By Spc. Thomas Scaggs, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade JournalistMay 11, 2017
TORBOLE, ITALY (May 11, 2017) -- Five runners from 10th Mountain Division (LI) set a record in a race designed to commemorate the sacrifices of their World War II counterparts.
On April 30, 1945, Col. William O. Darby, assistant commander of infantry Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, was killed in action in Torbole, Italy.
Just a few hours later, 25 Soldiers carrying on with the mission drowned when their amphibious vehicle sank during a nighttime crossing of Lake Garda.
The bodies of the 25 were never recovered and only one Soldier survived that night, but the U.S. Army, true to its values, has never let these Soldiers' sacrifice be forgotten. A memorial for the 25 Soldiers was built, and the Col. Darby 40-Mile / 12-Hour Ranger Road March Challenge stands to this day, a tribute to these brave Soldiers.
Soldiers from 3-10 General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Moun-
tain Division (LI), completed the challenge April 30 in Italy. They were the first to do so while currently assigned to the division.
The group collectively beat the course record by four minutes with a total time of 7 hours, 4 minutes. That averages out to a pace of 10 minutes and 36 seconds per mile throughout the 40 miles along Lake Garda.
"The team feels great about the race and beating the previous military record was a bonus, especially since it was held by a U.S. Air Force service member," said 1st. Sgt. Robert Stephens, first sergeant for B Company, 3-10 GSAB.
"Capt. Kandy Heekin was instrumental in providing ultra-marathon knowledge, and (she) was just awesome in planning all the logistics that made this race a reality," Stephens continued. "She was also the driving force that spurred the team to a strong finish, after around mile 35, when the run became much harder mentally for most of the team."
The team trained for eight weeks leading up to the race in order to prepare for its grueling demands on the body and mind. Most training weeks included 20 to 40 miles of running, but the peak week totaled 60 miles.
Fueling the body while still moving forward was an integral part of the team's strategy. Capt. Mary Schuster, commander of F Company, 3-10 GSAB, served as the team's support along the way. Schuster offered the food, hydration and electrolytes necessary to avoid anyone hitting the dreaded "runner's wall."
Members of the team saw the race as more than just a test of their stamina and ability, and they hope others will too.
"It was the opportunity to commemorate 10th Mountain heritage," Stephens said. "It was an honor to reflect on their sacrifice to our great nation through this unique opportunity. We hope that others see this run as encouragement to always test your physical limits and to always strive to achieve higher goals."
The team was composed of Capt. Kandy Heekin, former commander of B Company, 3-10 GSAB; Capt. Matthew Wright, commander of D Company, 3-10 GSAB; Chief Warrant Officer 4 Chris Zamora, standardization pilot for C Company, 3-10 GSAB; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Caleb Bergeron, test pilot for C Company, 3-10 GSAB; and 1st. Sgt. Robert Stephens.