By Sgt. Fay ConroyJuly 27, 2009
NIJMEGEN, the Netherlands - The team was met with cheers of encouragement and praise as they crossed the 100-mile finish line at 2:45 p.m. July 24 on the southern outskirts of the Dutch town of Nijmegen.
The 23 Soldiers from 21st Theater Sustainment Command and one Air Force member from Ramstein who made up the U.S. team participated in the grueling four-day, 100-mile foot march in the Netherlands July 21-24. Joining more than 40,000 other military servicemembers and civilians from around the world, the 21st TSC team marched 25 miles a day through the Dutch provinces of Gelderland, Brabant, Limburg and the city of Nijmegen.
The Four Days March, as it is called, began in 1909 and was conceived by Dutch army Lt. C. Viehoff. The Dutch Physical Education Organization designed fifteen 150-kilometer walking courses, and in September of that year 306 Dutch soldiers and 10 civilians walked one of the 150-kilometer courses. In 1925, Nijmegen became the official start point for the Four Days March, which has been held there every year since, except during World War II.
The team from 21st TSC began training for the march three months ago under the leadership of Sgt. Maj. Brent Dick, the 21st TSC's intelligence and security directorate sergeant major. The team went through many phases. At one point, there were about 47 members on the team, but only 26 team members attended the Four Days March in Nijmegen, and only 24 completed the march. Two 21st TSC Soldiers who participated in the Nijmegen march had to drop out due to injuries.
"Twenty-five miles a day really wears and tears on you," said Sgt. Nathaniel Booker, a promotions clerk with the 21st Special Troops Battalion, 21st TSC. "If it wasn't for Sgt. Maj. Dick and all of the Soldiers' motivation, I don't think I would have been able to complete it without them."
That motivation helped carry the team through a particularly trying day - the day it rained and poured.
"The rain can really take your motivation out of you, and you would be surprised by how quickly people want to quit when they've come so far," said Staff Sgt. Chrystel Drummonds, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Client Services at the Legal Assistance Office on Kleber Kaserne. "The Soldiers called cadence, motivated each other and pushed each other. I saw some young Soldiers in this team step up, and they really impressed me. It made me feel good to be a NCO. It made me feel good to be a Soldier."
On the last day of the march spectators lined the route singing, cheering and passing out gladioli, the official flower of the Four Days March.
After they completed the march, the exhaustion was evident on their faces as many of the Soldiers grimaced as they stood at attention to receive the Vierdaagse Cross, which is an official Dutch decoration that literally translates to "cross for demonstrating marching proficiency."
"It feels great. It is beyond words," said Drummonds. "The first day I doubted myself. The second day I thought I was crazy. But we've got a great team, and we worked really hard training."
The Four Days March is held every year in mid July. For more information and to start preparing for next year's march, interested parties can visit the official website at http://www.4daagse.nl/index.php/en.html.