Hewitt Relay 2 adj wb.jpg
Hewitt Relay 3 wb.jpgSoldiers with 10th Mountain Division (LI) complete the Hewitt Relay, a 24-hour and 160-mile relay run starting on Fort Drum and finishing at the summit of Whiteface Mountain, on June 23. The baton used is the same one Command Sgt. Maj. Southern "Buddy" Hewitt, former 10th Mountain Division (LI) senior enlisted adviser, used in relays during his time with the unit dating back to 1985. (U.S. Army photos by Spc. Jaidon Novinska, 27th Public Affairs Detachment)

10th Mountain Division Soldiers bring back tradition of relay run to Whiteface Mountain

Spc. Mason Nichols

27th Public Affairs Detachment

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 23, 2023) – In 1985, Command Sgt. Maj. Southern “Buddy” Hewitt started the relay that would later bear his name with the hope of connecting the current 10th Mountain Division (LI) with the original WWII division. He decided there was no better way than to run from Fort Drum to Whiteface Mountain, which was dedicated to the division’s legacy. With the division re-activated just five months earlier, the event would take place every year until 1992.

The history doesn’t end there; a new chapter is being written this year as a new generation of 10th Mountain Division Soldiers “run for glory” when the division brings back the historic Hewitt Relay and participates in the Whiteface Mountain Rededication Ceremony.

As Master Sgt. Daniel Fields, deputy commandant of the Noncommissioned Officers Academy, introduced the baton to Maj. Gen. Gregory Anderson, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, he spoke about the history of the Hewitt Relay and why it means so much to bring back the tradition.

“This isn’t just a run this is a way to connect new Soldiers to old,” Fields said. “This is a way to not only bring the old era to new, but also to pay homage to the man who started it all.”

Fields looked back on the history of the division and the senior enlisted adviser who gave the relay its name. As the division command sergeant major at the time, Hewitt pushed to start the tradition of running from Fort Drum to Whiteface Mountain, not just to connect to veterans from the original division but to bring together the community in celebration of its history. The 126-mile relay attracted participation from garrison units, civilian employees, and family members.

“I stand before you and tell you that some of the finest damn Soldiers in the Army today are in the 10th Mountain Division,” Hewitt said. “You old-timers don’t have to worry about the Soldiers who have taken your place. I’ve been in the Army 32 years, and I’m here to tell you the Soldiers of the 10th are very capable of getting the job done.”

Hewitt ran in every relay until 1990 with more participants every year from garrison units and the local community.

“On his final run in 1990, Hewitt was presented with this baton that he carried with him until he passed away,” Fields said. “When he passed away in 2021 the family passed this on to the then commandant, Command Sgt. Maj. Newman, to bring back to Fort Drum.”

The senior NCO believed the run not only honored the legacy of the original Mountaineers, but showcased the present division Soldiers who carry on the tradition of professional excellence. To commemorate the tradition started by Hewitt, the last baton he used will be carried throughout the renewed event.

“I can’t think of a better way to start this run than to use the baton that he had on his final run,” Fields said.

The Whiteface Ski Area opened in 1958, and the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center was dedicated to the 10th Mountain Division and the ski troops who fought in World War II.

This year, with the rededication of the ski area, Col. Matthew Braman, 10th Mountain Division deputy commander – support, spoke about why it’s important to reconnect the current division to the original.

“We are starting over to truly make the division the Alpine Division again,” Braman said. “The Army has told us that’s what we need, and we are getting after it. The partnerships created in 1943 and before are as important now as they were then as we continue this legacy.”

The plaque on Little Whiteface is mounted on a large piece of granite from Mount Belvedere, a gift from the Italian government in March 1962. It reads: “In tribute to the men of the 10th Mountain Division. This rock was brought by the government of Italy from Mount Belvedere, scene of the division’s greatest battle in World War II.”

This plaque makes the history of excellence within the division clear, and Lt. Col. Marc Cleveland, the information operations officer for the 10th Mountain Division, wants the division to continue upholding that standard.

“It goes back to celebrating 80 years of Alpine,” Cleveland said. “We are rediscovering our Alpine heritage, we are moving in the direction of training our Soldiers to be expert mountaineers, alpinists, people who can survive and thrive in the outdoors.

“The Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division from WWII did that and so by coming here, it’s symbolic of us paying tribute to the people who came before us and the direction that this division is headed,” he added.

(Editor’s Note: Mike Strasser’s article, “Around and About Fort Drum: The Whiteface Relay,” served as source material for this story.)