By 1st Lt. FRANK RUSCITO
1st Bn (ABN), 509th Inf Reg
FORT POLK, La. — Fort Polk’s thick undergrowth and murky brown swamps charged to life at first light July 9 as Geronimo paratroopers celebrated their return from summer leave by conducting the famed Yarborough Mile. A long- standing tradition within 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment, this competitive event refocuses paratroopers on their unit mission, builds cohesive teams and invigorates esprit de corps within the battalion.
The Yarborough Mile is a biannual event within the 509th Inf Reg. It is named in honor of Lt. Gen. William P. Yarborough who commanded 1-509th during World War II. The course begins at an inconspicuous drainage culvert on South Fort Polk, quickly drops into the water, and then meanders 3.1 miles through treacherous mud, flowing creeks and thick vegetation until it circles back on itself.
The battalion fielded 11 teams for this iteration. Each team consisted of 18-to-24 paratroopers. At the starting point, teams were issued a 55-gallon drum, two 5-gallon water cans, pickets and training equipment that replicates a shoulder fired rocket, one case of Composition-4 explosives and a replicated mortar round. Teams navigated the course with their assigned items and maintained accountability of personnel and equipment throughout. Judges timed each team and assessed penalties to teams with deficiencies along the way.
While physical stamina and personal grit benefits individuals daring to enter this course, the best performances came from elements demonstrating teamwork, strong leadership and collective will. The Yarborough Mile forces teams to navigate natural obstacles that include fallen trees, deep water, thick mud and dense growth that characterizes the Louisiana bayou. Manmade obstacles included low-crawling under barbed wire.
The “Mile” helps Soldiers mentally and physically by building confidence in each paratrooper that they can endure the harsh elements of Central Louisiana and defeat any foe who contests them at Fort Polk. Leave it to the Army’s “World Class OPFOR” unit to celebrate their return to work by trudging through places others dare not venture.
Able Company, Third Platoon posted a winning time of 31:50. First Lt. Jacob Teeter leads third platoon. Jacob, a native of Los Angeles, California and a graduate of the University of Portland said, “The physical fitness and dedication of this platoon is second to none and this is proven through our back to back wins of the Yarborough Mile.”
Teeter deflected praise, and redirected this accomplishment to his platoon. He remarked, “This win is due to the leadership of the NCOs and the intestinal fortitude of each Geronimo paratrooper.”
Able Company, First Platoon, led by 1st Lt. Tyler Eccles, finished second. Capt. Robert Doyle, Able Company commander, said he expects this kind of performance from his Soldiers. “Able paratroopers commitment to physical fitness and teamwork enabled the success of the entire Company,” he said. “I am proud of each and every Soldier’s performance.”
Yarborough’s name is renowned in airborne and Special Forces communities, primarily from his reputation as a fierce warrior who garnered the trust of Soldiers and leaders who revered his leadership throughout his career. He designed the “Jump Wings” paratroopers wear today and the “Jump Boot” once utilized for combat operations but now more commonly seen as a symbol of the long history of the Airborne Soldier.
He is credited as the “Father of the Modern Green Berets” due to his extensive work as the second commander of what would become the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School and the primary driver behind the official recognition of the Green Beret as the official headgear of the U.S. Army Special Forces.
With the Yarborough Mile complete, Geronimo paratroopers turned their focus immediately towards the next rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk.
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