Sixty Red Currahee Soldiers began a recent weekend by running up Currahee Mountain, known for its distance, 3 miles up and 3 miles down.
The Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), who recently returned from deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, were led up the rugged mountain by their battalion commander, Lt. Col. Paul Witkowski, and senior enlisted adviser, Command Sgt. Maj. David Moore.
The run was the beginning of the annual Currahee Military Weekend in Toccoa, Georgia, that celebrates the regiment’s legacy.
Currahee, which means stands alone in Cherokee, became the unit’s motto and rallying cry as the Soldiers ran up and down the infamous mountain preparing to defend the free world from the Nazi offensive during World War II.
At 300 feet of elevation, the summit of the mountain provided an incredible backdrop as Witkowski promoted 1st Lt. Michael Thomas and impressed the importance of the journey to his Soldiers.
“You have touched the roots of the regiment,” Witkowski said. “The DNA that flowed through the veins of the original Toccoa men 77 years ago flows through your veins. You have cemented that bond to the ‘Band of Brothers’ with your run 3 miles up and 3 miles down Currahee. You are the living legacy of the regiment.”
In 1942, the Army saw the need to stand up its first paratrooper units. In July 1942, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment took shape at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, under their legendary first commander, Col. Robert F. Sink.
The Soldiers trained hard, went through the earliest iterations of airborne school and broke the world record for a tactical march with an astounding 173 miles in 72 hours.
In 1943, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment deployed to Aldbourne, England, to prepare for their role in Operation Overlord, or D-Day the next year.
Following the trek up Currahee Mountain, the Soldiers were welcomed to a pancake breakfast. The following day the Red Currahee Soldiers marched in a parade, while Soldiers from B and H companies demonstrated various infantry skills and hundreds of people from Toccoa and across the country lined the streets to watch.
“Attending the Currahee Military Weekend was a great opportunity to experience the legacy of the 1-506th,” Sgt. Landon Wolf said. “Sharing the respect of which the community has for our unit inspired a great pride within myself to be a part of this legacy.”
Among the crowd was James “Pee Wee” Martin, a founding member of the regiment who jumped into Normandy and Holland during WWII. Martin took the time to speak with some of the Red Curahee Soldiers and share some professional development.
“Currahee Military Weekend was a great experience,” Chap. (Capt.) Joe Lively said. “To be able to run Currahee Mountain and speak to WWII veteran Jim ‘Pee Wee’ Martin is a memory that I will not forget.”
The annual celebration began in 2001 as a reunion for the men who trained at Camp Toccoa during WWII. The weekend has grown into a community event attended by veterans, their Families and all who share an interest in Camp Toccoa and WWII history.
Maj. Von Wright, 1st Brigade Combat Team, contributed to this article.