Corps of Cadets' Colombo unit turns 50
12/3/2012 10:49:56 AM
(Dec. 3, 2012) — For decades, cadets in the Mountain Order
of Colombo at North Georgia College & State University have been rappelling
off Mount Yonah and learning survival skills in the woods around Dahlonega.
Many alumni of the extracurricular unit, which this semester celebrates its
50th year, have gone on to become members of the Army Rangers or other
specialized military units.
|Members of the Corps of Cadets' Mountain Order of Colombo practice for a demonstration planned for the unit's 50th anniversary celebration.
Cadet Jake Tornow of Douglasville, a Colombo instructor, and
fellow cadet instructors take Colombo's legacy of excellence and tough
standards very seriously.
"We set high standards not just because of safety issues,
but because that's we expect of ourselves. We expect those who come after us to
continue to hold those standards," Tornow said. "To take 50 years of
tradition that has been handed down by lieutenant colonels, Rangers, Special Forces
and prominent public figures and hand that to a 19- or 20-year-old kid, we have
to be sure that they are worthy of that responsibility."
In 1962, the Mountain Order of Colombo was conceived by a
group of cadets after watching a demonstration performed by instructors from
nearby Camp Frank D. Merrill, which houses the mountain phase of the U.S. Army
Ranger School. In response to the cadets' request for information and training
assistance, MSG Louis P. Colombo, who died in 1995, volunteered his time and
The unit is sponsored by the university's Commandant’s
Office and members must pass a rigorous physical fitness and tactical skills
test. The unit's mission is to train and develop cadets into potential mountain
combat soldiers with emphasis on mountaineering, terrain navigation, small unit
tactics, hand-to-hand combat and survival tactics. The unit holds tryouts at
the beginning of each semester.
"Our tryouts are rigorous and the year is one of the
toughest things I've ever gone through in my life, but it's well worth it at
the end of the day," Tornow said, who has learned to deal with his fear of
heights as a member of Colombo.
On Sunday, Colombo members celebrated the anniversary with a
skills demonstration and luncheon for unit alumni. Several Colombo alumni
attended the celebration, including LTC (R) Mel Crissey, one of the founding
members of Colombo, who served as keynote speaker at the luncheon. Crissey
graduated from North Georgia in 1964 with a degree in biology and commissioned
as a second lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps. Crissey spent 22 years in
active duty service that included serving as an instructor and executive
officer at various levels in the U.S. Army.
Scott Marshall, a North Georgia staff member in the
Department of Information Technology, has been serving as medic and adviser to
the Colombo unit for nine years. Also a captain in the Georgia National Guard,
Marshall said he has seen outstanding cadets come through Colombo.
"They do come back and they take a great deal of pride in
what they accomplished here," he said. "They always point out how
much of what they learned here they were able to apply to both their civilian
and military careers— that ability to push themselves past their mental limits
and to draw upon strength they never realized that they had."
The Mountain Order of Colombo is one of many extracurricular
units and organizations associated with the Corps of Cadets. Others are
Aggressor Platoon, Blue Ridge Rifles, Cadet Chaplain Corps, Color Guard, Golden
Eagle Band, Nurse Detachment, Patriot Choir, Ranger Challenge, and the Combat