Soldiers from the Adjutant General Basic Officer Leader Course embark on a 12-mile road march from Hilton Field shortly before dawn.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Thirty-six Soldiers from the Adjutant General Basic Officer Leader Course embarked on a 12-mile road march recently. The event was one of the final steps the students had to complete before graduation April 2.

The Adjutant General School and the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga., are the only two of the Army's 16 basic branch schools that conduct a 12-mile road march as part of their training.

At 4 a.m. on a brisk morning, the students stepped off into the darkness and began the march. The march was not only challenging because of the distance, but because the students performed it with rifles in hand.

"It was hard because that's the farthest I've ever had to ruck, but it was exciting," said 2nd Lt. Veronica Chelsey. "Carrying the rifle, along with (other gear), really makes you feel more in the moment and more like a Soldier -- not like you're just going on a long walk."

In preparation for 12 miles, the students performed three-, five- and eight-mile road marches, none of which required additional gear.

"The intent of doing the 12-mile road march is to help our young AG officers set goals ... it builds character and confidence," said Maj. Randy Lefebvre, chief of the Basic Officer Training Division at the Adjutant General School. "Seventy-five to 80 percent of the students have never done a 12-mile road march. Today's Army is evolving and it's imperative that we get back to basics."

The 12-mile road march was incorporated into the AG BOLC curriculum to emphasize the changing dynamic of the Army as it restructures and reduces in size following more than a decade of war.

Two hours after beginning the march, the students reached the halfway mark. At that time, they were able to rest and change socks, though only few seized the opportunity to do so.

"I'd rather just keep going," said 2nd Lt. Laura Colledge. "We have made it so far at this point; it feels better to keep moving. The more we stop, the more time there is for the soreness and pain to set in."

All 36 Soldiers completed the road march in less than four hours. Following, they continued their training with the Combined Arms Division, completing both weapons qualification and a land navigation test.

As the students returned to their original starting point at Hilton Field, they caught a glimpse of the parking lot filled with the families of Basic Combat Training Soldiers preparing to march onto the field for their graduation ceremony.

The symbolism of the moment was not lost on the student's primary instructor, Capt. Jacqueline Murray-Bonno.

"Today is about shared sacrifice and sharing some of the experiences that those young Soldiers on that field, some of whom might end up being a Soldier in your S-1 section," Murray-Bonno said.

Page last updated Fri April 5th, 2013 at 11:42