News: Stryker soldiers complete historic ‘Manchu Mile’
Story by Sgt. Kimberly Lessmeister
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – In the midst of preparing for a fall deployment to Afghanistan, soldiers of 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment also prepared for another physically daunting task: the legendary Manchu Mile.
Some of the soldiers in the battalion previously earned a Manchu belt buckle for their service with the regiment during 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division’s 2009-2010 deployment to Iraq, or for completing the unit’s Manchu Mile last year.
Of approximately 540 soldiers who donned their combat gear, weapons and more than 35-pound rucksacks and 20 civilians who all put their feet through 25 miles of blister-inducing, Pacific Northwestern terrain Sept. 13, here, 93 earned their second or third belt buckle.
According to Lt. Col. James Dooghan, the battalion commander of 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Regt., there is no other better way to bind the Soldiers who have participated in the road march before to those who are now in the unit and preparing to deploy, than to complete the march together.
“The belt buckle on the back says ‘Manchus Past, Present and Future,'” said Dooghan.
A lot of the sacrifices that past Manchus made for us are the reason why we’re such a great Army today and present Manchus need to remember that and honor those veterans because one day they’re going to be veterans, he explained.
The history of Manchu Mile dates back to 1900. Soldiers of the 9th Infantry Regiment marched 85 miles during their assault on Tientsin as part of the Boxer Rebellion and the China Relief Expedition where the regiment earned the nickname "Manchus". During the Battle of Tientsin, the regimental commander, Col. Emerson H. Liscum, was killed by Chinese fire and uttered his dying words which became the regiment’s motto: "Keep up the Fire!"
“It’s the battle that gave us our name; we uphold that name, we uphold that honor,” said Pvt. Zachary Lubbers, an infantryman with Company A, 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Regt. “Manchus have been one of the most decorated, famous infantry regiments in the United States Army, so we have to keep up the fire.”
In preparation for his first Manchu Mile, Lubbers said he ate plenty of protein and carbohydrates and made sure he powdered his feet.
However, more than halfway through the march, his body began to feel the wrath of his rucksack and his 22-pound M240L machine gun – and it was telling him to stop, he said.
But his willpower, motivated sergeants, and thoughts of his hometown of Louisville, Ky., kept him going, he said.
Earning the right to wear the only authorized unit belt buckle according to General Order 5, which was published in 1926, is only one of the reasons Lubbers chose to participate in the Manchu Mile; the other reason was esprit de corps.
“We’re all pushing each other,” he said. We’re all trying to get each other to keep going, so it’s just team building.”
The cohesion needed for the unit’s upcoming deployment started forming throughout two rotations to the Yakima Training Center, Wash. and one to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and was further cemented by the road march, he said.
“We’re all going to be spending nine months together in [Afghanistan], so we have to be brothers … if not, the unit’s going to fall apart,” Lubbers explained.
Dooghan said he appreciated the esprit de corps that the Manchu Mile builds with his soldiers and command team.
However, the best part for him was standing with Manchu veterans and handing certificates and unit coins to every soldier and special guest who participated, he said.
Worn out, blistered and dripping sweat, Lubbers gladly shook the hands of Dooghan and the veterans who attended the belt buckle ceremonies and congratulated the next generation of Manchu warriors.
I was proud to have veteran Manchus hand me my Manchu belt buckle, said Lubbers. “[It’s] pretty much like them passing on a legacy that I have to uphold.”