Army Private Proves His Mettle At OSB
by U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Zedalis
May 9, 2023
Twenty-two-year-old Pfc. Trenton Pallone
had a rude awakening when he came to Joint Base
McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL) with his U.S. Army Reserve unit, the
214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, for its battalion-wide,
four-day Multiple Unit Training Assembly (MUTA) in April 2022.
The Virginia Commonwealth University sophomore, fresh off
graduation from Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, had
unkempt hair and an unshaven face.
“When I first saw him, I
noticed facial hair behind his facemask. I went over to him,
introduced myself and immediately asked him why he didn’t shave,”
said the 214th MPAD’s Sgt. Therese Prats – a newly-promoted
Non-Commissioned Officer at the time. “Throughout drill, I made
efforts to get to know him and make him feel part of the unit. But I
came on pretty strong, and I think I scared him.”
unit arrived on the base to find the post’s barber closed, Pallone’s
squad leader had to give him a haircut and buy a razor and shave gel
for Pallone to make sure he was complying with Army regulations.
To make matters worse, as the baby-faced Leesburg, Virginia
native tried to keep pace with his NCO-dominated unit of older, more
experienced Public Affairs Soldiers, the entire battalion was taking
an Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) that Pallone was in no way ready
“I struggled a lot physically when it came to completing
the exercises, because I would not properly hydrate,” said Pallone.
“That particular day, I overextended my body, and I caused myself to
The Commander of the unit at the time, Cpt. Anthony
Richards, had to drive Pallone to the hospital to receive care.
Pallone said this experience made him determined to never allow this
to happen again.
“I took it upon myself to start eating
properly…that was the first part,” said Pallone. “The next part was
exercise…a good amount of exercise, and the right kinds of
exercise…not overextending myself.”
Fast forward exactly one
year, and Pallone returns with his unit to Fort Dix for a five-day
event put on by the 99th Army Reserve Readiness Division, called
Operation Strike Back (OSB). This time around, a lot has changed.
Since last year’s JBMDL experience, Pallone spent six months at
Advanced Individual Training (AIT) where he took the Mass
Communications Foundation course at Defense Information School
(DINFOS) in Fort Meade, Md. from August 2022 through February 2023.
Pallone thrived in a student-focused training environment where
he had a set daily routine.
U.S. Army Reserve
Pfc. Trenton Pallone, a public affairs specialist with the
214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, assumes the L-shaped
position at the top of the 40-foot rappel tower during
Operation Strike Back at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in
Fort Dix, New Jersey on April 27, 2023. This is the second
annual OSB event held by the 99th Readiness Division, where
Reserve Soldiers participate in field-training exercises,
including obstacle courses, electronic weapons
qualification, and a rappel tower. (Image created by USA
Patriotism! from U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Therese Prats.)
“When I was at DINFOS, they gave
me food and forced me to run and do pushups,” said Pallone. “Plus
every day on my own, I would find a bar and just do a few pullups.
That made me stronger and built my confidence.”
squad leader, Staff Sgt. Marlon Styles, a civilian Public Affairs
instructor at DINFOS, witnessed Pallone’s transformation during that
“Pallone had a kid-like energy when I would see him at
DINFOS. I think, because it was early in the course, he was glad to
see someone he knew,” said Styles. “As time progressed, he appeared
to be more comfortable, and I noticed he had a circle of friends. He
seemed to adjust well to active-duty life.”
Pallone said the most important thing
DINFOS training did for him as a Soldier was give him the confidence
to speak to higher-enlisted Soldiers and officers.
definitely speak to higher-ups now with a certain goal and purpose,
and do it with professionalism,” said Pallone. “And that’s not
something many Soldiers at my rank can say.”
Pallone has come a long way since their first interaction at last
year’s trip to Fort Dix to train with the battalion.
walks a little more confidently now,” she said. “Every month since
he’s come back from DINFOS, I’ve noticed his uniform is in tip top
Staff Sgt. Fred Brown, another NCO in the 214th MPAD,
said he has been amazed how Pallone has managed to conquer his
“When we first met Pallone, he was a little skittish.
He seemed to hang back more – partly because he was new, but I think
also because he’s young, and the rest of us have been in the
military a while,” said Brown. “But now he’s taking on big
challenges and he’s volunteering for taking photos and writing
captions, or even driving the group from location to location in the
According to Pallone, the difference
between last year’s trip to Fort Dix and this year is the courage he
has gained from earning his qualifications.
“I now know what a proper product looks
like,” said Pallone. “I now know what is expected of me. I now am
able to contribute to the unit by producing a product that I can say
Pallone’s personal courage was on full display when
the unit visited the rappel tower on Day 2 of the operation. Pallone
initially had to shake off a mild fear of heights just to go down
the 40-foot rappel tower the traditional way, backwards. But he
didn’t stop there.
U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. Trenton Pallone, a public affairs specialist with the 214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, throws up a “hang loose” sign to the crowd of Soldiers watching from the bottom of the 40-foot rappel tower at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Fort Dix, New Jersey
on April 27, 2023. “After that awkward jolt of a first drop, I coasted the rest of the way down,” said Pallone.
(Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Therese Prats.)
He had promised an officer in his unit that
if one of them went down the rappel tower “Australian” style, which
is headfirst, the other had to follow suit. When that officer came
through, Pallone had to uphold his end of the bargain.
like his bumpy start to life in the Army Reserve, his initial
descent on his first “Aussie” attempt was anything but gentle.
“I was holding on to the bar…I was doing anything to try and
brace myself and get myself a light first drop. But that didn’t
happen,” he laughed. “But after that awkward jolt of a first drop, I
coasted the rest of the way down.”
The 214th Commanding
Officer, Major Diem Vo, who witnessed Pallone with shaky legs even
climbing up the tower latter, said every Soldier there witnessed
true grit and personal courage with Pallone’s “Aussie” attempt.
“While he was visibly shaken by the height, Pallone did not want
to back down from a challenge,” said Vo. “He girded himself to
abseil down the tower ‘Aussie’ style. He stuck his landing to the
cheers of his teammates. We are all incredibly proud of how much
Pallone has grown as a Soldier and a person since joining our unit.”
With nearly two years of service completed and a promotion to
Specialist nearing, Pallone’s Army Reserve experience has taught him
he can learn from both his successes and his failures.
hardest part about going down that rappel tower is taking the first
step. Once you start going down, you don’t really have a choice at
that point,” he smiled. “You could say that about a lot of things in
the military. Whether it be first firing a rifle or going through
physical training. It’s a matter of taking that first step, because
whether it was a success or not, you can build on that.”
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