Fort Drum soldiers march in Alpine Warrior Challenge for suicide prevention

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (WWTI) — Training in the cold is not uncommon for Fort Drum soldiers. But a group hiked with a purpose in the final week of February.

This was through Fort Drum Suicide Prevention Program’s Alpine Warrior Challenge. A 22-mile ruck series event that combined physical and mental health enhancements.

Each morning of the challenge started with a class that focused on the risk factors of mental health struggles that could lead to suicide.

Themes included injury prevention, resilience, spiritual resilience, nutrition and healthy sleep.

“Things like nutrition, sleep, resilience, spiritual fitness and injury management, those are all things that can lead people to depression, become life stressors that can put them at risk for suicide,” Fort Drum’s Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator Bill VanOrman explained.

Classes were led by Tom Gemignani, a cognitive and mental performance specialist at Fort Drum’s Holistic Health and Fitness.

Sergeant Sarah Vantura of the 10th Mountain Division’s 210 Brigade Support Battalion decided to join the challenge after a group of her junior soldiers committed to participating. She said it was her role as a leader to also show up.

“It’s giving me a positive mindset,” Sergeant Vantura said on the trail. “Those endorphins are going I’m a little bit more positive the more I get through the ruck.”

The Alpine Warrior Challenge also taught soldiers winter skills and hobbies and connected them to new people on the trails.

According to VanOrman, these factors are also crucial for new soldiers in the North Country.

“When you’re in the Army, you move a lot. You lose your connection. So it’s important to make new connections when you get to a new location,” he expressed. “And this is the North country. If you don’t learn to get out in the winter, you’re going to struggle a little more. And a lot of our soldiers come from down south. So where better to learn about snowshoeing, rocking, getting out in the winter weather and stuff like that.”

Supporting the health of soldiers one mile at a time.

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