VALENCIA, Spain -- On May 17, 2023, I took part in a unit cohesion exercise with the NATO Rapid Deployable Corp - Spain Support Battalion.
Every year the overall fitness level of Spanish Army battalions is evaluated by a unit outside of their chain of command. The purpose of the evaluation is to provide information on the battalion commander’s promotions and future command positions.
The unit’s fitness is determined by a timed foot march, known as a ruck march in the U.S. Army.
All soldiers within the unit are expected to be available to participate in the march if physically able. On the day of the march the evaluators perform a personnel check of each Soldier within the unit. Any Soldier listed as unavailable for the march must have a documented reason for not being present. Annual leave or pass is not an acceptable excuse to be absent.
Soldiers dress in their combat uniform with a rucksack and personal firearm weighing altogether about 22 pounds. The distance of the march is 6.63 miles and must be completed within 90 minutes. For the commander to receive a favorable evaluation for this event, each Soldier that started the march must complete the march together in the unit formation.
Spanish Army Sgt. Maj. Antonio Lozano extended an invitation for one member of the US contingent of NRDC-Spain to participate in the event.
I was fortunate enough to represent the U.S. Army during this Spanish Army activity. Spanish Army Lt. Col. Manuel Pedro Novella, the commander of the NRDC-ESP ST BN, authorized the participation of non-Spanish personnel in the event, a first for this unit.
During the march, I was honored to assume the role of guidon bearer and carried the guidon for over half of the march. The moment I took control of the guidon was met with cheers and applause.
The concept for a U.S. Soldier to participate in this type of event is to increase cohesion between multinational forces and strengthen the NATO structure.
During the event I gained a deeper appreciation for the Spanish Army’s culture and traditions. I also felt very welcomed by the Spanish soldiers who do not normally interact with U.S. Soldiers on a regular basis as they graciously embraced me into their unit for the day.