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NEWS | Feb. 8, 2019

U.S. Army Reserve unit climbs Mount Alpini alongside Italian 6th Alpini Regiment

By Capt. Doug Magill, 7th Mission Support Command Public Affairs 2500th Digital Liaison Detachment

The 2500th Digital Liaison Detachment conducted a winter training exercise with the 6th Alpini Regiment to enhance team building, gain expertise in winter survival, and to build interoperability with their Italian partners, Jan. 11-13, 2019. 

The U.S. Army Reserve detachment conducted the event — “Operation Mount Alpini” – as its monthly training requirement for January 2019.

The unit climbed more than 800 meters, Saturday, Jan. 12, at a distance of five miles in just more than seven hours, reaching Refugio peak just outside of Wiessenbach, Italy.

“The anticipation leading up to this battle assembly was nerve racking,” said Staff Sgt. Rachel Martinez. “I was experiencing some stress, as I was unsure of what we would be executing. However, I was excited and looking forward to the adventure. This pushed me outside of my comfort zone. On arrival day we learned that we would be snowshoeing! I was relieved as the alternate training involved skiing. I knew snowshoeing was strenuous, but I was confident I could execute.”

Twenty two Soldiers from the 2500th DLD deployed from Longare, Italy, Friday, Jan. 11 2019 and traveled three hours north to the 6th Alpini Regiment headquarters in Bruneck, Italy. Once on ground, barracks rooms were assigned and the unit received lunch at the Italian Mensa. The unit then met the 6th Alpini team leaders and received a briefing on the regiment’s capabilities, cold weather survival instruction, and the training plan for the following day. The Soldiers then drew snowshoes and equipment for the following day’s training. 

The unit woke the next morning to -7 degrees Celsius temperatures, ate breakfast at the Italian Mensa, and received its final briefing from the 6th Alpini team leaders. The team leaders discussed proper use of snowshoe equipment and techniques for trekking up the mountain. After the brief, the unit traveled 40 minutes to the Rio Bianco Base Camp. Soldiers started their ascent to the summit at 9:30 a.m. Many Soldiers soon realized this was not going to be an easy task. 

“Climbing the mountain was intense, and definitely not the level I would have chosen for my first snowshoe experience,” Martinez said. “But it builds character and tested my patience, will, and persistence. 

The unit climbed 2.6 miles and more than 2,600 feet, reaching the peak at approximately 1:00 p.m., where it spent the next 90 minutes outside of a small refuge taking in the view from the peak. 

The unit ate MREs, changed wet socks, and dried out cold weather gear. The 6th Alpini team leaders provided training on avalanche rescue and building a snow shelter. 

“During the demanding seven-hour hike, there was no negative commentary, no competitive atmosphere, no boasting,” Martinez said. “We as a unit embraced the challenge and beat the mountain.” 

Other members of the unit said the experience made for the most physically challenging battle assembly in memory. 

“January battle assembly was the most physically challenging schedule in my 10-year tenure with the unit,” said Staff Sgt. Ladislav Pecsuk. “As a detachment, we demonstrated teamwork way out of our elements and excelled expectations from many. Navigating through deep snow over 2.7 miles one way, climbing over 800 meters in altitude made us stronger and more vigilant. Land navigation and techniques of survival in a mountainous region really improved our cold weather knowledge.” 

Martinez credited a pre-existing positive work environment and strong morale to the group’s ability to meet the challenge and said that the experience further strengthened the morale and working relationships within the unit.

At the conclusion, the unit returned to the town of Bruneck and ate a South Tyrol-inspired dinner. On the final day, the unit held a formation and presented a gift to the battalion commander and Alpini team leaders in appreciation of their partnership.