***image1***Fifteen Airmen from Ramstein Air Base marched in the internationally recognized 88th Nijmegen four-day march, held in Holland July 20.
This year the 15-member “Team Ramstein” lost only one marcher, making them the first Air Force team to finish in more than 15 years, according to Dutch organizers.
Nijmegen, a city in east central Holland known for major WWII battles, hosts the annual week-long event.
This year, the event drew more than 47,000 marchers — 5,000 of them international military — and hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The motivation for many marchers is the international camaraderie. Some march for the medal awarded at the end. However, for military contingents the true goal is completing the event as a team and being awarded the team medal.
To earn the team medal, military marchers must complete all four days in uniform, boots and a 10-kilogram rucksack. Ninety percent of the team must finish.
Of 19 American military teams, to include one Air Force and 18 Army teams, only three earned the team award.
The Americans also suffered an overall dropout of 32 percent — 175 of 259 marchers finished.
Blisters, tendonitis, bruising, heat exhaustion, dehydration are but a few of the physical impediments the team encountered.
“The most debilitating issue is the psychological impact to motivation,” said Team Leader Maj. Bill Kennedy, 435th Air Base Wing, Geographically Separated Unit support chief. He also said that the team overcame this impact with discipline and drive.
The value of having a medic on the team, Staff Sgt. Matt Lowell (JOB, UNIT) was also instrumental in the team’s success, Major Kennedy said.
The event began with an early arrival on Sunday to check in and meet some international counterparts. Monday was registration and team preparation, followed by more socializing.
Tuesday began at 3 a.m., and the team marched at 5:15 a.m. By the end of the day, team members were feeling the effects of blisters and muscle fatigue.
Wednesday, the team lost a member to blisters, and marched into camp at 3:53 p.m., more than two hours behind the previous day’s time. Many members required taping of their feet in preparation for the legendary seven-hills march of the third day.
Thursday began as usual with the 3:30 a.m. wakeup and 5 a.m. departure. Even with fatigue and foot injuries, the team arrived back at camp at 3:23 p.m., slicing 20 minutes off the previous day’s time, although the route was three kilometers longer.
The fourth and final day began as all the others but with one slight difference. Units were forced to rise at 2:30 a.m. in preparation for a 4 a.m. departure.
They finished the day as a team at 3:45 p.m.
It was over, and the team showed obvious the hardships of the full four days as they limped to their medal receiving area.
The marchers now return to their respective missions with the knowledge that a physically and mentally disciplined team can accomplish great things.