FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Emily Nordt, an Army ROTC Cadet from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, earned first place in the female category at the University of Southern Indiana's (USI) 12th Annual Norwegian Foot March, recently.

With a start and end point at USI, the 18.6-mile march required participants to march on a trail that covered a variety of terrain while dressed in military uniforms and carrying a 25-pound rucksack and frame. With a time of three hours and 19 minutes, Nordt set a new record in the female category. The previous record was three hours and 54 minutes.

Sponsored by Dr. Nils Johansen, retired Norwegian Artillery Reserve Officer and USI University Division advisor, the Norwegian Foot March is a boot camp tradition for Norwegian soldiers.

Johansen said that the march encourages Army ROTC Cadets to be physically and mentally prepared. "Know as a leader, you have to be able to do what you are asking your troops to do. Never ask someone to do something that you cannot do yourself. I learned this as a young army lieutenant in Norway.

"During my time in boot camp, I would take the pack of the soldier struggling in the back," Johansen said. "I would walk him to the front and give his pack back. I did this multiple times and kept my soldiers together. This showed my soldiers that I was willing to carry the same weight and even their weight. These lessons stay with you for the rest of your life. "I believe that personal leadership is a lesson that ROTC Cadets can learn from this ordeal."

Cadets and Soldiers who completed the foot march in an allotted amount of time were awarded a certificate and the bronze badge for finishing, a silver badge for finishing four marches, and a gold badge for completing eight marches.

The foreign badge is authorized for acceptance and wear on the U.S. Army uniform. Nearly 500 cadets and Soldiers representing 30 states participated making this year's event to largest to date.

Army ROTC cadets from Ball State University, Central Michigan University, Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis, Indiana University, Rose-Hulman, and USI participated.

In addition, Soldiers from states such as Alaska, California, North Carolina, New York, Texas participated. Ages of participants ranged from 17 to 51.

Nicholas Fischer, a 29-year-old National Guardsman from Jasper, Ind., took first place in the foot march with a time of two hours and 55 minutes.

In the team category, Raymond Cole-Machuca, Matt Eden, Joseph Loeb, and Said Outlaw from West Point, NY, set a new record with a time of three hours and 28 minutes.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Patrick Reilly, an Army recruiter in Dover, Delaware, who had completed the Army 10-Miler in October, thought that participating in the Norwegian March "would be fun." He was also interested in earning a foreign award.

"When I started the march, I thought I would run to the turn-around, but once it started raining, I realized that the march is something you have to earn," Reilly said. "Toward the end, my ham strings started locking up and blisters were cracking open."

Aches and pains aside, Reilly plans to enter the march next year, but said he is "definitely going to train up for it unlike this time." He offers the same advice for people who are interested in entering.

"Ruck with 50 pounds so when you drop down to 25 pounds, it's easily manageable," Reilly said.

Sgt. David Avila-Medina, also an Army recruiter from Dover, said he's getting ready to leave the Army and wanted to test himself with a challenge before leaving. The biggest challenge, he said, is carrying a 25 pound ruck for 18.6 miles with a time standard.

The upside was the camaraderie among participants during the march was amazing, Avila-Medina said. "We encouraged each other through the rain storm, and we were singing cadence."
Proceeds from the Norwegian Foot March benefit the USI ROTC program.

Registrations for the 13th Annual Norwegian Foot March will open in March 2014.

(Editor's note: Portions of this article appeared online in the news section of the Rose-Hulman website, Nov. 11.)