June 6, 2016 –
By Shadi May, contributing writer for the Army Reserve Cyber Operations Group/335th Signal Command (Theater)
Alexandria, Va. -- The military requires its members to stay fit in order to be combat ready, but for one Army Reserve Cyber Operations Group Soldier, fitness is a way of life and a chance to remain competitive. Master Sgt. Yesenia Cooper, the noncommissioned officer in charge of ARCOG’s Western Cyber Protection Center, in Camp Parks, California, participated in the 27th annual Bataan Death March in White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, March 20, 2016 and won the second place in her category: military female light individual, 40-49 years of age.
“This was not my first time doing this event. I have done it five other times,” said MSG Cooper, who participated in this event for the first time in 2002. “The first time, it took me and my teammates almost 12 hours to finish it, and over the years, I have participated in it within different categories and have improved my time down to eight hours in 2004 and just a little over seven hours in 2005.”
Cooper has done this event with friends, coworkers, and even her husband in 2007 when they completed it in eight hours, but her competitive attitude pushes her to keep striving for better timing by training harder each year.
She did not participate from 2008 to 2015 for various personal and professional commitments but this year she made an amazing comeback with only six hours, nine minutes, and 54 seconds to score second place in her category.
Her fitness enthusiasm brings an esprit de corps to both her personal and military family. “MSG Cooper is an incredible athlete and we are proud of her accomplishment,” said LTC Tracy Monteith, battalion commander for ARCOG’s WCPC. “She is a motivation to her soldiers and leaders for continual physical development and self-improvement. The Bataan Memorial Death March is one among many events which she supports that benefit Soldiers both past and present.”
The annual event is a 26.2 mile march through desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range and is in honor of a group of World War II service members who defended the harbor defense forts of the Philippines and its island of Luzon, where Manila is located.
The Japanese Army forced thousands of U.S. and Filipino troops to march 65 miles from the Southern end of the Bataan Peninsula to San Fernando. Thousands died because of the brutality of the captors and starvation, and the survivors were sent to prisoner of war camps, where additional troops died from harsh treatment, diseases and starvation.
Because many of the U.S. soldiers in this historic march were from units in New Mexico, the event takes place in the state to commemorate their sacrifices and honor those who survived.
During this year’s event, there were 11 survivors who supported and motivated the participants. “It was an honor to meet these brave men and be able to shake their hands and thank them for what they did,” Cooper said. “These men are a reminder of what happened then and motivate us as participants to keep the memory of their sacrifices alive.”
Originally, Cooper was supposed to complete the 2016 march with a few other fellow ARCOG members but military commitments took her colleagues away so Cooper had to do it all by herself. “Bataan is an event where you can show up alone and, by the time you leave, you will have made several friends,” Cooper said. “I have made so many friends throughout the years and am grateful for the camaraderie and the honor of being a part of this group.”
The Bataan Death March is not the only fitness event in which Cooper participates.She has done nine Army Ten-Milers and one Marine Corps Marathon, among other events.
In addition to keeping fit, Cooper also volunteers at her local animal shelter and Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter Post 812. “I like being active and contributing to a cause at the same time,” Cooper said. “For the animal shelter, I walk dogs and anything else they need me to do, and for VFW, I move equipment around for various events and banquets and do anything else they ask me to do. Volunteering for these two organizations allows me to move around and be active and also provides me an opportunity to make a difference.”
For more information on the Bataan Death March, visit http://bataanmarch.com.