CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti – Service members assigned to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and multinational partners participated in a Norwegian Foot March at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Dec. 16, 2022.
CJTF-HOA's Task Force Wolfhound, composed of New York Army National Guard Soldiers from the Manhattan-headquartered 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, and augmented by Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment, and 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry, hosted the event.
“It’s important to conduct this kind of training because it builds rapport and cohesiveness between all of the units and organizations that volunteered to help and participate,” said Sgt. 1st Class Edwin Caba, the Task Force Wolfhound training and foreign liaison noncommissioned officer. “It also strengthens the bonds between us and our foreign partner forces.”
The Norwegian Foot March was first held in 1915 as a test of marching endurance for Norwegian soldiers.Participants were required to ruck 18.6 miles while carrying a 25-pound rucksack in military uniform. Those who completed the ruck within the designated time standard earned a Norwegian armed forces skill badge and a certificate from the Norwegian Ministry of Defense.
The event was capped at 115 participants which included U.S. Airmen, Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and French, Italian, and Japanese service members. and 98 participants finished within the time standard. Caba, who has previously completed the event back in New York State, believes the austere location contributed to the event’s difficulty.
“I think the weather and humidity played a significant role,” Caba said. “If you’re considering attempting the Norwegian Foot March, my suggestion would be to adjust to the climate first and foremost.” As an official event sponsored by the Norwegian Ministry of Defense, Caba coordinated with the government of Norway to obtain approval to host the march.
“I had to gather a vast understanding of the event standards and build a route,” said Caba, an Island Park, N.Y. resident. “I then submitted the plan to the attaché at the Norwegian embassy in Washington D.C. for approval.”
Many participants found themselves out of their comfort zone while attempting the march.
“I’ve always hated rucking,” said Capt. Nina Skinner, the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, communications officer. “For me it just always meant pain, so I try to avoid it as much as possible.”
Skinner was the first female participant to complete the event, finishing in 3 hours and 58 minutes. Skinner received a challenge coin for her achievement from Lt. Col. Shawn Tabankin, the 1st Battalion, 69th Regiment commander.
“When I joined the 69th, I rucked a little bit in New York City, but I still hated it,” said Skinner, a native of Kodiak, Alaska. “So I went into this expecting to hate it. I honestly grew to like it a little bit, which is surprising. It's a strange love-hate relationship now.”
Skinner, who arrived in Djibouti earlier this year, believes being on deployment contributed to her success.
“Here it had to be all for myself, and it all had to be about self-fulfillment,'' Skinner said. “I wouldn't have done as well, I think, back home, too many distractions to train.”
Task Force Wolfhound is slated to remain deployed in the Horn of Africa until spring 2023 and will continue to host more Norwegian Foot March events for the remainder of their deployment.