The 3rd Infantry Division held its annual Marne Week last week, during which soldiers across the Marne division and tenant units on Fort Stewart competed in a variety of sporting events to build comradery and pride.
The week started Monday with an early morning division run. Maj. Gen. James Rainey, the commanding general of 3rd ID, greeted the division as a whole for the first time since he assumed command in Afghanistan and returned home Nov. 11.
Rainey and his staff led the run up and down Gulick Avenue, and each brigade and unit followed, carrying their colors high. Two Apache helicopters circled the route, and members of the 3rd ID band performed as the soldiers ran by.
Once Rainey and his staff had completed the run, they stood by the finish line to high-five soldiers as they finished. Unique runners included the Rocky the bulldog mascot and K-9 dogs with the military police.
Battle focus event
The Thornsbury Challenge debuted this year as an event that measures the battle focus of 3rd ID soldiers, according to Sgt. 1st Class Joe Ringer with the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion.
The obstacle course was put on by the Special Operations Recruiting Battalion, which is based on Fort Bragg but has a center on Fort Stewart, and was named after Sgt. 1st Class Duane Thornsbury, who died from injuries sustained in a vehicle rollover during a combat mission in Iraq in 2009.
Ringer served with Thornsbury in Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, and came up with the challenge to honor him.
“This obstacle course creates a — it actually measures the confidence of each soldier as well as the overall physical fitness and endurance that a soldier needs to possess to be in the Special Operations community,” said Ringer.
Obstacles in the course included balance beams and rope climbs. Next, they had to complete a 6-mile ruck march with a 50-pound rucksack, and finally a leaders’ reaction course in which they were graded on different scenarios, according to Ringer.
Thornsbury “was all about physical fitness,” Ringer said.
“And he was on a dive team, so they kind of go above and beyond even the regular special operator in terms of physical fitness,” he said. “So yes, he was all about that. He was constantly professional and took his job very seriously.”
First Lt. Ben Cockrell with Intelligence and Sustainment Company, Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, said he just wanted to complete the challenge.
“That’s all I really want to achieve,” he said. “I think that’ll be a success if my team can complete it in time. So that’s all I’m really looking for.”
Cockrell said that the reason that he was doing the challenge was because of his team, which included his battalion executive officer.
“We got the old man out here, so it’s pretty motivating. So if he can do it, I should be able to do it,” he said.
Farewell to Blackburn
Late Thursday afternoon, the Marne and Liberty County community came to Marne Garden to say farewell to Brig. Gen. James Blackburn.
Not only was Blackburn the deputy commanding general of maneuver for the division, but for the last year, he kept the division moving forward as the Task Force Marne commander while the 3rd ID commanding general, first then-Maj. Gen. Mike Murray and then Rainey, was serving in Afghanistan.
“Commanding Task Force Marne for a year, that is normally an assignment that we give to a two-star general and give it to a couple of one-star generals to do that,” Rainey said. “And Jim stepped into that. It’s a good testament that they had to send three guys to replace you.”
Also introduced at the ceremony were Brig. Gen. Timothy McAteer, the new deputy commanding general of maneuver, and Brig. Gen. Douglas Crissman, the new deputy commanding general of support.
After the ceremony, Blackburn said he and his family are moving to San Antonio as he becomes the deputy commanding general for U.S. Army North.
“My final words I will leave the community are, ‘Thank you so much for your undying support, and I can’t wait to see how far this division goes in the future. Rock of the Marne.’”