Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, traversed the Franklin Mountains on the Aca,!A"Transmountain ShuffleAca,!A? team-building excursion days before their Iraq deployment.

Aca,!A"The Transmountain Shuffle gives members of the Highlander Brigade an opportunity to experience a part of El Paso not seen by many,Aca,!A? said Maj. John Pirog, brigade executive officer. Aca,!A"Adventure physical training builds camaraderie and confidence in Soldiers.Aca,!A?

More than 20 participants assembled at McKelligon Canyon at 5 a.m. Thursday to ride in vans to SmugglerAca,!a,,cs Pass on Transmountain Road. The one-way drive required Soldiers to complete the Transmountain Shuffle on foot to return to their cars.

Before dawn, and with wind gusts reaching 35 miles per hour, climbers traveled along the Ron Coleman trail beginning with a steep ascent toward the 7,200-foot South Franklin Peak. The entire trek along the craggy path, lined with prickly pear cactus and yucca plants, was nearly five miles and finished at McKelligon Canyon.
Aca,!A"It was hard, but fun,Aca,!A? said Staff Sgt. Masaga Helton, brigade legal noncommissioned officer in charge, whose experience on the mountain was her first.

Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cm glad I participated,Aca,!A? added Helton, a native of Detroit.

Portions of the trail are rated Class 4, meaning falls could be fatal, according to the Yosemite Decimal System. Climbers negotiated a 30-foot, near-vertical wall halfway through the trail.

Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs a smoker,Aca,!A? said Pirog.

The trail provided a vantage point to view east and west El Paso from more than a mile high.

Aca,!A"The Franklin Mountains provide a great opportunity for families,Aca,!A? said Maj. Lance Varney, brigade operations officer. Aca,!A"For many decades, Fort Bliss Soldiers have trained on these rugged mountains.Aca,!A?

The fastest Highlanders scrambled through the trail in three hours. By 9:30 a.m., everyone was finished and prepared to resume their respective duties at East Fort Bliss.

Aca,!A"If youAca,!a,,cve completed the McKelligon Canyon run, your next challenge is the Transmountain Shuffle,Aca,!A? said Maj. Travis James, brigade logistics officer.

Pirog started the Transmountain Shuffle in October 2006 as a way to build teamwork for the staff of 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, prior to their deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom III. In March 2008, he led the staff of 1st Bn., 77th Armor Regt., on the journey when he was their operations officer.

Aca,!A"I hope the tradition of the Transmountain Shuffle continues after I leave,Aca,!A? said Pirog. Aca,!A"I recommend it to other units on Fort Bliss for team building.Aca,!A?