ROTC Cadet seeks third win in Memorial Bataan Death March

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Chase Stilson plans to reclaim his title as the best in the nation at the 28th annual Bataan Memorial Death March 19. The annual marathon commemorates the Bataan Death March and is held in White Sands, New Mexico.

In his fourth year as a cadet in UVU’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps, Stilson has helped expand UVU’s presence in an uncommon way.

“We have a couple of cadets who look extremely competitive this year,” said Maj. Toby Adamson, commander of UVU’s Army ROTC program. “One of our guys in particular — Stilson — is looking to win the whole thing.”

Stilson outperformed every male ROTC cadet in the nation during the memorial’s 25th and 26th anniversary events. He completed the 26.2 mile course in 5 hours, 27 minutes in 2014. His performance improved by nine minutes in 2015, when he crossed the finish line in just 5 hours, 18 minutes.

Stilson wants to complete this year’s event in 4 hours 45 minutes. “Because it is a memorial event,” said Stilson, “I like to do the hardest one.”

The competition is divided into categories. Participants enter as either military personnel or civilians, chose either light or heavy weight, and whether they compete as individuals or in teams. Stilson competes in the military individual (heavy) category.

He will compete alone and is 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 will carry a rucksack weighing no less than 35 pounds before the addition of food and water. Weight is verified at the beginning and end of each race. “There’s a three-mile stretch between aid stations at one point,” said Stilson. “You have to know how to hydrate and preserve water, or you could have problems.”

The 12 water points and several aid stations assist participants as they experience 400 feet of elevation change from start to finish. The terrain is equally unforgiving as competitors navigate paved roads and long stretches of soft sand. Temperatures reach the high 70s and up to 50-60 mph gusts of wind are possible.

“When I race, I’m thinking about the people who actually walked in the Bataan Death March,” said Stilson. “The whole reason I am there is to pay respect to those who had to go through that.”

In 1942, the Japanese army invaded the Philippines island of Luzon, placing Filipino and American troops under siege for three months in the Bataan Peninsula. Forced to surrender, the Japanese army imprisoned an estimated 75,000 Filipino and American soldiers and began a 65-mile forced march across Luzon. Weak prisoners were bayoneted and left for dead. The number of lives lost in the Bataan Death March remains unknown.

“I don’t have it that bad,” said Stilson. “I get to train and all I have to do is carry a 35-pound ruck.”

Stilson led UVU cadets as a team in 2016. Injuries prevented any awards, but Stilson says the lesson were invaluable for cadets wanting to return. “You can’t expect much your first year,” said Stilson. “Knowing how to handle the course is as important as any conditioning.”

At least two members of UVU’s 2016 team will return to White Sands as individual competitors.

Adamson believes Tyler Miner and Wyatt Crockett, both third-year cadets, will also be competitive this year.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.