JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq- "You doing all right, first sergeant'" Command Sergeant Major Clifton Johnson, command Sgt. Maj. of the 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a Lima, Ohio, native, yelled as he made his way to the rally point.

"Fired up, sergeant major!" replied 1st Sgt. LaShay White, first sergeant of 8th Ordnance Company, 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd ESC, and a Mobile, Ala., native. She was only a step behind him, and maintained that distance throughout the entire ruck march.

"Fired up times two!" she said.

For her, it wasn't just a statement, as she was one of the first to finish the 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 103rd ESC's Senior NCO five-mile ruck march held Jan. 28. The event, hosted by Johnson, the 3rd Sustainment Brigade senior enlisted advisor, included nearly every promotable sergeant first class and higher in the brigade.

"Every rotation I've ever been on, I've done a senior leader ruck march," said Command Sgt. Maj. Johnson, currently on his third deployment to Iraq. "It's for esprit de corps, it's for motivation, a challenge for my leaders, and it allows them to go out there and challenge the Soldiers."
For 1st Sgt. White, this was the type of challenge that is important for all senior leaders.

"I think it's awesome," 1st Sgt. White said. "You get to assess where you are before you get out there in front of the Soldiers."

Command Sergeant Major Jason Runnels, command Sgt. Maj. and senior enlisted advisor for the 14th Movement Control Battalion, 103rd ESC, and a native of Baton Rouge, La., agreed, adding that the event also added an element that some senior leaders don't get a chance to do very often.

"I thought it was a good esprit de corps, and team-building event for the senior leaders," he said. "It allows you to communicate and talk with one another. You can exchange information while you're getting some exercise at the same time."

The route, which began in front of the brigade headquarters, took the group on varies types of terrain from sidewalks, to roads to uneven terrain. Despite the changes in terrain, Command Sgt. Maj. Johnson said the intent was for the group to start strong and finish together.

"I think they did great," said Command Sgt. Maj. Johnson. "They were challenged; I didn't want to waste their time."

He added that the event also served as an early train-up for the brigade's upcoming 12-mile ruck march, which they will complete before redeploying this spring. The goal, Command Sgt. Maj. Johnson said, is to finish it within the 18th Airborne Corps Fit-to-Fight standard of four hours or less.

"It gives the guys an idea of what it feels like," Command Sgt. Maj. Johnson said, "but most of these guys have been doing this their whole careers."