The 10th Mountain Division is one of the Army’s most longstanding units, with an impressive military lineage. As a division, the unit has seen some of the most notable combat in modern history, most particularly in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars where the division has been used extensively. Thus when the unit was expanded to include a new fourth Infantry (Light) Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), the division gained increased flexibility and operational mobility to address in the nation’s future conflicts.
Formed on January 19th, 2005 the 4th IBCT, 10th Mountain Division, was fielded on the parade grounds at Fort Polk, Louisiana. At its initial fielding the IBCT consisted only of several hundred soldiers, and was vastly limited on essential equipment, billeting, and administrative spaces. This could have quickly become problematic for a unit slated to make its initial entry into the Global War on Terror. But before the 4th IBCT could first serve overseas, it was first called upon to provide disaster relief assistance following Hurricane Katrina, and Rita later that same fall. Soldiers from the 4th IBCT not only established residential security and various assistance points in their local communities, but deployed soldiers into New Orleans to re-establish order amid the chaos and looting.
Between February 2006 and November 2007 the 4th IBCT finally cut its teeth on the unit’s first overseas assignment, with several elements (Task Force Warrior and later Task Force Boar) from within the 4th IBCT operating exclusively in Afghanistan. Together the two Task Forces established the first US National Command Element, while the 94th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) established the US National Support Element in Kandahar to facilitate the transfer of authority of US-led combat operations to NATO allies. Throughout this time period the 4th IBCT was under the command of COL Mark Dewhurst and his senior enlisted advisor CSM Christopher K. Greca. Then the units of the 4th IBCT returned home in March 2007, albeit briefly, before redeploying again in November to Iraq for 14 months. While serving in Iraq the units operated from two Forward Operating Bases (FOB Loyalty and FOB Rustamyah in eastern Baghdad) and 22 Joint Security Stations (JSS) and various smaller combat outposts. With eastern Baghdad near the peak of its secular civil war, the capital required immediate pacification. Task Force “Patriot” assumed responsibility for the city and to the east encompassing some 80 square miles with more than 2 million Iraqi citizens.
In October 2010 the 4th IBCT deployed again, this time to eastern Afghanistan’s Logar and Wardak provinces just south of the country’s capital. Their unit’s goal was to conduct population-centric, combined-action, counterinsurgency operations, build Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) capability, and enhance the effectiveness of the Afghan political government to create a more stable environment for transition. It was during this deployment, Operation Enduring Freedom XI, that the Patriot IBCT expanded its unit’s Area of Operations (AO) into Bayman Province that would later become the first Afghan province to officially begin the transition of responsibility to Afghan control. Thus on July 17th, 2011 the Patriot Brigade officially turned over responsibility for security, governance, and development over to the ANSF and the regional Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) representatives in an exchange ceremony. From Bayman, the Patriot IBCT pushed even further south to extend their security bubble around Kabul and successfully conducted a realignment of forces around the city to improve response times to security threats in any area where the local Afghan populace was threatened.
By 2013 the 4th “Patriot” IBCT again deployed to Afghanistan for the third time in July of that same year. The unit was to assume responsibility for the training and advisement of the growing ANSF, and assess the mission for all of Regional Command – East. This AO was measured by the AORs of other units around the capital of Kabul itself; North to include units from the 1st BCT/10th MTN, 101st Airborne, 4th BCT/10th MNT, and finally the 1st Cavalry Division. Soldiers from the Patriot Battalion served with all branches of the ANSF and assisted GIRoA officials thought-out Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, Nuristan, Kapisa, Parwan, and Panjshir Provinces as well as inside the Saprobe District of Kabul Province. Sum total the unit was responsible for over 14,000 square miles that needed to continually be patrolled, secured, developed, and transitioned to the local Afghan authorities. (Fort Polk Public Affairs 2014)
This deployment placed units of the 4th IBCT in the forefront of the fighting season, with Kabul always prized by insurgents. But leading the defense now was the ANSF, closely mentored and supported by the 10th Mountain’s “Patriot” Brigade. Together the two commands defeated insurgent networks conspiring against ISAF and ANSF elements. In many of these counterinsurgency missions, the ANSF were now acting in almost near unilateral capacity to defend their country – placed at the forefront thanks to their trainings and skills given to them by their mentors. As the fighting season wore on, the Patriot Battalion began focusing on developing the sustainable systems necessary for continued professionalization of the ANSF itself. This included improvements to supply systems, logistics, training, and maintenance all under Afghan lead instructors. The ANSF continued to build on these improvements and prepare for the national elections scheduled for April 2014.
The brigade’s contributions at home and across the world exemplify the patriotism and dedication of the men and women who wear the uniform and bear the 10th Mountain Division Unit Patch. Despite it’s rapid upbringing into the world of combat arms, the 4th Infantry (Light) Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division is equipped, trained, and prepared for any operations with their motto exemplifying this unit was “Forged For War.”
This challenge coin is considered by many as an “odd-shaped” challenge coin, with various cutout areas to draw correlation between positive and negative space. Overall, the coin has a thick roped edging to symbolize one of the most essential items of equipment when dealing with the mountains. The rest of the coin’s features differ greatly in use of burnished silver, antique brass, and colored enamel to provide vivid colors. During this time period, these unique 4th IBCT Commander’s Challenge Coins were distributed by then 4th IBCT Commander COL Mark Dewhurst, and CSM Christopher Grecca. Neither could be found for questioning to this article.
Centered on the Obverse and painted in enamel is the 10th Mountain Crest, a blue and white shield with red bayonets crossed in front. Above is a scroll reading “Mountain” signifies that such an individual has completed the Army’s cold-weather mountain survival course. The unit crest sits upon a textual box with raised gold lettering reading, “Presented for Excellence”. In the Obverse’s center, and behind the 10 Mountain’s Crest, a field of white peaks, outlined in polished brass, stands defiantly behind the two red skis barely hidden behind the crest. Not long ago part of the winter training for the 10th Mountain Division included combat tactics while skiing. This display reminds the recipient of the history in the 10th Mountain – that it was and is the US Army’s première cold weather training center. Encompassing around the center design is a burnished ring with raised lettering reading “4th IBCT – 10th MTN DIV (LI) – Fort Polk, LA”. This denotes the unit’s full name and place within the command structure. At the bottom is a blue field where the ranks of full Colonel are seen on the left in the honorific position, and the unit’s senior enlisted advisor on the right.
Similar in pattern as the Obverse, the Reverse again features the icy peaks of snow highlighted by polished brass in the center of the coin’s Reverse. The mountains resemble the peaks around which Fort Drum, NY – Headquarters for the 10thMountain Division have been known for. Crossed in front of the icy mountains are two red swords with and a blue number “4” emblemized on them at point of crossing. The numerical “4” represents the Battalion’s field designation. While lower on the swords pommel there appears a panel for serial numbers that can commemorate a receiving individual. Under the ice flow is a deep blue lake by which enclose the ice to ensure it will not spread. Above all these features is the same over-arcing halo in burnished bronze and rope edging that reads, “Climb to Glory”. As if almost to dare you to take up that challenge and climb your own mountains.
Fort Polk Public Affairs. 4/10th Mountain Division: History. June 16, 2014. http://www.jrtc-polk.army.mil/4-10/Patriot_History.html (accessed July 20, 2014).
Contributions provided by LTC Donn H. Hill. Coordination provided by CPT William E. Brink, 4th IBCT, 10th Mountain Division – Public Affairs Office.