Fighting Saints Battalion earns first, two seconds at Bataan Memorial competition

March 27, 2013

Three teams from the Fighting Saints Battalion - made up of ROTC cadets from the College of Saint Benedict, Saint John's University and St. Cloud State University - placed either first or second at the 24th Annual Bataan Death March competition March 17 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Some teams just seem to do well in an event year after year.

Take the Fighting Saints Battalion (FSB) of ROTC cadets at the College of Saint Benedict, Saint John's University and St. Cloud State University. Three teams from the FSB placed first or second in the 24th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March competition March 17 at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The 26.2-mile march/run through the desert 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.

  • For the third straight year, the battalion's five-person Civilian Light team placed first in its class. The team consisted of team leader and CSB senior Tiffany Wirtz, SJU junior Patrick Wold, SJU sophomores Colin Charpentier and Mark Francour and SJU first-year Grant Christian. Teams in the "light" category do not wear a backpack.
  • Another FSB team placed second in the Civilian Light competition. That team consisted of team leader and CSB first-year Ella Cameron, CSB first-year Holly Spitzer, SJU sophomores Joseph Reamer and Zachary Eich and SJU first-year Colin Berg.
  • Competing for the first time in the ROTC Heavy competition, the FSB team placed second. Team members, who carry a 35-pound pack throughout the march, included team leader and SJU junior Jake Oestreich, SJU junior Nathan Illies, SJU sophomores Isaac Witt and Joseph Gresback and SCSU first-year Jack Dingle.
  • The battalion also was the two-time defending champion in the ROTC Light class, and was on course to win that title again. However, one of the team members became sick and was unable to finish the race, resulting in the team being disqualified since all five members did not complete the race. Team members included CSB senior Mollie Holte, SJU juniors Connor Gjevre, Gerald Pittman and David Marschall and SCSU senior Alex De Jesus.

In all, 29 members of the battalion - 16 from SJU, eight from CSB and five from SCSU - competed at the event. FSB members trained for four months to prepare for the event, logging almost 250 miles of training. Although participation is voluntary, spots to the event are competitive.

Five surviving members of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard, who were captured in the Philippines in 1942, were on hand to shake hands with the competitors at the finish line.

"It teaches them the 'Warrior Ethos' (to never leave behind a fallen comrade)," said Lt. Col. Darrell Bascom, professor of military science at CSB and SJU and head of the battalion. "It allows them to compete against people at a level they may never see again."

Overall, the FSB consists of 128 student cadets - 71 from CSB and SJU, and 57 from SCSU.