Fort Bragg Soldiers Qualify for Bataan Death March

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Sgt. Colin Ekelman, 82nd Airborne Division won the Fort Bragg Post Combat Cross Country Meet Feb. 2, carrying more weight than most. The Colorado native carried 40.5 pounds across 12.78 miles of rugged terrain to finish with a time of 1 hour, 30 minutes and 36 seconds.   The women's top finisher was Liz Crespo, of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group.   The meet, held annually, required servicemembers to carry a ruck weighing 35 pounds in full battle dress uniform, and involved both team and individual competition.

The top five male and top five female finishers are now eligible to represent Fort Bragg at the Bataan Death March in New Mexico, March 17.   As temperatures hovered in the 20s, Ekelman braved the elements to best more than 102 other runners.  

A two-year Army veteran, Ekelman said he enjoyed the competition of the run.   "There are a lot of really good runners out here, so it was fun. I enjoyed just being able to run really fast with everybody," he said.   For members of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 407th Brigade Support Battalion, the meet provided an opportunity to enjoy one last ruck with their first sergeant, John Okerson  "I got about 20 of us together," Okerson said. "I'm retiring in three months, so it's my last hurrah with the Soldiers," he said.   "I'm doing it for morale and for unit motivation," said Richard Martez, who serves with Okerson in the 407th BSB.   For other Soldiers, the cross country meet was a way to test endurance.   "I wanted to test my limits, to see where I'm at," said Dwayne Roney, a nine-year veteran from Virginia.   Matthew Jenner agreed.   "It was a chance for me to compete, to see how I'm doing at 12 miles," Jenner said.

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