Thursday, March 29, 2012

NG Marathon Team runners in desert to honor Bataan Death March

By Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Leisa Grant
National Guard Bureau

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army National Guard Spc. Rachel Walter, a member of the All-Guard Marathon Team and Maryland National Guard, marches through the desert between miles 20 and 21 during the 23rd Annual Bataan Memorial Death March near White Sands, N.M., March 25, 2012. Walter completed the most grueling of all categories--Military (Heavy) Marathon--which means she carried a 35-pound rucksack the entire 26.2 mile distance. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Leisa Grant)

WHITE SANDS, N.M. (3/28/12) - Members of the National Guard’s All-Guard Marathon Team hit the desert landscape of New Mexico running and marching in the dry heat for the 23rd Annual Bataan Memorial Death March here Sunday.

The march serves as a way to remember the sacrifices made by those who were part of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines in 1942, which included members of the New Mexico National Guard. More than 1,800 members of the state’s 200th Coast Artillery deployed to the Philippines in 1941. Only 987 survived.

“When I brought [the march] onto the team schedule, I wanted to pay respect to our military,” said Sgt. 1st Class Mike Hagen, the team coordinator and Nebraska Army National Guard member.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the team right now,” Hagen said. “With Lincoln [marathon] so close, this was a personal sacrifice for everyone who did this.”

The Lincoln National Guard Marathon, scheduled for May 6 in Lincoln, Neb., is the only annual event for which National Guard members can qualify to join the team. Current members are also required to try out for the team each year.

Hagen said the Bataan event is challenging enough with the conditions alone, but with a short window of time between it and Lincoln, many team members opt out of the march.

“Sometimes you’re freezing or cold in the beginning, roasting toward the end and doing it all on unforgiving terrain,” he said, adding that the recovery time would be short in between now and Lincoln.

Spc. Rachel Walter, a current team member and budget analyst with the 58th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade of the Maryland Army National Guard, was the only team member who competed in arguably the most difficult category – Military (Heavy) Marathon. This required her to wear her full Army Combat Uniform and a 35-pound rucksack – almost exactly one-third her body weight – for 26.2 miles.

“Friends back in Maryland told me not to do it because I might injure myself before Lincoln, but I realized this is what I needed to do,” she said. “If I don’t qualify for the marathon team because I don’t recover from this event in time, I’m more than fine with this.”

Typically the team runs half-marathons, marathons and ultra marathons – primarily on paved roads or trails – throughout the year; however, this event offered participants several options. Two other members competed in the Military (Light) Marathon category.

Nine team members ran the full marathon in the Civilian (Light) Marathon category, which means they wore regular running attire – lightweight shirts, shorts or running pants, and running shoes – without a mandatory additional weight requirement. This allowed them to move through the course more quickly than most of their uniformed comrades.

Col. Troy Frost, a current team member and commander of the 120th Mission Support Group, Montana Air National Guard, ran the event for the first time and placed sixth overall out of the nearly 7,000 runners and marchers.

Frost said the course was challenging, but nothing like what Bataan marchers had to endure in the Philippines.

“We only got a small taste of real suffering,” he said. “As a military member I think it’s important to honor those who served before us, especially heroes like those who gave their lives or suffered incredibly during Bataan.”

Others on the team shared the same sentiment.

“Soldier to Soldier, I wanted to express my appreciation for what they endured,” Walter said. “The 26.2 miles I did pale in comparison to what they went through.”

Bataan Memorial Death March results for All-Guard Marathon team are listed below.


  • Spc. Rachel Walter, Maryland Army National Guard, 7:55:25, 1st in class, 100th overall out of 434 male/female MHM finishers


  • Sgt. 1st Class Trent Sinnett, Illinois Army National Guard, 4:37:31, 1st in class, 5th overall out of 457 male/female MLM finishers
  • Chief Warrant Officer 4 Art Dechent, Virginia Army National Guard / 274th overall out of 457 male/female MLM finishers


  • Col. Troy Frost, Montana Air National Guard / 3:35:08, 2nd in class, 6th overall out of 1,858 total CLM finishers
  • Tech. Sgt. Ronald Ebert, Colorado Air National Guard / 3:49:45, 4th in class, 17th overall out of 1,858 total CLM finishers
  • Sgt. 1st Class Mike Streff, South Dakota Army National Guard / 3:58:20, 7th in class, 25th overall out of 1,858 total CLM finishers
  • Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hagen, Nebraska Army National Guard / 3:58:23, 6th in class, 26th overall out of 1,858 total CLM finishers
  • Capt. Marie Fritza, South Dakota Army National Guard / 5th in class, 46th overall out of 1,858 CLM finishers
  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mei Gentry, Pennsylvania Army National Guard / 4th in class, 47th overall out of 1,858 total CLM finishers
  • Staff Sgt. Amy Wieser Willson, North Dakota Army National Guard / 4:32:26, 8th in class, 89th overall out of 1,858 CLM finishers
  • Staff Sgt. Amanda Panek, Minnesota Army National Guard / 4:40:10, 9th in class, 117th out of 1,858 CLM finishers
Maj. Apolla Benito, Hawaii Army National Guard / 5:14:14, 14th in class, 203rd overall out of 1,858 CLM finishers

(c) NG

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