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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.

U.S. Army Reserve Pfc. Trenton Pallone, a public affairs specialist with the 214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, begins his initial descent down the bare side of the 40-foot rappel tower at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Fort Dix, New Jersey, April 27, 2023. “I was doing anything to try and brace myself and get myself a light first drop, but that didn’t happen,” said Pallone.  (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Therese Prats.) 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.”

When the 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 for.

“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 faint.”

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.)
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.”

His current squad leader, Staff Sgt. Marlon Styles, a civilian Public Affairs instructor at DINFOS, witnessed Pallone’s transformation during that time.

“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.

“I can 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.”

Prats said Pallone has come a long way since their first interaction at last year’s trip to Fort Dix to train with the battalion.

“Pallone 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 shape.”

Staff Sgt. Fred Brown, another NCO in the 214th MPAD, said he has been amazed how Pallone has managed to conquer his fears.

“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 government vehicle.”

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 I made.”

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.)
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.

Much 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.

“The 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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