Home : News
NEWS | Sept. 17, 2012

Vermont ANG duo are first Americans to graduate Spanish mountain-warfare school

By Vermont National Guard

JACA, Spain - Two Vermont Army National Guard Soldiers recently became the first Americans to attend and graduate the Spanish Mountain Warfare School in Jaca, Spain.

The Spanish military invited the U.S. to send Soldiers to increase cooperation between the United States military and the Spanish ilitary and to exchange knowledge in mountain warfare.

Sgt. 1st Class Duncan Domey, an instructor at the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School, of Wilmont, N.H., and Sgt. Zechariah Burke, a team leader for Blackjack Troop, 1-172nd Cavalry Regiment, of Bennington, Vt., were both selected to attend the seven-month course.

"Both soldiers were chosen based on their maturity, professionalism, and military mountaineering experience," said Major Justin Davis, the Army Mountain Warfare School commander.

The course started on Jan.10 and was structured in two main phases with Domey and Burke training alongside Spanish soldiers and enduring the extreme environment of the Pyrenees Mountain Range.

The 267-mile Pyrenees Mountain Range divides France and Spain with peaks reaching well over 11,000 feet. The Atlantic Ocean pushes cool moist air through the western edge of the range, dropping large amounts of snow during winter with the average temperature at 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

The first phase of the course is conducted during the winter where the culminating event is five days spent in the mountains. The soldiers learn to ski at an instructor level and carry 100-pound rucksacks, often while skiing. They do all this while braving the freezing climate.

The second phase or summer phase tests soldiers mentally and teaches them how to conduct rescue procedures by setting up different systems with ropes and pulleys. They learn basic self rescue and finish the course being able to conduct a high-angle rescue where they are able to raise and lower a victim to safety in rugged terrain, using rope systems.

The Escuela Militar de Montaña y Operaciones Especiales or EMMOE, is known worldwide to hold high standards for its military mountaineering course.

Representatives of the EMMOE, the Military Mountain and Special Operations School, said "the training achieved a higher level of efficiency based on a rigorous evaluation system to verify each student’s true level of preparation."

Having successfully completed the course, Domey and Burke have earned the right to wear the Spanish Mountain Warfare Device on their Army uniform.

"The Spanish Mountaineering Course was a good course and being able to leave the course at an instructor’s level will not only benefit my unit but also the military," Burke said.