A lone Ramstein paralegal recently set off on a journey to join a team of soldiers in what is considered the largest official marching event in the world.
From July 21 through 24, Senior Airman Saretta Morgan, 86th Airlift Wing Legal Office paralegal, marched in formation with 23 members of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command as part of the challenging four-day, 100-mile foot march in the Netherlands, known as the International Four Day Marches Nijmegen.
The annual march was started by Dutch U.S. Army Lt. Col. C. Viehoff in 1909 to promote sport and exercise.
This year, the event attracted more than 41,000 military and civilian participants from all over the world. To complete the march and receive the team award, Airman Morgan and her crew mates had to march 25 miles per day over four days.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “I have never been so miserable and happy at the same time. The biggest thing for me was being in the Air Force on an Army team, because I think they didn’t really expect me to hold up. It’s nice to show the Army that the Air Force is tough too. I think for me that was the best part.”
The opportunity to participate came up during a breakfast organized to give paralegals from Ramstein an opportunity to interact with their Army counterparts from the 21st TSC Legal Office on Kleber Kaserne, said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Gadson, 86th AW Legal Office superintendant.
“At the breakfast, my former counterpart at the TSC legal office presented an opportunity for some things the Army was doing for us to participate in,” he said. “So, when she gave me the information on the Nijmegen March, I offered the opportunity up to all the folks in our legal office, and (Airman Morgan)was the one person to say yes.”
Shortly after she volunteered for the march, the team began practicing for the event.
They met once a week at 5:30 a.m. on Daenner Kaserne and started out with a six-mile march, eventually working themselves up to 22 miles.
“Initially when I signed up I didn’t realize how long the march was going to be and how much training was going to go into it,” she said. “I also didn’t know that we were going to have to march with rucksacks on.”
At some point during one of the practice marches, Airman Morgan had to ask herself why she was there. Yet, she persisted and succeeded in her quest.
“This march is an impressive feat for any person or group to take part in,” Sergeant Gadson said. “That just speaks to the character of Airman Morgan. She seeks out challenges and takes them on. She’s just an awesome individual, and she sets a great example for all of us from the bottom to the top. You could not ask for a better Air Force representative than Airman Morgan.”
Sgt. Maj. Brent Dick, 21st TSC Intelligence and Security Directorate sergeant major and person in charge of the marching team, also spoke highly of Airman Morgan.
“It was my pleasure training and leading Airman Morgan during the Nijmegen March,” Sergeant Major Dick said. “At first, my impression was I wasn’t sure about her physical ability and shape. But, I would say that even after the first march she did with us, she had no problems. She did as well as any of the other Soldiers who do this on a regular basis. So, I’d say from Day One, she set the standard not only for the Air Force but also for the Army.
“Anytime she wants to come back and join our group, I’d have no problem with that,” the sergeant major added.
As far as doing it again, Airman Morgan said that if during the march someone had asked her if she would do it again, her answer would have been a resounding no. However, looking back now, she would participate again.
“Now that it’s done, and I can’t exactly tell you why, I feel like it’s actually one of the best things I have done in life,” Airman Morgan said. “It’s definitely one of the best weeks I have experienced.”