21st TSC team marches 100 miles in Nijmegen

Story and photos by Sgt. Fay Conroy

NIJMEGEN, the Netherlands — The team was met with cheers of encouragement and praise as they crossed the 100-mile finish line at 2:45 p.m. July 24 on the southern outskirts of the Dutch town of Nijmegen.

The 23 Soldiers from 21st Theater Sustainment Command and one Air Force member from Ramstein who made up the U.S. team participated in the grueling four-day, 100-mile foot march in the Netherlands July 21 to 24. Joining more than 40,000 other military servicemembers and civilians from around the world, the 21st TSC team marched 25 miles a day through the Dutch provinces of Gelderland, Brabant, Limburg and Nijmegen.

The Four Days March, as it is called, began in 1909 and was conceived by Dutch army Lt. Col. Viehoff. The Dutch Physical Education Organization designed 15 150-kilometer walking courses, and in September of that year, 306 Dutch Soldiers and 10 civilians walked one of the 150-kilometer courses. In 1925, Nijmegen became the official start point for the Four Days March, which has been held there every year since, except during World War II.

The team from the 21st TSC began training for the march three months ago under the leadership of Sgt. Maj. Brent Dick, the 21st TSC’s intelligence and security directorate sergeant major. Though the team started with 47 members, only 26 attended the march and only 24 completed the march. Two Soldiers who participated in the march had to drop out due to injuries.

“Twenty-five miles a day really wears and tears on you,” said Sgt. Nathaniel Booker, a promotions clerk with the 21st Special Troops Battalion, 21st TSC. “If it wasn’t for Sergeant Major Dick and all of the Soldiers’ motivation, I don’t think I would have been able to complete it.”

That motivation helped carry the team through a particularly trying day when it began to rain.

“The rain can really take your motivation out of you, and you would be surprised by how quickly people want to quit when they’ve come so far,” said Staff Sgt. Chrystel Drummonds, non-commissioned officer in charge of client services at the Legal Assistance Office on Kleber Kaserne. “The Soldiers called cadence, motivated each other and pushed each other. I saw some young Soldiers in this team step up, and they really impressed me.”

On the last day of the march, spectators lined the route singing, cheering and passing out gladioli, the official flower of the Four Days March. After the march was completed, the exhaustion was evident on their faces as many of the Soldiers grimaced while standing at attention to receive the Vierdaagse Cross, which is an official Dutch decoration that literally translates to “cross for demonstrating marching proficiency.”

“It feels great. It is beyond words,” Sergeant Drummonds said. “The first day I doubted myself. The second day I thought I was crazy. But we’ve got a great team, and we worked really hard training.”

The Four Days March is held every year in mid July. For more information, visit www.4daagse.nl/index.php/en.html.