HOHENFELS, Germany -- For Soldiers, marching is a part of everyday life, but members of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, at Hohenfels are taking it to the extreme by participating in the 2014 International Four Day Marches Nijmegen, this July.
The four day, 160-kilometer trek through the Netherlands is the largest event of its kind in the world, drawing up to 46,000 participants from 75 different countries.
Hohenfels has been represented at the march before. Last year, Capt. Jeff Gamble, Cherokee Company commander, led a team of 11 along the grueling route.
"When we got done last year, we all said we'd never do this again, and then as soon as it comes up, here we go again," laughed Gamble.
Gamble, who has recently moved to Headquarters and Headquarters Co. , 1-4th Inf. Regt., said this year they presented the opportunity to the whole battalion and have 15 members marching together. All of the members of Cherokee Co. who marched last year and have not PCS'd are back for another round.
Military units participating in the event are required to march in uniform carrying a 22-pound rucksack.
"It was tough being out there in military boots and carrying a rucksack and seeing (civilians) in their shorts and tennis shoes with nothing but water in their hands," admitted Gamble.
Each day features a different route, winding through the Dutch countryside and into picturesque villages.
"It was gorgeous the whole time," Gamble said. "But whenever you show up in a town, the streets are just lined with people, out there handing you fruit, asking you for patches and stuff. The towns were the best part. It was like a four-day party for them."
Not so much for Team Cherokee though.
Gamble said the first day's 25 mile march wasn?'t bad, but hitting the trail on consecutive days began to wear on the team.
"We were all feeling it the second day," said Gamble. "Soon as we'd get back, we'd be laid up with our boots off."
Still, the team persevered, actually finishing the third day in record time.
"I don't know if we just got numb, or if we just wanted to get it over with quick," laughed Gamble.
On the final day, three miles from the finish line, the Cherokees changed from their ACUs to the 1-4th Inf. Regt.'s trademark black uniforms, finishing the march in OPFOR (Opposition Force) style.
With only one team member not finishing the march, the Cherokees earned the Nijmegen team medal, which is now displayed proudly in their company area. Gamble plans to earn another one this year.
"But, really my main goal is just not to hurt as much when I get finished," Gamble joked.
Gamble said the biggest challenge last year was that the team didn't train enough, making due with a few marches per week between 6 to 12 miles.
"But there wasn't a lot of back-to-back marches, and that's where we made our mistake," he said.
This year, the team is already training with two to three short marches during the week, and six scheduled weekends in the coming months where they will march both days, building from 12 miles to 25.
"It's hard to do an 18-miler and still make it to work," said Gamble.
Though Gamble wants to keep the team at 15 members, he said the training is open to everyone, whether they are walking the Nijmegen as individuals or just want some intense PT.
"For me, it's the camaraderie of walking with the team," Gamble said. "You know, it's hard and it sucks, but it's a shared experience and it sucks, and that kind of brings everybody together a little bit."