FORT BENNING, GA – Five Rangers from Regimental Special Troops Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment participated in the 22nd Annual Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, N. M., March 27.
The team came in first place in the Military Male Heavy Team Class with an overall time of five hours and seven minutes, and set a new record.
“We didn’t set out to break any records; we did, however, set out to win,” said Sgt. 1st Class Casey Dawley. “Our goal was to be the first military team to cross the finish line.”
Imagine the conditions: 35 pounds of equipment (not including water), 23 to 46 mph winds, and temperatures in the mid 70’s; the unforgiving desert and all of its creatures; 26.2 miles of desert terrain; and 6,500 participants.
While this was a team event, the first time the competitors came together was for the travel to White Sands. Two of the competitors were deployed and another one was on a temporary duty assignment.
“We trained individually and in pairs, but we never actually trained as a team,” said Dawley. “Most Rangers are able to road march 26 miles; the key for us was to keep each other motivated.”
The Ranger lineage leads straight back to the men who rescued the survivors at Cabanatuan in the Philippines. The 6th Ranger Battalion rescued the 511 prisoners-of-war who still remained at the Cabanatuan Prison Camp January 1945 after the 1942 Bataan Death March.
“The march was a great way to showcase the Regiment but more importantly it was great to be part of an event like this,” said Capt. Dan Mitchell.
Only a handful of veterans from the original march were in attendance.
“It was amazing to shake the veterans’ hands and hear stories through the survivors’ families,” said Mitchell.
Other team members included Sgt.1st Class Aaron Totten-Lancaster, Sgt.1st Class John Cella and Capt. Scott Winrow.
The Bataan Memorial Death March is a 26.2 mile challenging march through the high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range, N.M., conducted in honor of the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health and, in many cases, their very lives.
The Bataan Memorial Death March honors a special group of World War II heroes. Those Soldiers were responsible for the defense of the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines.
They fought in a malaria-infested region, surviving on half or quarter rations with little or no medical help, fighting with outdated equipment and virtually no air power.
On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers surrendered to Japanese forces. The Americans were Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines. Among those seized were members of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard.
They marched through the Philippine jungles for day in scorching heat. Thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardships of a prisoner of war camp. Others were wounded or killed when U.S. air and naval forces sank unmarked enemy ships transporting prisoners of war to Japan.