Military Matters: The Wolverine Connection
The 10th Mountain Division's 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment can trace its lineage directly back to the 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion of World War II.
Part of that legacy: the 1-89th's nickname - The Wolverines.
"It is our mascot. It's our call sign. I am actually 'Wolverine-6,'" said Lt. Col. David Sanders, 1st Squadron, 89th Infantry Regiment commander, "And the wolverine is a fierce animal. We conduct combat operations so wolverine is a great animal to have as a mascot."
To celebrate that heritage, Fort Drum's Wolverines are sponsoring the wolverine exhibit at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park in Watertown.
"We're the wolverine squadron so it made perfect sense to us, and it seemed like a great way to connect with watertown and the community," said Capt. Ken Jordan, troop commander for the 1-89th Cavalry's Charlie Troop.
Captain Jordan's wife, Megan, did the leg work to get the partnership off the ground. She suggested it after she saw the zoo's mountain lion exhibit, which is sponsored by the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, or the "Catamounts".
"I just thought, 'why don't we do that for the wolverines?'" said Megan Jordan. "My daughter loves coming here, and it's such a nice little zoo, and I thought they must need our support somehow."
She thought right. The zoo was happy to put these soldier-volunteers to work. About 50 soldiers with the squadron's Charlie Troop spent the day helping with a variety of tasks, including cleaning animal enclosures, raking leaves, cutting grass, and other beautification projects.
The zoo's executive director, John Wright, said these soldiers took care of six months to a year's worth of projects around the zoo in a single day.
"They helped us accomplish a lot. And it really means a lot when other people care and share their time and talents with us," Wright said.
The squadron is grateful for the opportunity.
"I think it's great. It's very easy for us, very low overhead. The soldiers were very excited about it," Capt. Jordan said.
"Initially, I think they were a little bit unsure," he said. "But once they got out here and they realized how close they could get to the animals, and that they were able to really work with the zoo staff all day, I think they were really excited about it. I think it was very worthwhile for them."
The soldiers admit this is not exactly the mission they were signing up for when they joined the Army.
"I joined the military to defend our country, not really thinking we're going to come and do volunteer work for zoos," said Pfc. Brandon Sampson.
But, the Wolverines are happy to be able to do it.
"The community provides a lot of support to the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum as a whole. And so us being able to give back is just as important," Lt. Col. Sanders said.
"It's just good to be out, doing something back for the public," said Staff Sgt. Michael Donnan, a squad leader for the 1-89th Cavalry's Charlie Troop.
By sponsoring the wolverine exhibit, the squadron is not only strengthening its connection with the north country community, it's helping its soldiers feel more like a part of the community around them.
"I think it connects them in a way that they don't normally connect," explained Capt. Jordan.
"A 20-year-old single soldier doesn't normally come to the zoo, or have an excuse to go to the zoo, but this really makes them go out and experience a little bit more than the average young soldier does," he said.
The squadron has committed to sending soldiers to volunteer at the zoo at least once a month in the future.
"I just have such wonderful soldiers and they really enjoy coming back and giving back to the community," Lt. Col. Sanders said.
It is one more reason soldiers with the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment are proud to be "Wolverines".
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Sunday, May 1, 2016, Watertown, NY