77th Quartermaster Group Soldiers push through the Bataan

By Maj. Brandon Mace | 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) | March 18, 2019

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 77th Quartermaster Group, based in El Paso, Texas, took part in the 2019 Bataan Memorial Death March, here, today. 

Every spring, thousands gather around the globe at events that memorialize the U.S. and Filipino military members that were forced to march over 60 miles at the hands of their Japanese captors in April 1942. Historians estimate that 60,000-80,000 prisoners were forced on what we refer to now as the Bataan Death March after being deprived of food and water, and that nearly 10,000 died as a result. 

White Sand Missile Range holds one of the largest of commemorative events, which began in 1989 when the New Mexico State ROTC sponsored the first memorial march. Today the memorial march sees as many as 8,600 participants who travel a rigorous 14.2 or 26.2 mile route across the challenging New Mexico landscape. For more information on the Bataan Memorial Death March, visit http://bataanmarch.com/.

Among the participants was the commander of the 77th QM GRP, U.S. Army Reserve Col. Nathele Anderson. She said the idea started as a way to promote physical fitness in her units.

“It is important for Soldiers to see their leaders taking physical fitness seriously,” said Anderson. “What better way than to train for, and participate in, the grueling Bataan Memorial Death March.”

When U.S. Army Reserve 1st Sgt. Terrance France, first sergeant of the 877th Quartermaster Company, found out that members of his command were going to participate, he signed up.

“My immediate thought process was, it's time to go train,” said France. “I ran trails, did a little bit of hiking to kinda build my legs up, and I actually did spin classes.”

France pushed himself hard on the march, pulling ahead of the rest of the unit, but he said he was really impressed and motivated by some of the veteran marchers on the course. 

“It’s pure motivation,” said France. “Just when you think you're about to give up, some 80 year-old lady comes jogging right next to you! How can you not be motivated by that?”

U.S. Army Reserve Command Sgt. Maj. Denny Walker, command sergeant major of the 77th QM GRP joined his commander on the grueling course. Being headquartered in El Paso, Texas, just an hour or two from White Sands Missile Range, he knew members of his unit needed to participate. 

“As a leader you enjoy the opportunity to see your Soldiers, and their family members, come together for such a great cause,” said Walker. “Since we are so close, and this is such a significant event, it just makes sense to commemorate the sacrifices of Greatest Generation.”

For Walker, a big part of this march is about preserving and honoring history. He said events like this one give us a chance to keep history alive, not just academically, but to physically feel a tiny part of what the Filipino and American Soldiers went through.

“I can't imagine what those Soldiers went through on Bataan during WWII, but the Keystone Group recognizes the importance of commemorating their grueling sacrifices,” said Walker. “It's an honor to be able to participate and accomplish this 26-mile route under these conditions. It's worth coming out to the Bataan Death March simply as a thank you in recognition of that sacrifice.”

Anderson agrees and said that in addition to commemorating the sacrifices of the original Bataan prisoners, the march highlights the importance of readiness. She pointed to some examples from WWII history she thought about during her preparation for the march.

“After the attack on Pearl Harbor and then the Philippines, the United States wasn't ready to project militarily to support U.S Soldiers under attack in the Philippines,” said Anderson. “The essence of the Bataan Memorial Death March is to commemorate the sacrifices made by the U.S and our Allies in the Philippines, and it reminds us to be prepared.”

Anderson said she was proud of all the military members and civilians who participated in the march this year. Event organizers said that this year saw over 8,600 participants.

“Not many have the courage to take on the challenge of marching through the deserts of Texas for 26 miles,” said Anderson. “It is not something they have to do. It is something they have chosen to do.”

The 77th Quartermaster Company is part of the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). The command is made up of Soldiers, civilians and their families in units headquartered throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. As part of America’s Army Reserve, these units are trained, combat-ready and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.