Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn
2nd Brigade Combat Team PAO NCOIC
More than 300 2nd Brigade Combat Team senior leaders making up 28 teams pooled their knowledge and experience to complete tasks at six stations during Commando Avalanche, which took place June 16-19.
The purpose of the event was to foster esprit de corps and cultivate an environment of mentally resilient and physically strong leaders while celebrating 2nd BCT history. Each 10- to 12-member team was composed of senior leadership from a variety of disciplines who represented each battalion.
When Col. David Doyle took command in January, he brought with him a leadership methodology he would like to instill on the whole Commando team, beginning at the top. Along with each battalion’s senior leadership, Doyle set out to develop a vision for what 2nd BCT is about and why the organization is distinct and different from other brigades.
“One of the things we said is ‘the whole is greater than the sum of our parts.’ So this event stresses individuals to see how much they depend on other elements,” he explained. “Each lane is designed to showcase not just the history but the capability of our units, and by doing them all together, our Soldiers and our leaders grow to appreciate how dependent upon one another they are.
“If they realize that, they are more inclined to work together to be successful in whatever mission we are directed to accomplish,” he added.
It took most of the teams more than three hours to complete the five-mile course. With each station, team members had to rely on each other’s abilities to accomplish tasks that simulated a significant time in history for each of the six battalions.
Teams began their foot march with a Zodiac boat on their back for 500 meters. The event simulated the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, river mission in which Soldiers captured and secured the Yusifiyah Power plant during their 2004 deployment in Iraq.
An 18-foot rope climb at 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment’s station paled in comparison to the Polar Bears’ courageous efforts to take Pork Chop Hill during the Korean War. In 1953, they used grappling hooks and ropes to get up the steep terrain and suffered more than 80 percent casualties.
“In order to know where you are going, you must always remember where you came from,” said Sgt. 1st Class Hector Gonzalez, a Polar Bear since 2009, who hopes the participants appreciate the struggles their predecessors went through and how much they depended on each other.
Down the road, at 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment’s station, the team re-enacted the day in which Staff Sgt. Herschel F. Briles earned the Medal of Honor in 1944 by selflessly leaving secure cover to help wounded Soldiers while under constant fire. The team rescued a casualty from a destroyed vehicle and set up defensive firing positions.
At 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment’s station, technical expertise was needed to accu- rately set deflection and quadrant elevation on a howitzer for a fire mission to simulate two firing records 15th FA set during the Korean War – records they hold to this day. If team members were unable to complete the fire mission, they were required to rotate the howitzer 360 degrees.
To remember 2nd Brigade Support Battalion’s history as a medical battalion that provided support on the Italian Peninsula during World War II, the teams had to drag several casualties 100 meters on a Skedco rescue system.
The last station was manned by 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion. With a relatively short history, the battalion has provided support by way of engineers, military intelligence and signal in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The event here was to move four logs 300 meters to make a road obstacle and set up an OE-254 antenna and send up a SALUTE report in 15 minutes.
It was not all about which team was the fastest or which team completed a task with the most proficiency; it was about bridging the gaps between all six battalions through teamwork, camaraderie and relationship building.
“This is a good baseline for building our relationships, and when you deploy, you have trust in your buddies,” said Capt. Gilbert Pearsall, commander for Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1-89 Cavalry. “Getting to know those guys (before you deploy) is important, because you may need their expertise, their support or their personnel. It’s all about building relationships; the biggest thing in the Army is building trust.”
At the end of each day, participants who completed the course each received a Commando Avalanche certificate from Doyle and Command Sgt Maj. Hector Font, senior enlisted adviser for 2nd BCT.
“I hope you learned today, going out to those events, that our team is made up of all these amazing organizations that perform specific functions and we depend on one another,” Doyle said. “I hope you all got a chance to meet some people you don’t normally work with or maybe you don’t see on a day-to-day basis, and you understand that our organization is made up of highly competent, highly skilled, motivated Soldiers.”