JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Not too far from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., the 87th Mountain Regiment began training at Mount Rainier, almost 60 years ago, as the U.S. Army’s first mountain unit; today, the 10th Mountain Division carries on the torch as the Army’s premier mountain unit.
Some of the original members of the regiment, now part of the 10th Mountain Division, came together for a luncheon held by the Mount Rainier chapter of the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division, Inc. at Russell Landing on JBLM, Aug. 10.
During the luncheon, members of 1st Special Forces Group and 2nd Battalion 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division had an opportunity to present several static displays to the WWII veterans, the veteran’s family members and guests.
As the only mountaineers at Fort Lewis, Wash., the soldiers of 1st Group carry on the traditions of the Army’s first mountain infantry regiment. “We wanted to come out here and show the 10th Mountain WWII veterans our modern military mountaineering capabilities,” said Staff Sgt. Nick Taitano, 1st Group.
These demonstrations consisted of showing the WWII veterans gear that is currently used in the Army for mountain climbing and skiing, as well as the equipment that keeps the modern Soldier warm in extreme cold temperatures.
“The troops you saw today, I can sincerely say are the best of the best,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Frank A. Grippe, I Corps, during his speech at the luncheon.
Though the location of the battle and the equipment used to fight it has changed, values and standards of the soldier remain the same.
The soldiers you interacted with today are your everyday line soldiers, Grippe indicated. They weren’t handpicked for these positions; they are the best because of their tireless work ethic, determination to be the best and enthusiasm for the rich history of the unit they proudly serve in.
Impressed by the soldiers demonstrations and military knowledge, the WWII veterans and family members weren’t the only ones who left the event with an increased appreciation of what the Army’s first mountain unit has evolved into.
“Without these veterans we wouldn’t have the jobs we do today,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Legeer, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment; 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. “They made the country what it is today and without them, we wouldn’t be here. It was great to be able to represent a Stryker Brigade Combat Team to the veterans and show them how we take the fight to the enemy.”
Before the 10th Mountain Division was activated in 1943, the Army was already considering developing a mountain unit after Finnish soldiers on skis defeated two soviet armored divisions during their invasion of Finland in November 1939. With this in mind, the 87th Mountain Regiment was activated Dec. 8, 1941, at Fort Lewis. After fighting in the Aleutian Islands Campaign at the Battle of Kiska Island, the unit moved to Camp Hale, Colo. in 1943 for further training and conditioning at higher altitudes and to join the newly constituted 10th Mountain Division.