Persevering through challenging uphill terrain and several hours of sleet, Soldiers with 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division completed a 25-mile commemorative foot march April 6.
The Manchu Mile, undertaken semiannually, honors the 9th Inf. Reg.'s storied involvement in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion.
The "Boxers," according to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, were fanatics who wished to eradicate foreign influence from China and by the middle of 1900, foreigners, including Americans, found themselves in grave danger.
During the conflict, the regiment endured a grueling 85-mile march from Taku Bar to Tientsin, China, under the command of Col. Emerson H. Liscum. Upon reaching Tientsin, they began an assault on the city walls. Liscum was fatally wounded in the battle and gave the regiment its motto with his last words: "Keep up the fire!" For the regiment's actions during the rebellion, they earned the honorary title of "Manchus."
"This was a fantastic way to build physical and mental toughness throughout our formation, while also remembering the sacrifice of past Manchu Warriors," said Lt. Col. David Uthlaut, commander, 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Reg., 1SBCT. "As we prepare to deploy this spring, we are further bound to each other and to those who have paved the way before us."
Soldiers from the 1st Space Brigade joined the regiment for this iteration of the Manchu Mile. Other units are typically invited as a means to build camaraderie outside its own formation.
The Manchu Mile is not only an important tribute to the unit's history, but also an important training tool as well.
"When you're trying to determine the capabilities of a vehicle in your formation, you take it out and drive it a certain distance under rough conditions to see if it can complete the task," said Capt. Cole Taylor, assistant operations officer, 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Reg., 1SBCT. "The same is true for us as Soldiers. Knowing we can complete a difficult road march like this will give us confidence in our physical and mental fortitude."
For many Soldiers, this was their first Manchu Mile and their first opportunity to earn the regiment's distinctive Manchu belt buckle, which is authorized for wear in uniform. Other Soldiers have completed the trek several times.
"For several of our Soldiers this was their fourth Manchu Mile which is a significant accomplishment," said Sgt. Maj. John S. Ugarte, operations sergeant major with 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Reg., 1st SBCT. "After the fourth, instead of the Manchu belt buckle they receive a battalion coin and we usually award them an Army Achievement Medal."