Originally created 11/23/04

Division mascot now fit for duty



SAVANNAH, Ga. - No doubt he's felt like the forgotten warrior.

Known to all as Rocky, the bulldog mascot has been relegated to a kind of glorified guard duty with the 3rd Infantry Division for the past decade or so.

The statue has watched many of the campaigns start and finish, but he's recently been found unfit for combat.

Held together by spools of duct tape, Rocky never deployed when the division led the invasion into Iraq last year. But this year, he might finally get his chance.

Rocky, the size of a large pony, got a makeover courtesy of the Luhrs Mainship boat building company in Midway. He returned to the division Friday stronger and steadier than he's ever been.

He's more than fit for combat now. The officer who set up Rocky's reconstruction, Maj. David Oeschger, hopes the statue will make the trip to Iraq when the troops return there next year.

Maj. Oeschger is a neighbor of Ernest D'Alto, Luhrs Mainship's general manager. When Maj. Oeschger thought of getting Rocky Iraq-ready, he immediately went to Mr. D'Alto.

"Ernie is an artist," the Army officer said.

It made sense to go to a builder of fiberglass boats to fix a mascot made of the same material.

Mr. D'Alto thought he might have his hands full. Rocky was a bit on the mangy side and would take a lot of work.

More than that, he wanted to give the mascot a more monumental look. A presence to be reckoned with.

"It looked like a big project," he said. "I had a bunch of ideas, but the guys on the floor took me where I wanted to go."

They spent more than 600 man-hours working on Rocky.

"I couldn't pry them away," Mr. D'Alto said.

It's as if they had the 3rd ID theme song, The Dogface Soldier, playing in their heads:

"So they're tearing me down to build me over again

I'm just a dogface soldier."

When Luhrs was done, Rocky looked like a new breed.

The cost to the 3rd ID: none.

The restoration of a warrior and a tradition: priceless.