JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va., Nov. 5, 2019 —
The 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) conducted the Norwegian Foot March event allowing more than 200 service members to earn the Norwegian Armed Forces skill badge at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Oct. 30, 2019.
In 1915, the Norwegian Armed Forces,the Forsvaret, meaning “the defense” in the Norwegian language, worked to expose new members to field conditions by implementing an 18.6-mile march to be completed in under four hours, 30 minutes while wearing a full uniform and carrying a 25-pound ruck sack.
“The Norwegian Armed Forces were trying to build some mental toughness into their troops,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Todd Brown, 7th Trans. Bde. (Ex.) operations sergeant major. “You have to consider the sense of mobility wasn’t what we have today. They didn’t have vehicles and aircraft for transportation, so a lot of times it was their own two legs that got them somewhere.”
The JBLE competitors began their march at 2 a.m. to complete the race before sunrise, per the badge requirements. Brown said the Forsvaret members would ruck through the night carrying all their gear to a designated training area, then proceed to perform training exercises throughout the remainder of the day.
“Completing this before sunrise pays homage to how the Norwegians used to do it back then,” Brown said. “The other thing that really kicks people in the teeth is that the contenders had to go to work immediately after the march as well. So, it wasn’t like they got up really early to do this extreme physical event and then go home and sit in an Epsom salt bath; they had to go to work and complete the duty day.”
Brown, who organized the event, explained that this event challenged members to overcome physical and mental battles in order to complete the march. One aspect participants may not initially consider a challenge is the time of day when the event takes place.
“Your body is out of its cycle and it truly affects you out there,” Brown continued. “It’s dark, it’s not a team event, so you may find yourself with no one around you for an extended period, and that’s when it becomes a mental game. You wonder, ‘Why am I doing this? I can stop. No one will judge me. It’ll be fine.’ And that’s when we need our mental resiliency the most.”
According to Brown, a member’s tenacity and endurance gained from events like this can be applied in combat environments and only bolsters confidence to perform in ever-changing scenarios.
“Understanding all aspects, like how to position and pack your gear, plays a huge role in whether you will thrive in the field,” Brown said. “The more you can put yourself into a difficult situation and work yourself out of that situation, the more mentally resilient you become.”
First place was awarded to Capt. Carl Springfels, 7th Trans. Bde. (Ex.) brigade adjutant, who completed the march in 3 hours, 15 minutes. Springfels said he began the march with the goal to take first place. He said he believes physical and mental challenges are crucial to a service member’s career.
“In the military, ruck marches teach us how to carry gear while also moving quickly, and that is an essential skill in a combat environment,” Springfels said. “That’s a skill that is used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Service members are out there carrying heavy packs while executing missions without stopping. They can’t just take a break when they’re tired. Events like this not only build us up physically, it also builds your mental fortitude.”
While Springfels and his fellow participants worked hard to earn their badge, they also took an opportunity to help others by filling their ruck sacks with nonperishable foods, prompting the event to yield more than 300 pounds of food to be donated to a local charity.
Brown said this year’s march started with 20 JBLE members intending to drive to Fort Meade to participate, but there were so many inquiries that the 308th Military Intelligence Battalion and their Norwegian counterparts approved for Fort Eustis to conduct its own event. Organizers are already planning for a larger event next year.
“The participants showed up and made the event worthwhile,” Brown continued. “We’re really excited about doing it next year on a much grander scale so we can really bring the entire community together.”