News: Leading by example
Story by Sgt. Angela Parady
CAMP NOVO SELO, Kosovo - Not many people wake up before sunrise and think to themselves; today is a great day to walk 15 or so miles. Especially not on a Saturday with a 22 pound rucksack strapped to your back. If that does not dissuade them, the first hill along the route usually makes one wonder what they have gotten into.
Over 400 soldiers from Multinational Battle Group - East did just that when they chose to participate in the Danish Contingent March Oct. 6 at Camp Novo Selo in Kosovo.
The DANCON March is a tradition within the Royal Danish Army, dating back to 1972 when the Danish troops were deployed to Cyprus. Wherever Danish troops are stationed they invite all of their allies to come and participate in the 25.85-kilometer foot march. The event serves as both a social gathering as well as a challenge to the physical readiness of the deployed troops participating. In order to receive a medal of completion, you must finish within eight hours, and your bag must weigh at least 10 kilograms, or approximately 22 pounds.
First Lt. Regina Gunnells, viewed the event as a personal challenge. The march also happened to coincide with her birthday weekend.
“I just wanted to prove to myself I still had it, that I could still throw on a ruck and do this,” said the Columbia, S.C., native. “It is something I haven’t done since I went through my Officer Candidate School. It’s my birthday, and well, ask me tomorrow how I feel.”
Gunnells, the command group administrative officer for the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, said this was not only a way of stepping outside her comfort zone, but it was also a once in a lifetime experience, an opportunity not to be missed.
“This is an experience I may not get anywhere else,” she said. “Where else can I do this with people from all these nations, in a foreign country? Plus, it is really beautiful. Well, until you have to walk up another hill.”
While some soldiers came out to challenge themselves and reach a personal goal, others came to set an example for younger, enlisted soldiers.
Sgt. Logan M. Misevicz, a newly promoted noncommissioned officer from Bravo Company 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry Division, wanted to prove himself and motivate other soldiers. The infantryman pushed himself to his limits, finishing in 3 hours and 18 minutes, making him the first American NCO to finish the course.
“Being the first NCO to finish is great, especially with all my senior leadership,” he said. “I am a new, recently promoted NCO. So, to come out here with a lot of higher ranking people, including lieutenants, only two of which finished before me, it is all very rewarding. It feels good that so many NCO’s and the leadership are out here doing this and that we aren’t just sitting back in the rear, we are out here trying, pushing ourselves, trying to lead from the front.”
The terrain transformed the march from just a normal foot march into a real challenge. The area that surrounds Camp Novo Selo is filled with mountains, hills and rocky paths. Misevicz said that the terrain was definitely the largest obstacle to Saturday’s event.
“The hardest part was obviously the hills, slash, mountains that you encounter,” said the young NCO from Aiken, S.C. “When you are going up the hills, you think going up its way more than just a kilometer. Then going down the hill it only takes you like a minute so you don’t even get that satisfaction of running downhill. It only takes a minute because it is so steep. And then you have to go right back up Mount Everest again.”
Sgt. Brandy Anderson, was the first female NCO to complete the grueling course. She also said the hills were the most challenging part of her exhausting day.
“There were some really hard hills,” said the administrative NCO for Joint Visitor’s Bureau, 218th MEB. “I looked up at some of them and I was like, I don’t think I can do that. I just looked down and kept watching my feet so I didn’t trip because the terrain was really rough, and kept going.”
She said she was happy to take part in the DANCON, but was also happy to be done. Anderson said the best part of the course were the friendships she struck up along the way.
“The day started, and at the beginning they had bagpipes playing and I thought that was really motivating and ‘hooah.’ We were up with all the foreign nationals and we sort of just took off. I was like ‘okay, I can do this.’ I kept tracking, and you get going a little bit, and there are all these hills and I thought ‘oh okay this might be a little tough.’ But you just keep going. You make friends along the way. People are talking and that sort of helps you keep your mind off the whole thing. Then reality hits you again, and you are like, ‘ugh why did I do this.’ I saw a sign and I was like ‘oh, okay 15 miles, that’s good.’ Finally, towards the end I just hated myself.”
Anderson signed up for the march to help support a friend who wanted company along the way. “I think she is screaming at me as much as I am screaming at myself right now.”
She said that above the hills, the hardest part was coming in through the gates, getting in those last steps.
“You get to the almost end, the 25K mark, and I think that was the worst part. You are in past the gate, but you know you have to keep going to get to the very end. I was passing other people leaving, people who had their certificates and were done. I needed someone to yell at me, ‘come on keep going,’ I mean I needed that, and I don’t think they knew that. But I did it.”