CASEY GARRISON - Alexander Pagon crossed the finish line first in the 2009 Bataan Memorial Death March Qualifier held on USAG-Casey Feb. 21with a time of 1:48:49. More than 200 Soldiers, both male and female, ran the course, which covered both Casey and Camp Hovey from gate to gate, and yielded times all under 2:45.

Jeffrey Gifford placed second with a time of 2:02:26. Arron Moore finished third with a time of 2:02:57. In the Women's Division Amanda Miller finished first with a time of 2:25:40, Jennifer Adams finished second with a time of 2:27:50 and Amy Breguet finished third with a time of 2:33:40.

In the team event, which consists of five members; team 49, James Shafer, Matt Dobyns, Joshua Dehnert, Rodrigo Pimentel, and Michael Mann, finished first with a time of 2:31:29. In the Men's Division there were 119 participants, Women's Division had 22 participants, and 13 teams made the team event. The winners will advance to the Bataan Memorial Death March held at White Sands, N.M.

"In the last couple of months I put a 45 pound ruck (sack) on to run," Pagon said. "Normally I just train for marathons, but in the last two months I put on the extra weight to train for this event. I was running at an average 8.5 minute mile pace and it paid off."

Pagon's preparations did him well as his closest rival for first was almost 15 minutes behind.
Weather being well below freezing made some participants react well and some react not so well, but the icicles hanging from Gifford's cap did not impair his ability to finish second.

"My strategy for today's run was to stay constant," Gifford said. "Take off easy and keep a steady pace, keep constant, and I did, which allowed me to move from 20th place to second. I did not do any rucksack marches to get ready for this; my regular running physical training sufficed. I really wanted to do the Manchu Mile and I was not thinking of the Bataan Qualifier, but when I saw it in the paper, I decided to do it."

Within sight of Gifford's finish was Arron Moore finishing the race with his children there to cheer him across the line.

"A free trip to the United States," Moore said as he lifted the pack from his back. "That is a good reason to put a 35 pound pack on my back and run. I came with a bunch of guys in my company who wanted to participate. Actually, I am going to gunnery so I will not get to go to the United States. I want to say thanks to all the Family, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation people for putting on this event."

"Being able to participate in the Bataan Memorial Qualifier on USAG-Casey instills pride for the Soldiers," said Command Sgt. Maj. Nidal Saeed, USAG-Casey Command Sgt. Maj. "This is an 8th Army event and the garrison supports it 100 percent. FMWR did a wonderful job."

More detail was paid to risk assessments for the run this year, said Randy Behr, FMWR sports director.

"The Army will be screening participant's profiles a little more for events such as this," Behr said. "We have always been safety conscious."

The FMWR sports specialists put 15 borrowed military manpower road guards in strategic places along the route to help with the situations that might arise with traffic while the march was going on. More than six military police were guiding traffic as well, Behr said.

"We have four military ambulances going along with the marchers for safety reasons," Behr said. "We have medical personnel in the ambulances and in the Carey Fitness Center."

The garrison began the event nine years ago and this recent running brought the largest number of entries in recent memory, said Jim Williams, USAG-RC sports specialist. The largest number happened during Maj. Gen. Russell Honoree's tenure in 2001. He made it mandatory and more than 600 participated.

"Now it is all volunteer and we have teams including individual events for both male and female Soldiers," Williams said. "The 8th Army is sponsoring our winners to compete in the international running of 26.2 miles."

The event honors the memory of all those veterans who survived the Bataan Death March (also known as The Death March of Bataan) which took place in the Philippines in 1942 and was later accounted as a Japanese war crime.