By Josh Cohen
86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain)
An introduction to unique winter skill sets was provided to soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division from 18-20 Feb. at the Vermont Army National Guard Mountain Warfare School in Jericho, Vt.
Experts from the VTARNG 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) guided squads through exercises specific to operations in a mountainous winter environment.
Soldiers rotated through three training areas including mountain cold weather casualty evacuation, avalanche beacon location, technical ice climbing, and ice rappelling. All skills were taught to Soldiers on an individual basis. Experts also provided training for movement in extreme mountain winter conditions.
According to the Commanding Officer of 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Battalion, 1-87 Infantry, Lt. Col. Joel Kassulke, the specialized training is appreciated, “it is a good time for us, this is different, we operate in mountainous terrain, however it is not like this,” he said.
The training 10th Mountain Division Soldiers receive, such as ice repelling with crampons and ascending vertical ice, “serves to build on existing mountain skills troops already possess,” according to Master Sgt. Bert Severin, a subject matter expert with the 86th IBCT (MTN). During the evolution, Severin provided instruction at the school’s ice wall climbing and rappelling facility. The 86th IBCT (MTN) is the only conventional mountain unit in the U.S. Army.
Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew Bonney noted, “the event expands our craft, it is extreme and focused training in a unique environment.”
Fostering an esprit de corps within the 10th Mountain Division, the Mountain Legacy program is designed to increase support in areas historically relevant to the division. Each year squad-sized teams compete for the opportunity in the division’s annual D-Series competition. Bonney said this year approximately 100 Soldiers ran a nine-mile course with integrated weapon drills. The three top-scoring squads earn the right to participate in Mountain Legacy.
The 10th Mountain Division’s D-Series commemorates a 1944 winter training march in the mountains of Colorado. During the exercise, twelve thousand 10th Mountain Division Soldiers with full pack, skis, and snowshoes reached an altitude of over 13,000 feet while navigating deep snow in below zero temperatures. Mountain Legacy alternates yearly between Vermont and Colorado.