Army ROTC cadets dominate Memorial Death March

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Photo courtesy of Chase Stilson

Chase Stilson earned first place honors for the third time at the 28th annual Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, New Mexico March 19.

Cadets from Reserve Officer Training Corps programs around the country are invited to compete in the 26.2 mile race. Stilson was faster than 138 ROTC cadets who completed the race in the heavy individual category. He fell to second place only once, at mile-marker 20.3, along the route.

“Besides [being] ridiculously sore,” said Stilson, “I’m excited to have represented UVU and our state well again.”

Stilson maintained an average pace of 11 minutes, 47 seconds per mile. The 27-year-old finished the race in personal record-breaking 5 hours, 9 minutes, 4 seconds.

This year, Stilson improved his previous record by nearly 10 minutes. His first-place time in 2014 was 5 hours, 27 minutes, and a 2015 time of 5 hours, 18 minutes.

“For chase to have done what he did — that takes grit,” said Maj. Toby Adamson, commander of UVU’s Army ROTC. “I am extremely impressed and excited.”

UVU is prepared to continue its excellence in White Sands as two other cadets finished in the top-10 behind Stilson.

Hyrum Ahlman came in fifth place, 5 hours, 45 minutes, 44 seconds and Trent Wilson came in sixth place, 5 hours, 56 minutes, 7 seconds.

Due to an electronic error, UVU Cadet Wyett Crockett’s time was not officially recorded. According to Stilson, Crockett finished the race in 5 hours, 15 minutes. The team has submitted an official appeal for correction and are waiting for response. If Crockett’s time is accurate, he will be awarded second place honors over Garret Seeger, who finished in 5 hours, 35 minutes, 6 seconds.

Adamson recognized the support the program has received in his time as commander.

“I’d like to thank the university, first and foremost, for supporting us in developing leaders in the United States Army,” said Adamson. “We couldn’t have done this without the clubs and the money and the support that they’ve given us.”

Adamson credited Capt. Richard Elias with getting the team to where they are. Elias is the assistant professor of military science of UVU’s Army ROTC program.

“I’m the coach,” said Elias. “The key has been giving [the team] a sense of pride and giving them a common enemy — which is everyone.”

Elias is familiar with the Bataan Memorial Death March. He has competed in the event multiple times throughout his career and, in 1997, Elias took third place overall.

“It feels good when we show up to the race and everyone recognizes us as the elite team there,” said Stilson.

In addition to the individual cadets, UVU fielded a team for this year’s race. Despite injuries, sustained by the second mile-marker, the team completed the race.

Weather is always a factor. This year, temperatures ranged between 50 degrees and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Wind speeds ranged between 4 mph and 13 mph, with maximum gusts of 18 mph.

Participants enter as either military personnel or civilians, chose to carry no weight (light) or 35-pound minimum (heavy) weight categories, and whether they compete as individuals or in teams. Stilson competed in the military individual (heavy) category.

Stilson was required to wear a full uniform, as defined by U.S. Army uniform regulations. Only uniform tops and headgear may be removed during the race. According to the rules, Stilson carried a rucksack weighing no less than 35 pounds before the addition of food and water. Weight was verified at the beginning and end of each race.