RFA grads reunite at Fort Drum

Published Nov 13, 2017 at 4:00pm

After becoming close friends in junior high school, plus going to the same high school and college, Rome Free Academy alumni Ryan Marquette and Zack Froelich find their paths crossing again as Army captains and company commanders at Fort Drum.

Froelich in August became commander of Bravo Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. His company headquarters is in the same building as Marquette, who last December became commander of Charlie Company in the same battalion and regiment.

“It’s still hard to believe....What are the chances?,” Marquette said Friday. He noted, “to have the opportunity to go through high school together, play football together...college together...ROTC together...all of our training together....Only split up about four years before we met back up” in command of neighboring Army companies “somewhere so close to home.”

Marquette said he and Froelich “reflect on it from time to time,” including the uniqueness of their converging military command positions on top of their long connection before that. It is “something that we don’t take for granted,” he commented, also observing “I hope someday we can look back” and “reflect on how special of an experience this is.”

Both are 2007 RFA graduates, as are their wives. Marquette and his wife Vanessa (Pillmore) live in Sackets Harbor, while Froelich and his wife Mallory (Knudsen) and their two children live in Theresa. Marquette is the son of Thomas and Debbi Marquette of Rome, while his wife Vanessa is the daughter of Yvonne Pillmore and Steve Slachta of Rome. Froelich is the son and stepson of Shelly and Warren Braman, and son of Timothy Froelich, all of Rome. His wife Mallory is the daughter of Tom and Christine Knudsen of Rome.

Marquette and Froelich, both age 28, command about 131 soldiers apiece in their Army companies. Their wives each head up their respective company’s Family Readiness Group, said Marquette’s mother, Debbi. The family readiness groups assist commanders in maintaining readiness of soldiers, families and communities, she explained. Among their functions, the groups help prepare soldiers and families for separation during deployments and for stresses of their reunions, she added.

Marquette has been deployed once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.

After graduating from RFA, Marquette and Froelich went on to become 2011 graduates of Niagara University. Both then completed the Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course and Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. They went on to separate stations, but Debbi Marquette said “as luck would have it,” they joined back together at Fort Benning for the Maneuver Captains Career Course.

Both then “found it to be a weird coincidence to be stationed at Fort Drum,” and “were pleased to find out that they were assigned to not only the same brigade, but the same battalion as well,” she commented. Today, “they even share their own building.”

Capt. Marquette said it is “a big advantage to be able to command at the same time” as Froelich and in such proximity.

“We learn from each other...bounce ideas off each other...go through the challenges of command at the same time,” he noted.