Capt. Robert Topper finishes first overall in the 2nd annual Fort Bragg Combat Cross Country, which took place Feb. 18 at Smith Lake. The top five men and women who completed the march are now eligible to represent Fort Bragg at the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, N.M., next month.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Why would anyone want to march for fun up and down hills through the woods with a 35-pound pack strapped to his back on a cold winter morning'

When posed with this question during the hike, 2nd Lt. Jane Petrick's first answer was, "Well, why not'" She is a platoon leader with 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment.

Petrick joined nearly 100 other active-duty servicemembers for the 2010 Cross Country Meet, which was put on by the Fort Bragg Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Sports Office at Smith Lake Feb. 18.

According to Heather Adams, the event's coordinator, Soldiers were required to march 12 miles with at least 35 pounds of gear on their backs in full battle dress uniform.

The top five men and top five women to complete the race became eligible to represent Fort Bragg at the 21st Annual Bataan Memorial Death March in White Springs, N.M., March 21.

"This event is something we do in order to help build the morale of our Soldiers and to give them a little fun," Adams said. "It's also a good training exercise, so everyone wins."

Active-duty servicemembers could run with or without a team; but only individuals could qualify for the Bataan Memorial Death March. "I came out here just to see how well I could do," explained Petrick, who placed fifth among female participants. "I'd really love to have the opportunity to do the death march. I do ruck marches a few times each week, so I'm prepared for this."

With her fifth place finish, Petrick is now eligible to participate at next month's memorial march. Specialist Winfield Agonoy, a medic at Womack Army Medical Center, was on hand for the Fort Bragg cross-country march for more personal reasons. His uncle was a member of the Philippine army during World War II, so the Bataan Memorial Death March holds a special place in Agonoy's heart. "I would love to qualify for the death march because it would be a good way to honor my uncle," the 31-year-old specialist said as he loaded up his pack before the march.

Although he was not one of the top five men to finish the Fort Bragg race, Agonoy may still participate as an individual during the march in New Mexico. However, he said he is not sure whether he will be able to make the event or not. At the end of the race, top finishing individuals and teams were presented with awards.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16