USCENTCOM personnel earn Norwegian foot march badge

  • Published
  • By Tom Gagnier, U.S. Central Command Public Affairs

Well before the influx of Friday morning traffic arrived at the gates of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, April 2, 2021, joint service personnel and civilians assembled in front of Joint Communications Support Element headquarters for an early morning ruck march.

Forty plus U.S. Central Command participants joined scores of other base personnel for the 18.6 mile march on an unseasonably cold and windy Florida morning.

Since its 1915 inception in the Norwegian armed forces, the Norwegian Foot March, or Marsjmerket, has evolved from a way to give recruits a sense of life in the military to a foreign service badge that can be earned by completing the foot march to standard in the allotted time.

“Foreign badges usually involve a unique challenge and integration with coalition partners that enhance one's overall experience in the military,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jenna McAllister, USCENTCOM Commander’s Action Group admin noncommissioned officer in charge, who completed the march. “Earning this is special because it’s one of the few foreign military badges you can wear on the uniform.”

It’s not a race, but military participants must carry a 25-pound ruck while wearing their boots and uniform and most need to finish under four hours and 30 minutes. The time requirement varies dependent on age and gender.

“I did it to test my will against a grueling physical challenge, and to see if my will could pull my old, broken body through such a test,” said Marine Capt. Seth Allen, USCENTCOM’s Command and Control, Communications and Computer Systems (J6) executive officer, who completed the event in four hours and 24 minutes. “I am not the strongest, I am not the fastest, but if I set my mind to do something, I won’t quit.”

For Allen, pushing beyond his comfort zone is nothing new.

“In 2010, I completed the Danish Contingent March aboard Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan as a Corporal of Marines. It was a 25k march, with full combat load and all kinds of other things. I completed that, and my feet were shredded afterwards,” said Allen. “I therefore knew what awaited me, and my feet, after this event, I wanted to test my will again.”

Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Devin Cuff completed the march under the allotted time despite the unexpected wind factor.

“I did earn the badge. I feel like it was just an accomplishment to complete it. It was a sheer matter of will for me to complete it within the required time, so I am very happy to have done it,” said Cuff. “The most difficult part was the long stretches into the wind. It was mentally taxing to be tired, and sweaty and have just one more challenging element.”

A sense of camaraderie evolved on the course as the participants rucked the three 6.2 mile loops within the confines of the base.

“This is the first foreign award producing event that I’ve had the opportunity to participate in, and it was an awesome experience! It was particularly cool to ruck beside all of the different branches and units on MacDill Air Force Base,” said a sleep deprived, USCENTCOM Intelligence Analyst, Army Sgt. Anisa Ricci following the march.

“With the end almost in sight, I started seeing ‘shadow people’ from pure exhaustion,” said Allen. “I thought I saw someone coming up alongside of me out of the corner of my eye. I turned to give them a motivating 'Oorah' or 'Hooah' to encourage them to keep pressing to the finish, but no one was there.”