This past Sunday, March 23rd, two 5-man teams from the CU-Boulder Army ROTC unit finished first and second in the Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico. This year's March marked the 25th running of this event where over 6,200 participants marched through the high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range.
The Bataan Memorial Death March website explains that the March is conducted in honor of the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health and, in many cases, their very lives. The Bataan March takes on many meanings for its participants.
"The Bataan death march meant a lot to me because it honored those soldiers who survived, as well as, pushed me through extreme mental and physical exhaustion to expand my threshold. I was honored to be able to participate as well as meet the remaining survivors and honor their sacrifice," shared Ben Kaufhardt, a member of the winning CU Army ROTC team.
For the third consecutive year, a CU Army ROTC team has won the ROTC Heavy Male Team category against other college units from across the U.S. Preparing for this event takes commitment to a rigorous training schedule. Kaufhardt shared, "My teammates and I trained five days a week including long ruck marches on the weekends, swimming on Mondays, weight lifting on Tuesdays, long run on Wednesdays, and ruck runs on Thursdays."
Members of the winning team included Stephen Velisek, Tanner Reinhart, Tyler Grosek, John Mattoon, and Kyle Willis with a time of 5:29.56. The second place team consisted of Jacob Roberson, Craig Didlake, Ben Kaufhardt, Craig Roberts and Jake Johnson with a time of 5:50.30. Both CU teams finished well ahead of the third place team from the University of Wyoming with a time of 6:25.53. Both teams are pictured.
The Heavy Teams race 26.2 miles in official issue clothing, including boots. Marchers in the Heavy Division must have a minimum of 35 pounds in their rucksacks which are weighed and verified at the finish line. The fastest Heavy Teams alternate running and power walking throughout the race.
"When I finished the race, it was an unreal feeling," reflected Kaufhardt. "Although I was physically sore, I felt a great sense of accomplishment that can only be felt through accomplishing something as demanding such as Bataan. When my team and I saw the finish line I was in disbelief that it could possibly be over."