Trainees toast Infantry brotherhood on Honor Hill
Story and photo by Bridgett Siter/ The Bayonet
FORT BENNING, Ga. (TRADOC News Service, June 29, 2006) -- Long live the brotherhood of the Infantry. Nearly 200 basic training Soldiers drank a toast to the Queen of Battle, the U.S. Army and the people whose freedom it defends Tuesday morning before the sun came up on Sand Hill.
The Infantry Training Brigade's "mighty Delta Dawgs" of the 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment, ended their weeklong end-of-training field exercise at midnight Monday and set out on a 12-mile road march that ended with a ceremonial welcome to the Infantry at Honor Hill. They'll graduate July 7.
Their brothers in arms, Soldiers from companies A and C, lined the last milelong stretch of road leading up to the hill and cheered them on in a traditional "ClapEx," or clap exercise, designed to encourage them "as they make that last hump up that hill," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Murphy.
Drill Sgt. Murphy, of C Company, attended basic training at Fort Benning in 1995, a couple of years before the ClapEx and Honor Hill ceremony was implemented.
"Back then, they didn't care if you made it through basic training or not," he said. "Now it's different. We teach them everything we know, and we keep at it until they get it right. Then they put it all to the test in the field for a week."
It was a rigorous week, and the Soldiers got very little sleep, Murphy said. They conducted several night missions, including urban operations and ambushes, as well as a live-fire exercise, check point operations and fire team field movement.
"And when it's all over, we welcome them to the Infantry," he said. "But first they gotta walk that last mile. That last mile - that was the toughest part of basic."
Resting, with his head on his arms and his butt on the curb, Pvt. Joseph Wolf, of C Company, said he and his buddies woke at 3 a.m., anticipating a 4 a.m. arrival of D Company. As the hour approached 5, they were fighting to stay awake.
Wolf, a 19-year-old Pennsylvania native who joined the Army seeking adventure, participated in a previous ClapEx, so he knew exactly what to expect.
"They've had a hard week, and it all ends right here. They'll walk up this way, and we'll cheer them on," he said. "And I'll be wishing it was me walking up that hill. I'm looking forward to it."
Straight across from Wolf, another C Company Soldier rolled off the curb and started doing push ups to the cadence of Army values.
"Personal courage" ...
"You can't wait another hour for PT, man?" somebody grumbled. "I'm not even awake, yet."
Here comes D Company. They were heard, long before they were seen, chanting "too easy, too easy, too easy." The guys on the curb jumped to their feet and started clapping.
An hour before sunrise, the Delta Dawgs rounded the bend, still too far away to see in the dark, chem lights bouncing against their chests.
In a matter of minutes, they crested the hill, took a sharp left on a torch-lined lane, and entered the fortress of Honor Hill through two huge wooden doors bearing crossed rifles.
Above them is an arch inscribed with the words, "From this gate emerge the finest Soldiers the world has ever known. Follow Me." And below that, the words, "Fortes Fortuna Juvat" - Fortune Favors the Bold.
"That's what we're doing here, making a bold statement," said Col. Scott Henry, the ITB commander. "We've revised and revived the Honor Hill ceremony recently, because we needed a bolder way to welcome these new Infantrymen. I think we've done that."
Packed inside the fortress, the Soldiers stood in formation and drank toasts of grog, scooped from a smoking cauldron near the gate, to their predecessors, their country and their brotherhood. A row of torches, representing the wars the U.S. has fought, provided a backdrop for the official party, including 1st Sgt. Michael White, of D Company.
"Welcome to the brotherhood of the Infantry," White said, as the Soldiers were pinned with gold, crossed rifle buttons.
"The Infantry's job is to seek out and destroy the enemies of this nation. That is now your mission."