Fort Bragg paratroopers ruck marched through the chilly January night in remembrance of their battalion’s fallen heroes and in honor of their distinguished heritage.
Paratroopers from the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conducted the inaugural “Vandervoort Mile” overnight from Jan. 24 to 25.
“We’ve never done this before and you are starting a new tradition in the battalion. We are calling this the Vandervoort Mile and we want this to be a special event,” said Lt. Col. Graham White, the 2nd Bn., 505th PIR’s commander in his briefing to the paratroopers.
From their battalion’s headquarters, 297 volunteers from the battalion began the 25.05 road march with their weapon, body armor and packing list around 7 p.m. Jan. 24. Along the route, leaders read vignettes highlighting historical events, past conflicts and elements of soldiering to participants as temperatures fell below freezing.
“We want you to have decided to take part in this because you are part of the team, you want to sacrifice for the team, you want to honor the past, you want to prove yourself and you want to fight,” said White.
The ruck march commemorated the legacy of Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort, commander of the 2nd Bn., 505th PIR when it participated in the D-Day parachute assault into Normandy, France, ultimately breaking his ankle upon landing. Despite the pain, Vandervoort led the battalion through fierce fighting and the defense of the French town of St. Mere Eglise against vicious Nazi counter-attacks.
While commemorating the battalion’s distinguished history, the paratroopers also ruck marched in honor of the battalion’s fallen; 186 in World War II, one in the Dominican Republic during Operation Power Pack, 56 as part of the Golden Brigade in Vietnam, 22 during the Global War on Terror and eight paratroopers killed in training.
The first 2nd Bn., 505th PIR paratroopers completed the “Vandervoort Mile” at 4:30 a.m. Jan. 25; taking a total of nine and a half hours to complete the teambuilding event. Two hundred and seventy-one finished the 25.05 mile trek and signed their names into a special ledger, solidifying their legacy in the battalion’s history.