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‘Longknife’ leaders pay tribute to D-Day

By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire | 2ND ABCT PUBLIC AFFAIRS | August 14, 2014

During the darkest part of the night before the most famed amphibious assault in history, armed only with knives, their training and their wits, two troopers with the 4th Cavalry Regiment swam 100 meters from their small rubber boat onto one of the St. Marcouf Islands, just off of Utah Beach in Normandy, France.

Cpl. Harvey Olson, Pvt. Thomas Killeran and others with the 4th and 24th Cavalry Regiments were among the very first seaborne American Soldiers on French soil on D-Day. Their mission, which they successfully carried out, was to mark the island’s beach and detect any anti-tank or anti-personnel mines before signaling ships from the main assault force. Olson and Killeran, who each received a Silver Star for their efforts on D-Day, have since died, though the memory of their achievement is enshrined in their award citations, as well as the 4th Cavalry Regiment’s history.

In honor of the operation, officers and senior noncommissioned officers with the 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division participated in a group physical training session July 17 at Fort Riley. Those who participated seemed to come away with a greater understanding of their unit and the legacy that represents today.

“Before we took off, we did a rundown of the history of the St. Marcouf operation from D-Day,” said Capt. David McCrery, intelligence officer, 5th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt. “I think it’s important for Soldiers now to know what those who came before them in this regiment have done and work to live up to that tradition.”

Teams of two to three Soldiers, consisting of command teams, platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, staff section officers and enlisted leaders, biked about half a mile, before doing 54 air squats, and then running up and then down a steep incline, doing 54 pushups along the way. The number of squats and pushups were a reminder of the unit’s nomenclature – 5th Squadron of the 4th Cavalry Regiment.

Finally, the teams reversed their run, did more air squats and biked to the finish line.

“At first, I didn’t know what to expect, and I thought it was going to be pretty simple, but it was a real challenge,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ezra Glover, maintenance platoon sergeant, Troop D, 5th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., and a Waianae, Hawaii, native. “The hill was the most challenging part – the key was to make sure you didn’t stop, and once you reached the crest, just ride (the slope) down.”

McCrery said he created the event in part to strengthen bonds among the various teams in advance of the squadron’s departure to take part in a training rotation with a unit from the Iowa Army National Guard at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, later this month.

“It’s a buildup for the events to come, with the (training rotation) and the gunnery this fall, and in the future (National Training Center) rotations,” McCrery said. “It’s one of the first steps in bringing the leadership together, to have a big competition.”

After the event, Lt. Col. Bradford DuPlessis, commander, 5th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., spoke about the importance of variety in physical training and using a range of locations, something with which Glover agreed.

“It was a nice change of pace,” he said. “As a platoon sergeant, I think we’re going to start checking things like this out, going off Custer Hill more often.”

The winners – 1st Lt. Lee Silvers and Cpl. Nicolas Poirot, both with Troop B, 5th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt., will be honored with a plaque to hang in squadron headquarters.

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