BISUSCHIO, Italy –
No matter what country they serve, the military patrol seems to be a constant for Soldiers in training.
Four U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 2500th Digital Liaison Detachment, 7th Mission Support Command, represented the U.S.A. at the Lombardia Commando Raid Competition held in northern Italy and southern Switzerland, June 14-16.
This was the 33rd year straight that the Italian Army Reserve has organized Lombardia, named for the region of Italy where the military patrol competition takes place. This year, 35 teams of four from seven different countries participated, both active duty and reserve, including the lone U.S. team from the 2500th, based out of Vicenza, Italy, who finished 12th overall.
“I didn’t think it was going to be this challenging,” said Capt. Michael Benjamin, an operations officer with the 2500th DLD and Lombardia U.S. team leader. “I’ve run multiple marathons so I guess I just didn’t take the physical part in to account as much because I thought, I got this, I run all the time - but no, the physical part was demanding.”
Benjamin’s team, including Capt. Shannon Orndorff, Sgt. 1st Class David Albert and Staff Sgt. Ladislav Pecsuk, was on the move for 33 hours with no rest from the start of the weapons range in Switzerland on Friday morning until the end of the patrol in Bisuschio on Saturday evening.
At the range, the teams were scored on firing six different Italian and Swiss weapons, including pistols, machine guns and even a crossbow. They then headed back to Italy for a flag-raising ceremony, a quick dinner and patrol briefings before stepping out at 11 p.m. to start the 28 kilometer trek through the mountainous terrain, stopping at checkpoints along the way to complete warrior tasks and battle drills.
Lombardia was born in the 1980’s as a way to keep the Italian Reserve officer trained, up-to-date and physically fit. Over time, it opened up to every rank, component and even expanded to include NATO countries and beyond, including troops this year from the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Latvia, Switzerland, and Italy, said Italian Army 1st Capt. Maurizio Parolini, a technical staff officer with Lombardia.
“Originally, it was just a one-day event, but then we proposed the night portion in terms of training and orienteering,” said Parolini. “Then we added the weapons competition, parade and awards ceremony.”
During the patrol, the teams received points based on their overall time as well as proficiency of tasks completed at checkpoints, which this year included a regular and timed ruck, first aid evaluations, a building raid and clearing, water crossing, mine sweeping, communications testing and a vehicle search.
“This makes sure it’s not purely physical,” said Parolini. “There’s also a lot of technical skills involved.”
Benjamin said it wasn’t the checkpoints that posed the biggest challenge, but the navigation. The team spent more than four hours between checkpoints Bravo and Charlie during the darkest hours of the night.
“There were a lot of trails that were on the map that weren’t actually there and then a lot of trails that were there that weren’t on the map, so there was a lot of backtracking,” said Benjamin. “So mentally, I think we were all a little rattled, all a little disoriented, it was dark out and we had never really worked together. But once we found Charlie, it was game on.”
Lombardia ended on Sunday with a military parade through the town of Varese, Italy, and a ceremony in the town center to recognize the competition winners and celebrate this Nation-building event.
“We definitely built good relationships with some of the other teams throughout the competition as we looked out for each other about re-looking trail directions and grids,” said Benjamin. “Even at the ceremony, it was cool to see those troops after we were out of the field environment and exchange flags and coins.”
Benjamin hopes with additional awareness and training, more 7th MSC and other U.S. Army Reserve teams will join the competition in the future.
“It would be great to get more teams out here,” he said. “I’m confident if we put the training in that we need to and put a better timeline together, do more rucking and land navigation, we’ll be top five.”