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Army Touches Down at Ranger School for Training Mission

10th Mountain Division ‘secures’ Cathedral Rock

Army team training at the Ranger School

By Claire B. Dunn
ESF News Services

Arriving in Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters, several hundred members of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division dropped onto the campus of the ESF Ranger School this winter before sprinting into the forest toward the School's iconic Cathedral Rock. They scaled the rock face while the sound of artillery boomed in the woods around them. They secured Cathedral Rock. Mission accomplished.

Then they returned to their base with a winter training exercise in the books.

"They've been trained in all these skills," said Dr. Michael Bridgen, director of the Ranger School. "The Army wanted to set up a simulated situation for them so they could have the actual experience of going into a mountainous area at night, in the winter, and solving whatever challenges arose."

The soldiers, known as the "Catamounts," are part of the 2nd Battalion 87th infantry stationed at Fort Drum, about 55 miles west of the Ranger School campus in Wanakena, New York. Bridgen said that Lt. Col. Chris Hammonds, the troops' commanding officer at Fort Drum, had enjoyed a family hike on the Ranger School property several months earlier, assessed the terrain as suitable for a training exercise, and followed up through official channels to get approval. It was the first time in memory that such an event occurred at the Ranger School.

The troops focused on "capturing" Cathedral Rock, a high point on the 2,800-acre property and a popular hiking destination. Simulated artillery noise echoed through the School's Dubuar Memorial Forest to create the atmosphere of a real military experience.

Bridgen said Ranger School students gathered to watch the helicopters land in clouds of snow.

"They felt pride that the Ranger School was offering this service to the Army," he said. "We have strong ties to the military. A lot of our students have served in the Armed Forces, and a lot of our graduates go into other law enforcement work, serving as environmental conservation police officers and the like."

Bridgen credited the School's physical plant staff with keeping forest roads plowed and passable in the event a real emergency occurred and help was needed.

The training took place over a three-day period the last week in January.