.
"I love ruck marches, and doing it for a charity makes it more meaningful," said Spc. Treshawn Ward, a signal support system specialist at the brigade. "It brought good morale to all the Soldiers, being able to do an event for such a good cause."
When the Soldiers returned to the Sword Field, they were met with words of support from both Sydnor and Col. Shawn Schuldt.
"I think it's an incredible show of generosity, for those who did give, because the ability to take care of the Soldiers on our left and right is why we show up every single day," Schuldt said. "Without everybody in this formation, the formation is weakened."
Soldiers interested in participating in the Mountain of Toys initiative can contact the division Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program at (315) 772-7808, or they may deposit toy and food donations in the designated donation boxes placed across the installation.