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Al Udeid AB coalition forces complete 18.6-mile Norwegian foot march

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kayla White
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Nearly 120 coalition military members deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, woke before dawn to participate in the 18.6-mile Norwegian foot march challenge Dec. 5, 2020.

The Norwegian military tradition began in 1915, 10 years after Norway gained its independence from Sweden, as a way to expose conscripts, soldiers and civilian participants to the rigors of the military field experience.

“It became an institution in the Norwegian armed forces that we brought out to our allies wherever we deployed,” said Norwegian armed forces Capt. Magne Rambo, deployed to Al Udeid AB from Setermoen, Bardu, Northern Norway, as part of the U.S. Central Command Partner Integration Enterprise. “This is the third time it has been held here in Qatar. Hopefully there will be many more to come.”

CPIE is responsible for providing CENTCOM leadership with intelligence for decision superiority over the battlespace.

Rambo supervised the event and monitored participant’s progress as they completed each of the five laps. Participants included American, Australian, British, Canadian, New Zealander and Polish armed forces members. Competition standards required male participants to carry a 25-pound rucksack and complete the march within four and a half hours, and for female participants to complete it in five hours.

Rambo said the event is supposed to impose camaraderie amongst participants, as they endure the challenge together.

“I think it is important to not only through work together with our closest allies, but also to share our traditions and values through events like this one,” he said.

Opportunities to highlight similarities and celebrate differences increase coalition cohesion.

“This is more important than ever in a world that seems to have become more and more polarized as we navigate the COVID pandemic” said Rambo. “It reminds us why we are collaborating in the first place and challenges us to keep evolving our understanding of each other and to find common ground.”

He said the number of people who wanted to participate in the challenge was overwhelming.
“I am truly impressed and I think it says a lot about the people stationed here at Al Udeid,” said Rambo.

The friendly competition between services and nations makes participants strive to be their best selves and show each other what they can produce when put under pressure.

U.S. Army Private 1st Class Isaac Vieau, an ammunition supply specialist assigned to the 395th Ordnance Company, has been an avid participant in other ruck march events during his deployment here to Al Udeid AB.

“Even though ruck marching is a very physically demanding form of training, I personally think it’s more of a test on your mental fortitude and willpower to keep you going and pushing yourself to go the distance,” he said.

Vieau said he also saw a lot of the participants motivating each other to grind through to the end of the march.

“There are mental barriers that you gotta push through in order to maintain discipline for hours on end,” he said.

U.S. Army Maj. Lilieni Collins, deployed as part of the Army Contracting Command-Afghanistan's team at Al Udeid AB, is also a seasoned rucker. Collins has completed the Bataan Memorial Death March, an annual marathon commemoration of the Bataan Death March attended by many of the survivors of the march, along with thousands of supporters from around the world, held at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Even with that experience under her belt, she said the Norwegian foot march was overwhelming at times and that she had to remind herself to focus on completing one lap at a time.

“This event taught me to give myself more credit,” she said. “I’m more resilient than I thought.”

U.S. Army contractor Jesus Contreras, a full-motion video analyst at CPIE, collaborated with Rambo to create awareness of the event and boost participation.

Contreras said he chose to cohost this event because of how much he enjoyed participating in 2019 at Camp As Sayliyah, a U.S. Army-run installation in Qatar.

“Events like this are a reminder to ourselves and coalition members that we are a strong unit together,” he said. “Despite our distinct and different backgrounds, cultures and languages, we can pull together to accomplish a mission and goal.”