News: USARAK Denali climber profile: 1st Sgt. Tom Dow
Story by Staff Sgt. Patricia McMurphy
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Jumping out of airplanes was a lifelong dream and joining the Army as an infantry was a means to achieving that dream for 1st Sgt. Tom Dow.
The Cortland, N.Y., native said when he decided to join the Army he wanted to join the infantry .
“I wanted that because they wouldn’t give me airborne without being 11B,” he said.
Before long, Dow was airborne qualified and glad to have gotten the opportunity to do so.
In August 2011, Dow, along with his wife and three children were stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Dow was hand-picked by the U.S. Army Alaska command sergeant major and deputy commander to become the first sergeant for the Northern Warfare Training Center.
Being an avid hunter and fisherman, the NWTC seemed to be a good fit for Dow.
Dow said he didn’t have a lot of experience with climbing or cold-weather training prior to joining the NWTC, but said it has been amazing being the school’s highest-ranking non-commissioned officer.
“It’s very rewarding,” Dow said. “Training and helping so many soldiers to understand and be able to deliver the skills necessary in the cold and in the mountains - It’s pretty awesome.”
Dow will soon be putting his skills and training to a new task that he says “will solidify [the NWTCs] ability to teach.”
Dow, a team of NWTC instructors and three soldiers from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, will now put their skills to the ultimate test as they attempt to summit the tallest mountain in Northern America this month.
With a peak at 20,000 feet above sea level, Mount McKinley is at least two times higher than any mountain Dow and most of his team ever attempted.
Like most of the team members, Dow said he wanted to do this for the challenge.
“One of the biggest challenges is running out of energy,” Dow said.
“All of the (physical training) will benefit us,” Dow said. “As you go up [the mountain], the harder it gets.”
Each team member will be carrying up to 140 pounds of equipment for their climb.
Some of the gear will be on sleds and the rest will be on their backs, according to Dow. He said they have been training up for this by completing numerous, long movements through the snow and PT.
“Getting everybody to work as a cohesive unit - that will be tested out there,” Dow said.
Dow said even though reaching the summit is a goal for the team, the main mission is already a success.
“Reinvigorating the expert skills the instructors need to be good at their job, and getting expert skills of arctic and cold weather skills operations into the formation of the brigade,” Dow said, was one the real goals behind the mission.
“Once these soldiers go back to their units they will be masters at winter camping skills, and operating and moving on glaciers and mountainous terrain,” Dow said. “All the other units will have a subject-matter expert.”
“It really provides a skill set to that organization.” Dow said. “And it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – it will go a long way for them.”
Dow said taking part in the climb is his duty as the NWTC first sergeant.