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Vermont National Guard teaches winter mountain skills

By Joint Force Headquarters - Vermont National Guard | Feb. 22, 2021

JERICHO, Vt. - Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division were introduced to unique winter skills Feb. 18-20 at the Vermont Army National Guard Mountain Warfare School.

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 mountain cold weather casualty evacuation, avalanche beacon location, technical ice climbing, and ice rappelling.

Lt. Col. Joel Kassulke, commanding officer of 10th Mountain Division's 1st Battalion, 1-87 Infantry, said the specialized training was appreciated.

"It is a good time for us," he said. "This is different. We operate in mountainous terrain; however, it is not like this."

The training 10th Mountain Division Soldiers receive, such as ice rappelling with crampons and ascending vertical ice, "serves to build on existing mountain skills troops already possess," according to Master Sgt. Bert Severin with the 86th IBCT (MTN), the only conventional mountain unit in the U.S. Army.

"The event expands our craft," said Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew Bonney. "It is extreme and focused training in a unique environment."

The Mountain Legacy program is designed to increase support in areas historically relevant to the 10th Mountain Division. Each year squad-sized teams compete for the opportunity in the division's D-Series competition. This year, approximately 100 Soldiers ran a nine-mile course with integrated weapon drills. The three top-scoring squads earned the right to participate in Mountain Legacy.

The D-Series commemorates a 1944 winter training march in the mountains of Colorado. During the exercise, 12,000 of the 10th Mountain Division Soldiers with full packs, skis and snowshoes reached an altitude of over 13,000 feet while navigating deep snow in subzero temperatures. Mountain Legacy alternates yearly between Vermont and Colorado.

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