TENERATE, Italy — After slogging overnight for more than 18 hours through 35 kilometers of high, grassy fields, dark and damp woodlands, knee-deep creeks and boot-swallowing mud, three teams of 7th Civil Support Command Soldiers completed the 27th annual “Lombardia 2013” International Patrolling competition here, May 25.
The four-man teams from Company A, 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, 7th CSC competed May 24 to 25. A military parade that passed through the center of town was held May 26, as well as an awards ceremony.
The three-day event, hosted by the Reserve Officer’s Association of the Italian Army, kicked off May 24 at mid-day with a shooting range competition. Each team member in the competition fired a shotgun, a pistol, a rifle and a sniper rifle from various positions during the timed events.
Sgt. Jacob Francis, a civil affairs NCO with Co. A, 457th CA Bn., earned a bronze Italian army marksmanship badge for his shooting score.
In conjunction with the shooting range, the operational order briefs were given to the various teams for that night’s team patrols, which began at 11 p.m.
“Eighteen hours is a long night,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Rizzi, civil affairs operations, Co. A, 457th CA Bn., before his team moved out around midnight on May 24. “Just focus, (and) build the team dynamic. Just try not to get frustrated with each other.”
The patrolling event started with 56 teams — a total of 224 competitors. More than 50 teams completed the extremely long event.
Staff Sgt. John Sorich IV, a civil affairs NCO with Co. A, 457th CA Bn., whose dad traveled from the U.S. to watch him compete, said, “It’s a unique experience that you can only get in the Army Reserve in Europe. What other chances are you going to have to do something like this? It’s a really interesting opportunity.”
Each nation’s team was made up of either all male, all female or a mix of service members from 10 different countries, including several teams from British universities’ training corps, similar to the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC.
“It wasn’t too bad. The moon was out. It made a world of difference,” said British army Officer Cadet Sam McCall, who is from Wales University in England, during a brief break in the woods while her team waited for the joint raid training lane.
The highest finishing U.S. team placed ninth overall. The second U.S. team came in 24th place, while the third U.S. team crossed the finish line with only two team members, as the other two Soldiers were sidelined by
injuries out on the course. The Netherlands won the overall title, Switzerland came in second and Italy placed third.
“We didn’t get a trophy or win the whole thing, but the main reason that we do these events is for the training value and the teamwork that it builds within the unit,” said Staff Sgt. David Heath, a civil affairs NCO with Co. A, 457th CA Bn. “Of course we want (to) and try to win. But regardless of the results, it’s still an amazing opportunity to train, build good relationships with our host country and other foreign militaries. We’ll keep training and be back next year.”
One of the “Lombardia 2013” planners, Italian army reservist 1st Lt. Alberto Pasquini, from Bergamo, Italy, said the event is an opportunity to be tested under stress.
The various tests the competitors faced included: traversing a minefield, evacuating a casualty under fire, movement over a deep stream, night land navigation, obstacle crossing, shooting ranges, radio communication, patrolling techniques, artillery acquisition, shooting
range, handling of prisoners of war and various other events.
“Some of the points weren’t very easy to find,” Sorich said. “It was a labyrinth in the woods and everything. So, we had to run around in farm fields and try to find things around, but, it was really good. It was a good learning experience and good team bonding.”
“It felt like the distance was longer in this one (compared to last year),” said Staff Sgt. Dorian Pekarcik, a civil affairs NCO with Co. A, 457th CA Bn., near the end of his team’s patrol.
Sorich, whose father served in Vietnam, grandfather in World War II and great grandfather in World War I, summed up his experience as his team neared the end of their patrol.
“It was outstanding to represent the U.S. Army Reserve. We are the only (U.S.) Army Reserve here and actually the only U.S. Soldiers,” he said. “So, it’s pretty neat to represent the Army and see all the other countries and all the other units out here. I definitely got something out of it. It’s just an honor to represent the U.S. Army and be out here for my country.”