Brunssum, Netherlands - From the 18th to 21st of July, thirty members of the JFC Brunssum Allied International Marching Team (AIMT) participated in the 101st 'Nijmeegse Vierdaagse'. This event is referred to as the greatest walking event in the world which, this year, incorporated more than 47,000 participants. Well prepared, following participation in a number of marching events prior to Nijmegen, military AIMT members enthusiastically embraced the challenge of marching 40 kilomters for four consecutive days, wearing standard combat clothing and carrying backpacks weighing at least 10 kilograms.
The week was characterised by high temperatures and, by Friday, more than 4,000 marchers were forced to retire. Although some participants withdrew because of the extreme weather conditions, the majority pushed on, singing their marching songs as they walked to take their minds off the pain! The international character of the AIMT was diverse but even though there were so many different nationalities on the team, a 'Band of Brothers' mentality was evident. One of our marchers encountered fellow teammates who were not sure they could make it through the last day and said, "We started as a team, and we will finish as a team … even if it takes us until tomorrow".
AIMT groups of years past have developed a number of customs and traditions which team members were honoured to abide by. For example, over the years certain locations have become unofficial resting points such as a specific pub, where the proprietor would immediately recognize the AIMT members and happily welcome them. Another example of the extraordinary team spirit this event promotes was the participation of Colonel Klaus Bücklein, a former leader of the AIMT in 1996, who decided to have a walk with this year's team. This gesture which was highly inspiring and greatly appreciated by all. Along the way thousands of spectators applauded, supported the marchers, sprinkled them with cold water, and provided refreshments. However, on the Thursday morning all the marchers were sprinkled in a completely different way. Thunderstorms lasting several hours soaked all the walkers but, luckily, by mid-day the sun broke through.
28 members of the AIMT successfully completed the 160 kilometre march and were awarded the 4-Day Marches Cross by the JFC Brunssum Assistant Chief of Staff (Support), Brigadier General Hennie Bouman. In his remarks the General acknowledged the outstanding contribution of the team leader, Major Petre Luca (Rumanian Army), who continuously inspired the team. Awards for individuals who had demonstrated exemplary team spirit were given to Lieutenant Colonel Marcus Dicks (British Army) and Private Tue Hendriksen (Danish Army). On completion of the awards ceremony the AIMT, proudly carrying all NATO member national flags, set out upon the six kilometre victory parade along the Via Gladiola. The pride and emotion of team members as they marched for one final time having completed the challenge was clear for all to see.
The AIMT is a 41 year old entity that represents JFC Brunssum in marching events in the Netherlands and elswhere; amongst other venues Luxembourg and Belgium. For those who want to join for next year the team be aware the next cycle will commence in September, fortunately once again under the leadership of Major Luca.
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Story by JFC Brunssum Public Affairs Office