1st Theater Sustainment Command


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1st TSC Soldier Earns Second Place in Bataan Death March

By Brent Thacker | 1st Theater Sustainment Command | March 25, 2018

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait --

The Bataan Death March. For those who know American history, this phrase evokes a dark emotion of a time when American and Filipino Prisoners of War (POW) Soldiers forcibly marched over 60 miles in 1941 after a four-month battle against Japanese forces.

Fast-forward 77 years.

Today at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, the Bataan Death March is an annual ruck march where participants wear rucksacks loaded with 35 pounds of gear and trek 26.2 miles. On Mar. 25, 2018, almost 200 Soldiers took to the start line to make this grueling journey.

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Killgren, Strategic Operations and Plans (SOaP) communications noncommissioned officer in charge, 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC), participated in the march and found himself at the finish line in five hours, forty-seven minutes, earning him second place.

Going into the Bataan Death March, Killgren participated in the Norwegian Ruck March four months prior. This march is 18.6 miles and requires the participant to carry 25 pounds on their back. If the Soldier can complete this event in under four hours and thirty minutes, they earn the Norwegian Foot March pin, authorized for wear on the Army Service Uniform (foreign badge).

“At the Norwegian Ruck March there was over 400 participants,” said Killgren. “Twenty of us from 1st TSC drove up to Indiana. I was fortunate to place sixth that day. I felt confident going into the Bataan Death March. However, I had no idea how much 10 pounds more and eight extra miles would affect my mind and body.”

Four 1st TSC Soldiers from the SOaP team including Killgren decided to do the Bataan Death March.

“This is my first Bataan Death March,” said Killgren. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do, but haven’t been able to make the trip to the official march in White Sands, New Mexico.”

The participants of the march use whatever items they chose to fill their ruck to amass the 35-pound weight limit. The only items not allowed are logs, sand, water or anything that replenishes during the route.

“I had locally procured a 22-pound bag of rice,” said Killgren. “I then added one of my Small Arms Protective Inserts and finally a power converter to push me above the weighted requirement.”

Killgren said he felt a range of emotions about the march - anxiousness the night before, excitement as it was about to start, later questioning his decision to enter the competition. and finally a sense of accomplishment during the final mile.

”I felt that my body held up well, with the exception of the irritations to my feet and shoulders,” said Killgren. “Better preparation probably could have saved me from those ailments. Emotionally, I was questioning why I signed up for this event [when I felt like quitting], but with each passing mile I was more and more confident that I could finish this event.”

Killgren reflected on his motivation to keep going during the Bataan Death March.

“I’m not a quitter, and I’m very stubborn, so those two characteristics definitely kept me going,” said Killgren. “I thought about how extreme and severe the conditions were for the actual POWs of this march, and how easy this [ruck march] was in contrast to what they went through.”

Killgren said he doubts he will ever do the Bataan Death March again. Even though he said he feels this is the most difficult task he has accomplished, he said he feels content with his effort and the results that ensued. Although, he did speak about the mind and body working in unity to accomplish the toughest of challenges.

”It has been said that the mind will give out before the body, but both need to work together in order to accomplish any grueling task,” said Killgren. “I would challenge individuals to get out of their comfort zone, and take on an “impossible” task they never thought possible. You will be surprised with what you are actually capable of when both body and mind are in harmony!”