For the first time, our Kenyan partners and U.S. service members assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) came together to participate in the Cooperative Security Location-Manda Bay Kenya Norwegian Foot March, near Camp Simba, Kenya, July 23, 2022.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jami Shawley, commanding general of CJTF-HOA, also joined her fellow U.S. service member and foreign partners in the pursuit to march 18.6-mile while carrying a 25-pound rucksack within a limited amount of time. Those participants who completed the Norwegian Foot March, and met all the requirements, earned a Norwegian armed forces skill badge.
“Overall, I think the event was a huge success,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Donald W. Spring, Jr., non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of the event and first sergeant with Bravo Company, 1-116th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Red Dragon, CJTF-HOA. “During the night of the event, I could hear lots of ranting from Kenyans along the foot-march course cheering on the participants. I believe the Kenyans had a larger fan base than the U.S. service members did. I think we strengthened our partnership with the Kenyans even more.”
Spring completed a Norwegian Foot March in March 2022 and said he was so inspired by the high morale and great turnout between the Air Force and Army that he wanted to continue supporting future Norwegian Foot Marches. This was the second one in which he served as the NCOIC since then.
Spring was not the only one who felt inspired to help. U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Latisa Steele and U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Peter Musinde—who was born and raised in Kenya—were both a few of many who volunteered to serve water while cheering on the participants during the foot march.
Steel also said a prayer right before the foot march commenced. “It was a blessing to have the opportunity to encourage everyone who participated,” Steele said. “That event was an example of how we should live in society—as one. There was no separation or division. Everyone had the same starting line in the same competition, they all had the same goal, and that was to make it to the finish line. I was excited to have the opportunity to support.”
Musinde also added that he initially just wanted to be a spectator and a supporter, but ended up motivating members of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in a unique way.
“I began teaching the volunteers at the water stations a few phrases to better communicate with the KDF,” Musinde said. “Some of the words I taught them were water (maji), orange (machungwa), and keep going (endelea). When I start speaking Kiswahili, the looks on the KDF and local workers' faces are priceless. They are amazed because not every day do you encounter a native Kenyan serving in the U.S armed forces. Additionally, it makes communication between the two parties seamless.”
Steele and Musinde both said they were happy to encourage the participants and really impressed that the CJTF-HOA’s commander led from the front by walking alongside the troops for 18.6 miles.
“The Kenyans are still talking about how fun it was for them,” Spring said. “They are looking forward to receiving the certificates and Norwegian pins that we mentioned to them.”
The foot march originated in 1915 as a test of endurance for Norwegian military soldiers, with the strategic goal of moving larger units of troops over a great distance swiftly and in a manner that enabled them to be combat ready after a lengthy march carrying a rucksack and weaponry.
The United States stands side by side with Kenya to combat terrorism. CJTF-HOA supports the Kenya Defense Forces in their role as a regional security leader.