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NEWS | March 27, 2018

Army Reserve Soldiers tackle Bataan Memorial Death March

By Capt. Thomas Piernicky 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), based in San Antonio, took part in the 2018 Bataan Memorial Death March, here, Sunday.

This yearly event honors the nearly 10,000 U.S. and Filipino Soldiers that died during an April 1942 forced march at the hand of their Japanese captors during World War II. For more information on the Bataan Memorial Death March, visit http://bataanmarch.com/.

More than 8,000 participants tackled the Bataan Memorial Death March this year either as individuals or teams. One team leader was U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Troy Catterton, a logistics officer with the 4th ESC who works in the unit’s emergency operations center. Catterton was inspired to participate by his boss, Lt. Col. Bob Wagner, who completed the march previously.

“I knew about the Bataan Death March, but didn’t know the historical context behind it,” said Catterton. “It’s a realistic opportunity show appreciation, and through the suffering and challenges of service members coming back from World War II. It brings personal pride and value to me and will reflect honor on my unit.”

Catterton knew the event would be a grueling endeavor. He did research on the historic march to better understand what the U.S. and Filipino Soldiers endured. In 1942, after seven months of fighting, those Soldiers surrendered to the Japanese Army and were forced to march 65 miles through the sweltering heat of the Philippine jungle. Many died of disease, injury or were executed by their captors during the march.

While the original death march covered 65 miles in jungle terrain, the memorial march course allows participants to do a 14.2 or 26.2-mile route. Catterton’s team prepared to complete the 26.2-mile course set in the rigorous New Mexico desert at White Sands Missile Range. Events like the Bataan Memorial Death March hone a Soldier’s body and mind ensuring today’s Army Reserve is the most capable, combat-ready, and lethal Federal Reserve force in the history of the Nation.

Such preparation and training required a significant commitment from Catterton. He started his training by doing crossfit then switched to three days of ruck marching interspersed with two days of running four to six miles. Catterton said the terrain of Fort Sam Houston, Texas, has numerous hills that built his endurance for the march.

“The regimen that I conduct is that every other day is a ruck day,” said Catterton. “I get to Fort Sam at 0500 in the morning, I put on a 50-pound ruck and my boots, and I will ruck for about three consecutive hours.”

For one member of Catterton’s team, this is her 13th time participating in the Bataan Memorial Death March. U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Linda Zamora, executive officer for the 372nd Quarter Master Battalion (Petroleum Support) stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, conducts a 6-day-a-week training regimen that incorporates trail running and rucking in sand.

“Typically, I start training at Thanksgiving,” said Zamora. “We train to get the body strong, the mind strong.”

Another member of Catterton’s team, U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Mike Hopkins, the 372nd QM BN Intelligence Officer, is no stranger to ruck marching. Hopkins attended the Special Forces Qualification Course in which he recalled ruck marching 250 miles over a two week period.

“This is the ultimate challenge for foot marches,” said Hopkins. “It teaches you how far you can go. You can’t stop. You find new limits you didn’t know were there.”

The ability to push the body past known physical limits starts with a proper mindset. Catterton said the key to finishing the Bataan Memorial Death March is high morale. That morale and high motivation were displayed on the team’s smiling faces at the opening ceremony of the event. During the opening ceremony, survivors of the original Bataan Death March were present for a roll call and greeted the participants as they began the march.

“It’s neat to have the survivors from the original march at the start,” said Zamora.

Zamora recalled seeing a particular Bataan Memorial Death March survivor at a specific checkpoint every year during her first several marches. She said he had a way of motivating her to finish because she realized his march was far worse than what she was taking on. Then, one year, he wasn’t at that check point. The survivor had died in the months preceding the annual memorial march.

“I was crying,” said Zamora. “It was sad that I would never see him there encouraging me on.”

That sort of inspiration was a significant driving force for Catterton’s team during their 26.2-mile trek. The team crossed the finish line in 8 hours and 27 minutes. Despite their sore feet and tired bodies, the group maintained their smiles and positive attitude.

“It was a great experience and I recommend it to all ranks,” said Catterton.

The 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) is part of the 79th Theater Sustainment Command. The 4th ESC has units throughout Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. As part of America’s Army Reserve, the units are capable, combat-ready, lethal and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.

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