Creating the 10th Mountain Division: The National Ski Patrol’s Role

  • Colonel Curt R. Simonson

The 21st century security environment is volatile and unpredictable. The United States faces a variety of threats to its national security interests. As the Army grows smaller, it must maintain the ability to regenerate capabilities to meet unforeseen threats. Regeneration of land forces includes actions taken to rapidly develop new capabilities. The creation of the 10th Mountain Division in World War II provides a case study in the force regeneration role played by the National Ski Patrol System (NSPS). Beginning in 1940, the NSPS petitioned President Roosevelt and Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall to create a specialized Army unit capable of operating in cold weather and in mountainous terrain. Once mountain infantry units were created, the War Department took the unprecedented step of contracting the NSPS to recruit qualified men. Military and civilian leaders employed strategic leadership competencies to work across public-private organizational boundaries. The visionary arrangement between the War Department and the NSPS provides an example of how a civilian organization can be leveraged to assist in creating specialized units to address emerging national security threats.