News: 4th SBCT soldiers complete final ‘Manchu Mile’
Story by Sgt. Kimberly Lessmeister
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Throughout 4-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division’s eight-year history, the soldiers of 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment “Manchu” have always lived up to their motto, “Keep Up the Fire.”
As a last hurrah before the brigade’s upcoming inactivation, service members, spouses and civilians associated with the battalion participated in a 25-mile ruck march, known as the “Manchu Mile,” March 5 and 6 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
“It’s a regimental event that celebrates the history of the Manchu’s march into Tientsin during the Boxer Rebellion … in 1900,” said Maj. Keith Carter, the commander of 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. “During that time, they had to march 85 miles to the conflict, so ever since then, Manchu units have celebrated that march by doing the Manchu Mile.”
Participants carried a 35-pound rucksack and walked throughout the night on a designated route around post until they ended up at 4th Battalion's headquarters.
The first group left around 7:30 p.m. on March 5 and arrived around 4 a.m. on March 6, and each company trickled in about 30 minutes to an hour after each other. Soldiers who completed the march for the first time received their prized, and well-earned, Manchu belt buckles.
“Doing events like the Manchu Mile builds your character,” said Carter, who completed the march for the second time. “It teaches you your own limits and it bonds you with the people you’re doing it with.”
That thought rang true for 1st Lt. Justin Zwick, a fire support officer with 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, and a first-time Manchu Mile participant.
“We talked to each other (and) kept the thought process off of actually marching 25 miles and more like we were just hanging out,” Zwick explained. “It kept your mind off the rain (and your) mind off your feet.”
For some of the soldiers participating, it was probably the furthest they had ever walked, Carter said.
“Now they know they can,” he said. “It gives them confidence that they will carry forward in their daily duties.”
Zwick said that the 25-mile ruck march was a good experience for him.
“I think I really got a feel for what I am capable of doing,” he said.
One thing that stood out to veteran Manchu Milers and newcomers alike was the rain.
“I think the rain … made it a little more miserable, a little bit more of a gut check, but I think we all got through it pretty well,” Zwick said.
For Carter, being able to complete the Manchu Mile with his wife made this year’s march memorable.
Soldiers of the unit celebrated the completion of the march with a picnic to reflect not only what they had accomplished that day, but throughout their time in 4-2 SBCT and the regiment.
“It’s just a good way to celebrate our affiliation with this regiment (by) doing one more historic road march,” Carter said. “We’re all getting ready to go out to different units in the Army, but we’ve all cherished our time together in the (Manchu battalion), so it’s a fitting way to close that chapter on all of our lives.”
With the final Manchu Mile, Carter said he and his battalion are getting ready to close a chapter in their history and turn over the regimental lineage to Fort Carson, Colo., where the battalion will be activated once 4-2 SBCT inactivates March 14.