Fighting Saints ROTC Battalion – Cadets who ‘never quit’ 

Cadets David Marschall, Gerald Pittman, Mark Francour, Austin McCoy and Connor Gjevre cross the finish line to claim first place in the Battaan Memorial Death March.

Alberto DeJesus

Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. Chapter

In the heat of the day on March 25 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., thousands of military personnel and civilians took part in the grueling, annual 26.2 mile Bataan Memorial Death March.

This challenging team race runs along the high desert terrain of White Sands, and is conducted in memory of those who suffered and died during the Bataan Death march in the Philippines early in World War II.

Teams compete in full military uniform and boots, in the heat of the day.

Army ROTC teams – supported by the Association of the United States Army’s Gen. John W Vessey Jr. Chapter – from Saint John’s University, the College of Saint Benedict, and Saint Cloud State University – that make up the Fighting Saints Battalion (FSB) from Minnesota, were among the teams that competed.

And compete they did, winning the race while displaying extraordinary teamwork and perseverance.

The FSB Battalion’s preparation for the Bataan Memorial Death March consisted of physical training every morning over a five month period.

Cadets David Marschall, Jerry Pittman, Austin McCoy, Mark Francour and Connor Gjevre comprised the first team for the FSB due to their physical endurance for this type of challenge.

Fully aware of the time, energy and overall commitment each cadet had toward this event, the highly competitive team members kept in mind the Army’s Warrior Ethos: "I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade."

The FSB’s first team cruised through the first one-third of the race at an astounding pace.

But with this initial surge, and the sun and heat increasing, one of the team members began to struggle from the effort.

As he began to slow to a walk in order to rest, the other members continued to motivate him, knowing that their competition was close behind.

By mile 10, fatigue began to set in, and he was unable to run further.

Knowing that they could not leave a man behind, the team began to carry him the rest of the way. At first they were doing so "piggy-back" fashion, then took turns carrying him over their shoulders.

The team became increasingly fatigued due to the elements and their struggling team member; but despite periods of frustration and anger, the team displayed a constant level of motivation and brotherhood – a desire to fight and win, together.

The struggling team member was able to run the last half mile to the finish.

The FSB first team’s success exemplified the core values they learned throughout their ROTC training. They had carried their team member for miles in 85 degree heat, through the unforgiving high desert of the Bataan Memorial Death March.

The team defeated all military light teams, ROTC teams, and even bested last year’s team time by a full half hour.

The will of these cadets reflects the true meaning of "team work" and the "never quit attitude" of the U.S. Army.