Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Commando Avalanche recalls history, trains leaders

By Spec. Jennie Burrett
2nd Brigade Combat Team Journalist

Heritage, tradition and values tie into the military life of a Soldier.
This was demonstrated when the leadership in 2nd Brigade Combat Team conducted a team building exercise call Commando Avalanche March 27. This exercise involved a six-mile road march with stations along the route that required the leaders to answer questions about each battalion in the brigade.
“The purpose of this event is to lengthen the roots of this BCT into its rich and proud history,” said Col. David Miller, the brigade commander. “As we reset, this is the right time to gain and maintain contact with out history and fellow leaders within the brigade.”
This type of event was started by the first commander of 2nd BCT, Col. Michael Plummer. The tradition continues.
The intent of Commando Avalanche is team building, tradition and Esprit de Core,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Mahoney, the senior noncommissioned office of 2nd BCT. “The leadership has come closer to each other and has learned more about each other as well as themselves.”
There are different opinions on what was achieved by the event.
“This event was similar to other events I have participated in where the unit pride is stressed as well as challenging the soldier no matter the rank,” said Capt. Edward Walter, company commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT. “Commando Avalanche helped to foster personal and professional achievement that we can pass on to our younger Soldiers.”
Another opinion was offered by another company commander.
“This team building exercise helped reinforce our focus in the brigade after the return from the deployment,” said Capt. John Lamkin, the commander of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. “It was good to get with all the other leaders from the other battalions.”
Seven teams participated in the course; members from each battalion were on every team. Each battalion set up a station that was unique to them. When the group made it to the stations they were required to answer questions on that particular battalion history.
“My favorite station was 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, because while I am a brigade staff officer, the short time I spent a 2-15 station reminded me that I am at heart an artilleryman,” said Maj. Brett Kessler, the brigade fire support officer. “The 2-15 station, like all stations, had two parts. In answering the questions, I recalled with ease the cumulative number of rounds fired and Lt. Durham’s action in Vietnam, for which he was awarded a Medal of Honor.”
Second Lt. Harold Durham was serving with C Btry., 6th Bn., 15th Artillery Regiment, 1st Inf. Div. in 1967, and requested artillery when his unit was in danger of being overrun, saving the lives of many of his comrades. Despite mortal wounds, he continued calling in fire and alerted other Soldiers to infiltrating Viet Cong.
“The second part required us to spin a M119A2 Howitzer 360 degrees and reestablish a good site picture in preparation for firing — no easy task on uneven, frozen snow with no trail handspike,” Kessler said.
Different activities offered something for everyone.
“I liked the Brigade Support Battalion’s station. The task was to simulate transporting a casualty up a hill and back down, while wearing a silly little hat,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Sterling, acting first sergeant of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT. “That was fun”
This road march and stations were designed to challenge physically and mentally.
“I thought the BSB station was the best because it was a good physical challenge dragging someone up the hill on a sled,” said Lamkin. “The helmets were a nice touch.”
After the road march the next phase of Commando Avalanche was appearing before a board of brigade and battalion commanders and sergeants major. Here they asked a series of questions of each team. In this part of Commando Avalanche the board looked at each teams performance at the road march portion and the board questions and determined if the teams were worthy of being Commandos.
Once the teams were deemed worthy, the last part of the event was a grog ceremony to induct all the leadership into the Commandos.
“In a Commando I want to see them demonstrate and enforce standards,” said Miller. “I also want them to have the desire to live up to the Soldiers before them.”

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