Geronimos traverse swampland, experience esprit de corps
FORT POLK, LA — Members of Fort Polk's 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment gathered April 26 to pay homage to a guiding force that once walked within their ranks. While sharing some down time, getting dirty and pitting teams against one another in a battle of brains and brawn, Geronimos participated in the Yarborough Mile - the first within-the-battalion competition held since January 2011.
The Yarborough Mile is named for U.S. Army officer and West Point graduate Lt. Gen. William P. Yarborough who had an illustrious career with airborne forces. Military Intelligence Hall of Famer Yarborough, known as the "Father of the Green Berets," designed "jump wings" - a parachutist badge earned after five combat jumps. This pioneer of Special Forces tactics planned the first combat airborne assault during World War II and served as the first commander of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
The course, just shy of 3 miles, began on one side of a culvert and extended through the wooded area across from the intersection of Bellrichard and Texas Avenue.
With an ammo crate, two dummy mortar rounds, medical bag and one High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle tire in tow, Soldiers exited the culvert and hit the ground running - tramping through murky Louisiana water, marshy undergrowth and low crawling under barbed wire as they traveled the route as quickly as possible. Teams, consisting of 22-30 members each, raced against the clock to negotiate obstacles along the course and maintain accountability of personnel and equipment, all the while demonstrating Geronimo esprit de corps.
Before the start of the task, Chap. (Capt.) Brian Hargis asked, "Who's going to win today?" "We're all winners," came out of the crowd; a round of laughs followed.
The team-building exercise instigates healthy competition according to more than one participant.
"The task is great for morale and unit cohesion," said Staff Sgt. Eric Hayes, who helped lay out the course. "Our opposing forces Soldiers spend a
lot of time training other Soldiers. With this mission, Geronimos test their own abilities."
"This exercise brings out the best in everyone," said Spc. David Moorhead, Headquarters and Headquarters Company mortars and reconnaissance team member. "It builds morale, promotes camaraderie and creates good, healthy competition within the battalion."
According to the Army Historical Foundation, the Joint Readiness Training Center's OPFOR unit - the 1st Bn (ABN), 509th Inf Reg - provides the most realistic and intense warfighting training to light infantry and special operations forces in the Army.
"Today's competition is a great change up from being in the field doing OPFOR," said Sgt. Ryan Keller, who has participated in the event previously. "It feels good to get out there again and bring back a solid tradition."
HHC's "MorCon" team - consisting of members from the mortars and reconnaissance sections - beat out the other nine groups during the day's
competition with a time of 37 minutes, 15 seconds. They will earn a spot on the Yarborough Mile plaque. Second place went to 1st Platoon, Alpha Company with a time of 37:34. 1st Platoon, Bravo Company took third with 39:40.