U.S. troops prepare for Nijmegen marches
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Here are a few tricks to training for the grueling four-day road march set to begin Tuesday in Nijmegen, Netherlands.
Wear Air Force boots.
Walk at least 25 miles a week.
And stay on the black top.
“We’re better prepared than the team last year,” said Sgt. 1st Class Clarence Joseph, who heads a 20-member team from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
The Landstuhl team will join an estimated 350 U.S. military members and 45,000 other marchers from 60 countries in the 87th annual International Four Day Marches.
The march continues through Friday, with different stages of varying lengths each day for a total of about 100 miles. Each day is a different route through the country and small villages around Nijmegen.
Joseph, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the hospital’s Peri-operative Nursing Service, and one other team member marched last year. The rest had to get up to speed.
Joseph helped train the other 18 to do as he said, not as he had done. For example, last year Joseph said he trained on gravel trails. Walking 25 miles a day for four days on the blacktop roads around Nijmegen is a lot tougher, said Joseph, 41, of Los Angeles.
Most of the team also wears Air Force-issue boots, which are more forgiving than standard Army boots, he said. Team members have put on hundreds of miles since they started training in February.
“We started out with 20-kilometer [12 mile] walks every Saturday. Then three times a week we’d do a two-hour walk, which is about nine miles. Each month we tried to bump it up about 2½ miles. Finally, we were marching 25 miles,” he said Friday.
“Most of the team members were starting from scratch. Some blistered up real bad.”
Joseph was at the Vogelweh Commissary on Friday afternoon to pick up a pallet of water and some energy drinks the agency donated.
Despite the war in Iraq, soldiers from many U.S. Army Europe units are expected to participate in the march, USAREUR spokesman Michael Tolzmann said Friday. Among them are the Landstuhl team, V Corps soldiers and Kaiserslautern area teams.
“It’s really an amazing sight,” Tolzmann said of the march, which he attended as an active-duty soldier in 1995.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie between soldiers from the different armies. The soldiers who participate come home and find they have made a bond that they will not forget.”
In the early 1990s, USAREUR spent up to $300,000 sponsoring soldiers in the Nijmegen marches. However, that support dropped in 1997 due to troop drawdowns in Europe and budget constraints.
This year, USAREUR is sending a medical team to help treat soldiers injured on the march, Tolzmann said. It also is sending personnel specialists and a van to transport supplies.
Other USAREUR members will work with Dutch organizers of the event to help support the American contingent.
Joseph said his team got some donations from Landstuhl staff members. But the team is paying its own way for lodging and food at a Dutch military camp, which costs 170 euros — about $200 — a week.
“It’s not every day you spend 170 euros to go tear up your feet,” Joseph said.