By Marcus Hill | 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Team Schriever members prep their minds and bodies for the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico March 15.
The event, established in 1989, is a 26.2-mile run/hike that honors the 75,000 U.S. and Filipino service members held as prisoners of war in the Philippine Islands during World War II.
The marathon is open to civilians and military members and all participants will receive a full quart of water to start. Around 30 Schriever Airmen will participate in the marathon.
One of the participants, 1st Lt. Michael Horvat, 2nd Space Operations Squadron lead mission analyst, hadn’t previously heard of the race until he received an invite from a fellow Airman.
“One day, Lt. Justin Taylor said, ‘Hey, are you trying to do this Bataan Death March thing?’” Horvat said. “I asked him what it was because it sounded kind of terrifying. But he explained what it was and I wanted to do it.”
Horvat researched the marathon’s details, checked blogs and talked to Airmen in his squadron to navigate the challenges.
He learned the importance of eating certain foods such as carbohydrates to stay fueled during the marathon and how to effectively use his gear.
“Ted Williams, (2nd SOPS program coordinator), from our front office gave me tips on how to break in my boots faster,” Horvat said. “He said put them in the shower and get them wet, wear the socks you’re going to wear for the race, tighten your boots as tight as you’ll wear them for the race and wear (the boots and socks) until they dry. Do that a couple times, get inserts and do that again with the inserts. It helps wear down the leather and helps it conform to the shape of your foot.”
Another first timer, 1st Lt. Marcel Cloutier, 2nd SOPS GPS subsystem analyst, witnessed the fatigue of his roommate after he completed the march last year.
“I won’t say he (1st Lt. Harrison Holmes) had fun doing it — he came back and was absolutely exhausted,” Cloutier said. “But this is a good way to bond. If you’re suffering together, you get closer. It’s going to be tough. I have no doubt in my ability to finish. How fast and how painful it is though? Who knows.”
Though Cloutier understands the challenge the Bataan Memorial Death March presents, he appreciates the bigger picture.
The march during World War II took soldiers nearly 65 miles through the Philippine jungles, where hundreds of U.S. troops died. Cloutier plans to use their struggles to keep him motivated during the marathon.
“As much as I may be suffering in it, other people have had it so much worse,” Cloutier said. “It’s less than half the distance of the original Death March. We won’t have people beating us or shooting at us. I plan on keeping that in mind when I have mental challenges or I’m out of breath or my legs start to go.”
For additional information regarding the race, visit https://bataanmarch.com.