FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 23, 2021) -- When Soldiers of the newly formed 10th Mountain Division were conducting specialized winter training at Camp Hale, Colorado, in 1942, they would often play instruments and make up songs to entertain themselves in the barracks at night.
From these jam sessions, “90 Pounds of Rucksack” became a signature song across the division.
Sepp Scanlin, 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum director, said that, after the war, the song didn’t lose traction.
“The original song is a huge part of the World War II generation – they sang it at all the 10th Mountain Division reunions and get-togethers,” he said. “There was even an album made of their ski songs during the war. The descendants group is also well familiar with the song from their fathers’ time at reunions and trips back to Italy.”
Today, members of the 10th Mountain Division Band recorded a modern-day version of “90 Pounds of Rucksack” to pay tribute to Mountaineers – both past and present.
Cpl. Nicholas Smith, 10th Mountain Division Band musician, wrote new lyrics and arranged the music in the style of a barbershop quartet.
“I had personally never arranged in this style before, but I was familiar enough with what it was so I only had to do a little bit of research and studying on it before getting to work on the arrangement,” Smith said.
Smith said he was looking for an opportunity to honor the division’s proud history through music, when 1st Sgt. Alexis Sprakties, 10th Mountain Division Band first sergeant, presented him with the idea.
He wrote from the perspective of someone who knew, or was related to, a WWII-era ski trooper, while also recognizing the “Mountain Tough” Soldiers of today’s light infantry division.
“I really enjoyed the process,” Smith said. “It was a fun way to improve my skills in composition and arranging.”
Staff Sgt. Robert Carmical, 10th Mountain Division Band public affairs noncommissioned officer and trombone player, helped him wordsmith the lyrics.
“Smith did the lion’s share of the work, and he did an amazing job,” he said. “It’s very difficult to make words work with the music because you really have to think about the number of syllables and word choice. He also had to think about the content, the theme and the spirit we were trying to capture.”
The song was performed by band members Sgt. Benjamin Garnett, Sgt. Jeremy Gorman, Spc. Alexus Monroe and Spc. Toney Williams, and the video was produced by Spc. Pierre Osias, from the 27th Public Affairs Detachment.
“It exceeded my wildest expectations,” Scanlin said. “It kept the tune and the spirit of the original, but the new lyrics pay tribute to the WWII generation while still highlighting what it means to be a 10th Mountain Division Soldier today. They all did an incredible job.”
And there are two more videos on the way, leading up to a band concert later this year that will tell the 10th Mountain Division story through music.
“What we want to do with both the videos and the concert is to honor the spirit of the 10th Mountain Division, and bridge the gap between the proud lineage and service of those World War II Soldiers who served in the division and the modern light infantry Soldiers that are currently here,” Carmical said. “That’s a fundamental part of our mission – to capture the spirit of the fighting men and women who we serve and then share that with the community both on and off post.”
The video made its debut April 20 on the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/FortDrumMuseum. To learn more about the 10th Mountain Division Band, visit www.facebook.com/10thMtnDivBand/.