SJU students help ROTC teams to pair of victories

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April 8, 2014

By Mike Killeen

Some Saint John's University ROTC cadets took the meaning of the 25th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March to heart.

When one of their teammates was unable to continue the 26.2-mile run/march, the cadets picked him up and carried him for four miles until he was able to continue.

That was one of three teams representing the Fighting Saints Battalion (FSB) of ROTC cadets at the College of Saint Benedict, Saint John's University and St. Cloud State University March 23 at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

  • The five-person ROTC Light team, including SJU students Connor Gjevre (senior, political science major, Clearwater, Minn.), Joseph McGraw (first-year, undecided, Edina, Minn.), Zachary Eich (junior, computer science major, East Bethel, Minn.) and Colin Charpentier (junior, accounting major, North Branch, Minn.) finished first in its class with a class record time of three hours, 48 minutes and 40 seconds.
  • The five-person Civilian Coed Light team, including SJU students Ryan Schumacher (first-year, nursing major, Eagan, Minn.) and Grant Christian (sophomore, economics and German majors, Apple Valley, Minn.), placed first in its class with a class record time of 4:22:22.
  • The five-person Male Civilian Light team, including SJU students Luke Loso (senior, physics major, St. Joseph, Minn.) and Colin Berg (sophomore, communication major, Fayetteville, N.C.) placed second with a time of 4:52:16.

Teams in the "light" category do not wear a backpack.

SJU sophomore Logan Dimmick (economics major, Santa Rita, Guam) placed 30th in the individual ROTC male heavy class, with a time of 6:52:05. Cadets carried a 35-pound backpack in the "heavy" competition.

The event is held to honor American soldiers who defended the Philippine Islands during the early stages of World War II. They surrendered to Japanese forces on April 9, 1942, and the resulting Bataan Death March left thousands of casualties.

In the Death March, the surrendered soldiers helped each other through the ordeal just to stay alive. In the memorial event, marchers are encouraged to remember that spirit, and that is exactly what the FSB's ROTC Light team did when Eich was temporarily unable to run.

"They (the team) ran at such a fast pace, that (Eich) ended up struggling physically," said Lt. Col. Darrell Bascom, professor of military science at CSB and SJU and head of the battalion. "They picked him up and carried him for four miles until he recovered. They dropped him and they all ran the rest of the way."

Bascom said the cadets began training for the event in October, with a cut in personnel in December. They often got up at 3:30 a.m. to train inside at Donald McNeely Spectrum.

"They're such exceptional individuals," Bascom said. "The thing about it, there's no quit in them. Because they always believe in themselves, even when something seems insurmountable, they find a way to rise to the challenge. They don't have any self-imposed limitations, and that's makes them so remarkable."