Team Building Exercises: Bataan Death March...Are You Worthy? Team-Building Galore

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Introduction: Team Building Exercises: Bataan Death March...Are You Worthy? Team-Building Galore

The human spirit is profoundly resilient, and if you entertain that resiliency, the results are phenomenal. The human body, however, will challenge your every step.

In 1942, anywhere from 76,000 to 100,000 American and Filipino POWs were marched for days without food or water for fear of being executed by their Japanese captors across the Bataan peninsula. Thousands of them died.

Every year at the White Sands Missile Range outside Las Cruces, NM, a march is held in memory of those individuals so that we can honor their sacrifice for us to enjoy the liberties and freedoms we have today. The website is Bataan March

I am a Kansas Air National Guardsman. I participated on a team as the "Military Light" category, though you can go as a civilian.

This is an entry in the Burning Questions: team-building contest

Step 1: Team It Up

The spirit of Bataan is "No man(or woman) left behind." While many people will do the march on their own, having a team is what makes this event awesome. The march allows for teams of 5 people. I was invited to participate with the site defence team from my Air National Guard unit. I used to be on the site defense team so it was awesome to get to hang out with the guys.

Your team will help you train, keep you focused and most importantly support you to the finish.

Many of the original Bataan POWs marched alongside others and did not experience the support needed to keep themselves alive.

Step 2: Training for Death and Beating It

You will be marching a full marathon. Begin training well in advance of the actual event. Some training manuals are available for running road marathons but I have not found any official training regimes for this marathon. So this will be a simple training and preparation guide. I was invited to do the march at the last minute, so I wasn't able to do any specific event training though I had been working out for a 10K run I did the weekend prior. My intent is to give you what I am doing for next year.

Do your homework. Find out if someone you know has done something similar. Search the internet. Bataan March

Develop a training plan. I recommend a plan that starts out walking a few miles a few days a week and progresses to longer and more frequent walks. My training plan for next year will resemble the attached Excel spreadsheet.

Probably the most important aspect of training is conditioning your body.

Diet will greatly impact your success: Picking a diet
Stew Smith is a former Seal trainer who has had great success in training people. I love his training programs.

Train with someone. I saw so many people try to do this alone and fail. A training partner will push you when you think you're done.

Step 3: Gear Up

Marching, hiking or running a long distance is murder on the body. First and foremost, condition your body to the event so that your first event isn't your last.

Your gear is very important.

BOOTS: If you're going to be marching, get your boots ready. I pretreat my boots with a conditioner to soften the leather. I also wear an insole that is made of a liquid gel so that it massages my foot as I walk. Make sure you are training in the boots you're going to be marching in.

SOCKS: I cannot stress enough about the importance of good socks. Cotton-blend socks will guarantee jacked-up feet. Cotton-blend socks can never keep your feet as dry as they need to be. Even the "wick-dry" cotton blend socks will trap moisture that a wool or synthetic blend sock will pull away. I know they're expensive but worth every penny. The socks below are about $16 a pair.

Clothes: I wear synthetic shorts and underwear. Under Armor or a knockoff work wonders. I've had both and I honestly don't find much difference.

Step 4: Experience the Reality of the Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

The day before the march, the whole site is thriving with energy. People are sharing stories of sacrifice, strife, hope and victory. Take time to reflect on why you are marching.

Freedom is NOT free. We do not have the liberties we enjoy today because they were given to us. We had to fight to protect them. Less than 1% of our nation serve in the military, but it is because of them that we can practice our faith freely, pursue our dreams and reach them.

Place in your heart the goal and keep your focus on something greater than yourself. This will drive you to the finish line.

Step 5: One Foot in Front of the Other...

The march is one of the most grueling things a person will experience.
Hydrate: You will need to drink plenty of fluids the day prior to and the day of the march. Water is essential but electrolytes are critical. You can over-hydrate and literally piss your life-saying electrolytes away.

Through the course of the march I consumed about 6 liters of water, 1 liter of gatorade, 4 oranges, 2 bananas and 3 energy bars.

Them dogs are barking! After 4 miles, our feet already needed some TLC. Changing your socks or at least letting your feet air out can mean the difference between a successful march and a day at the medic's tent.

Don't ignore the warning signs. If you start having a headache, hyhdrate. If you're hydrated, rest. You're probably overheated. Take some water and place it on your head. Try to find some shade.

Step 6: FINISH!!! Hold Your Head Up.

26.2 miles of desert can definitely wear on you, but you've made it. 11 hours and 45 minutes on the trail.

Don't get me wrong. This doesn't compare 1 iota to the 1942 Bataan Death March, but it takes more out of you than a regular marathon. Not to mention, you did it in boots.

Final Note:
The human spirit is profoundly resilient, and if you entertain that resiliency, the results are phenomenal. The human body, however, will challenge your every step.

Our team grew after we finished. Our respect for each other grew and when we deploy I can guarantee that this experience will strengthen our resolve all the more.

There are few things a team can do to strengthen itself than to be forged by the fire of physical strife.

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20 Comments

I love how you said freedom isn't free because its true, and being a military child know some unfortunate kids my age that have lost their family members protecting our country.

You guys make me proud !

Tsgt (Ret)

Thanks for your support and your service!

This is nice, but it seems like you are just trying to show off your accomplishment rather than instruct on team-building.

I'm trying to understand if this is intended to be a constructive comment or a tongue-in-cheek comment. If I wanted to show off my accomplishment, I would've done an instructable on how I am a distinguished military member. It's a show and tell. There aren't many websites posting information on how to do the march, so I helped out. As for team-building, I guarantee that doing an event like this will strengthen your team. If you have something to offer for team-building, please post.

For what it's worth, I really appreciated coming across your instructable recently. I'm a civilian, but I've been training to do this for a couple of months now and your points are definitely helpful. Reading over what you said, I now have some ideas on what to do as far as incorporating longer hikes and how to make sure I don't end up in the medic's tent (I don't think I would have realized the sock thing until it was too late). I may even try to put a team together just for the added support (that's a bit trickier though). So yeah, I think it's a great instructable, definitely for this particular march, but probably also for any other endurance type event. Great work, and thanks for sharing it with us!

i have great respect for anyone who finishes an endurance task like this. especially in conditions like in the photos - hot sandy hilly and HOT i go hiking a fair bit and recently completed a 45M (75km in 12h 28m ) hike (which also happened to be a race) and to our joy we came third. alot of the things you've said ring true - keep hydrated, work as a team etc. but if i was to say 1 point, and this 1 point is far more important that any other because with this thing alone you can beat an endurance task. positive mental attitude it is a persons ability to blank out pain, ignore the fact that they are at the bottom of a massive hill and they have to get to the top. the best member of our three man team is practically a machine. he has well over 500 miles under his belt and legs like an elephant from all the hiking he does. the other two members (myself included) are no way near as fit. we hit "the barrier" far earlier in the race. "the barrier" is a term given to the first point at which the athelete really has to focus on not stopping. personally i hit this fairly early on - at about 30 miles. this was because we'd decided not to stop at all (because stopping after that distance, even for 1 minute makes it very hard to keep going again) so my socks were wet from sweat and i was getting blisters. i kept going. then at about 35 miles i fell over and sprained/twisted my knee and from then on i couldn't extend it. my teammates had to carry some of my pack but i kept going. the other equally able member of my team never seemed in alot of pain but because i know him quite well i noticed the subtle signs... he went quiet, he started tripping over sticks on the ground he started getting annoyed at little things. often when people get like this i make a team stop, have some tea etc. we didn't have time so i made him eat a couple of my energy bars and he was pretty much fine. the machine like member of our team, however, "hit the barrier" at about 40 miles and hit it hard. we have him food, he didn't speed up, we took his pack he didn't speed up we tricked him into thinking we were practically there... it worked! he realised about 2.5 miles on but by then he had his head back in the game and was marching at pace again. its not a tactic we used lightly, it could have backfired if he hadnt got his thinking hat back on but overall it was an amazing hike. and we came third ... three 17y/o's beat loads of experienced hikers with lots of determination and not alot of thinking (it was pretty stupid to be honest - i couldn't walk properly for 3 days afterwards and i had a blister about the size of a £2 coin). summary positive mental attitude is the most important thing of all determination, looking out for your teammates and food ( tee hee) are all important part of this teams are great mainly because even if you lose your positive mental attitude theres the basic caveman instinct not to look like a whimp infront of other guys to keep you going! :P (sorry this was so long)

I was there and did it with you guys this year. I am going to do it again next year as well. Great Advice on how to survive that thing. I would just add make sure you trim your toenails and have a some room in your boots or the downhill portion will tear your toes up. Go Air Force CatNDhat Air Force (ret)

I have known survivors of Bataan Death March and their families and can only say that which commemorates their ordeal and suffering and remembers their valor is an event worth participating in. My hat is off to those who have not forgotten. May no member of our armed forces ever have to suffer the fate those guys did. Most of those who made it home never really recovered physically or in their hearts. Thanks for the blog PKranger88.

baTaan daY... _