News: Nine nations, one badge; the Norwegian Road March
Story by Sgt. Thomas Duval
EL GORAH, Egypt - Measuring less than an inch, engraved with an Infantryman, the Norwegian Road March Badge doesn’t hold much monetary value, but that didn’t stop service members from all over the world from paying for it with their blood, sweat and tears.
More than 70 participants from nine different nations, operating under the Multinational Force and Observers came together April 9, on North Camp, Sinai, Egypt striving to earn the coveted badge by pushing their bodies to the limit across the Sinai’s unforgiving terrain during a 30-kilometer ruck march
“It’s the worst ruck march I have done in my life… just horrible,” Spc. Daniel Antwi, patient administration specialist with Medical Company, 1st Support Battalion, Task Force Sinai, said. “I started to tell myself I’m not going to make it, but then I told myself I can’t give up I have to make it.”
In order to earn the foreign badge, each participant had to ruck the 30 kilometers carrying 11 kilograms on their backs and cross the finish line within the allotted time. To meet this time standard, the Soldiers sprinted from the starting line, eager to make their mark, but it wasn’t long before the strides shortened and paces slowed as the environment and shear distance took its toll on the ruck marchers.
“All the Soldiers are motivated at the start but no one is really motivated after about 20 kilometers,” Capt. Justin Bramblett, commander, explosive ordnance disposal, said. “Around lap three you start questioning, why did I wake up, why did I choose to do this, and then lap four you’re numb, basically just falling forward.”
The Norwegian Road March began in 1915 as a way for Norway’s infantrymen to move from one point to another as part of a tactical advancement. There are three types of Badges awarded, based on age and number of times successfully completed - bronze, silver and gold, said Norwegian Col. Olav Njos.
Bramblett, a Montana native, brought this concept and standard to North Camp.
Over the past two years the event has gained popularity and become one of the favorites among the different nations.
Most of the participants began preparing for the challenge at least a month out and dedicated most of their free time training, Bramblett said.
Out of the 74 participants, 67 service members finished the blistering challenge but only 65 accomplished the feat in the allotted time.
Antwi, a native of Africa, was one of the 65 to accomplish the challenge and received the bronze badge.
“I love to challenge myself… I felt a little scared but I love ruck marching so I told myself, I’m going to get it,” Antwi said. “It felt great when I finally crossed the finish line.”
In addition to being a personal accomplishment the badge is one of the few that can be worn on the Army Service Uniform and is a unique military accomplishment.
Although he said he would recommend every Soldier try it at least once, Antwi admits that one time is enough and has no plans on ‘putting his body through the pain’ again.
Aaron Van Horn, a civilian observer with the MFO, crossed the finish line first with a time of 2 hours, 59 Minutes. The current record in the Sinai is 2 hours, 46 Minutes, set by Canadian Capt. Mike Mueller.
The Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) is and independent peacekeeping organization which is headquartered in Rome and based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Created by agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel it is comprised of military members and from 13 nations. Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, the Republic of the Fiji Islands, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the United States and Uruguay contribute contingents to make up the MFO's Force.