By Army Sgt. Ashley Hayes
86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
JERICHO, Vt. (4/10/13) - His smile widens as he recollects his most fond memory; one that journeys all the way to the top of the Italian Alps. The official destination of his first flight and first time out of the country. The opportunity to travel to Italy and work with the Alpini troops was a fantastic experience and set the tone for 28 more years of dedicated service to his country.
This is how Staff Sgt. David T. Rondeau, a Mountain Infantry Soldier with Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), described his first over-seas mission. Rondeau, a logger, has spent all of his years of service with one unit.
Throughout the last 30 years, Rondeau has demonstrated loyalty, developed a rich history, and considers his unit part of his family.
Right from the beginning, Rondeau knew Alpha Company was a perfect match for him because it was the only mountain infantry unit in the state. “It’s a special company, it’s an elite unit,” said Rondeau. “It’s a little hard for me to leave. I don’t want to leave. It’s not just a Guard unit, it’s been my home for 30 years.”
Rondeau described the unit as having strong camaraderie and as the best unit in the world.
Many of his military colleagues recognize his loyalty. One of those Soldiers is Command Sgt. Maj. Forrest Glodgett, the state of Vermont command sergeant major. Glodgett met Rondeau in 1986 when he was a squad leader in Alpha Company.
“He is the epitome of a mountain infantry Soldier,” said Glodgett. “You couldn’t ask for a better soldier, because he’s there when you want him to be and when he needs to be. You wish that all your Soldiers had loyalty like that.”
Rondeau’s lengthy service has given him the opportunity to create part of the Vermont National Guard’s history. Rondeau was among the first class to go through the Army Mountain Warfare School.
“They were still writing the book at that time,” Rondeau said.
For two years after attending the summer and winter phases, Rondeau worked at the school as an assistant instructor.
Not only was Rondeau part of the foundation of the Mountain School, but he was also the first soldier fresh out of basic training to join Alpha company, and was an integral part of the unit’s growth. Rondeau remembered helping train some of the men who had joined the unit because they were from different backgrounds.
“They weren’t infantry, they didn’t know how to deal with taking apart an M16,” said Rondeau. “I was actually training them as a private.”
The more that is known about Rondeau’s service with the Vermont National Guard, the more history is unraveled.
“They are losing such a piece of history, because he just saw it from the beginning,” said Glodgett.
Since Rondeau has spent many years with one unit, he considers it to be part of his family.
“They made me who I am, that’s why I stayed so long,” said Rondeau. “I’d do it all again. I can’t think of anything else I would have done different.”
Despite the tough aspects of infantry life, Rondeau had nothing but good things to say about his experiences.
“A lot of people will complain of bad stuff,” said Rondeau. “There are so many good times and adventure that it overshadows the bad times. The only bad thing now is that I have to leave.”
Rondeau’s advice to younger soldiers who may soon be taking over his position was a statement that reflected his experiences as a Soldier.“I would tell them to experience everything they could as far as what the unit has to offer as far as schools, like the mountain school itself, the training,” said Rondeau. “Don’t just come to drill and sit back; get involved. Push for more training, push to go places, that’s the biggest thing. I thank the Guard for everything, especially this unit, for everything I’ve gone through in the past 30 years.”