Dancon March tests KFOR soldiers

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A group of German soldiers march along the Dancon route, Nov. 7, near Mitrovica/Mitrovice. The Germans soldiers, along with more than 700 others, participated in the approximately 27-kilometer March.

Danish Army Lt. Col. Jens Peder, Nyrup commander for the Danish KFOR contingent, addresses the gathered soldiers prior to their Dancon March Nov. 7, at Camp Grand Danois inside Camp Novo Selo. More than 730 soldiers participated in the march. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Brian J. Holloran, 130th Public Affairs Detachment, Connecticut National Guard)

A group of U.S. Soldiers pose for a group picture before setting out on the Dancon March, Nov. 7 at Camp Grand Danois inside Camp Novo Selo. From left: Spc. Oscar Pineiro-Aponte, 1st Lt. Noel Castellano, 1st. Lt. Alejandro Guilbe-Torruellas, Capt. Alex Mercado Quinones, Sgt. Regina Middlebrooks, Sgt. A.J. Davis, Staff Sgt. Jesus Mojica, Spc. Samuel Diaz Colon, Spc. Ricardo Santiago-Soler and Sgt. Angel Espada.

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo - More than 730 multinational service members from all across Kosovo gathered Nov. 7, at Camp Grand Danois, the Danish camp inside Camp Novo Selo, Mitrovica/Mitrovice, for the second of three Dancon Marches scheduled to be held this Autumn.

More than 50 U.S. service members joined their Danish hosts and participants from Armenia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Sweden and others, as well as members of the Kosovo Police and European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo for the grueling journey through the Kosovo countryside.

The Dancon March is a tradition for Danish soldiers wherever they are stationed, and has been held every year since 1972. The march consists of approximately 26 kilometers (about 16 miles) of trail, the terrain varying based on the area in which the march is held. Dancon Marches have been held in Kosovo since Danish soldiers became involved in KFOR in 1999, and are held in other theaters as well.

Each participant is required to carry a minimum load of 10 kilos (about 22 pounds) for the entire march, and has a maximum of eight hours in which to complete the course. Some iterations of the Dancon March involve distances of up to 100 kilometers (62 miles).

"You are not competing with each other," said Danish army Lt. Col. Jens Peder Nyrup commander of the Danish KFOR contingent, "It is a competition against yourself. You are the only person that can stop you from finishing. It is a chance for you to enjoy the benefits of exercise with soldiers from all over the world."

"The march invites foreign troops, allied with Denmark," said Danish Master Sgt. Torben Christensen, welfare officer, "to participate in the 25 or 100 kilometer march. Marches have taken place in Cyprus, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan."

The first two members of Multinational Battle Group East to cross the finish line were Sgt. Jerry Boffen, public affairs sergeant, Task Force Falcon and Spc. Drew R. Peterson, aviation mechanic, Task Force Aviation both with a time of four hours and twenty minutes.

"The hills are terrible," said Peterson, Boone, Iowa. "The terrain and the fatigue from the pace I was setting were the most difficult parts. I did everything I could to just keep my focus and drive on."

The event, despite its hardship, was a morale builder and an exciting event for those that partook in it.

"Events like these are great morale boosters," said Capt. Alex Mercado-Quinones, San Diego, battle captain, MNBG E. "It's a unique experience not many people get to take part in, and its good exercise. It's challenging and a test of your own endurance."

"It was definitely a challenge," said Peterson. "But I am already signed up for the next one."

Everyone that participates and completes the course in less than eight hours will receive the Danish Contingent March Medal, a bronze-colored, circular medal with red and white-striped ribbon.

There is one more Dancon March scheduled in Kosovo on Nov. 21. This is expected to be the final Dancon event in Kosovo, as the Danish contingent of KFOR is scheduled to withdraw from the region in the near future.

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Capt. Barbara Bujak, physical therapist at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, speaks in her native tongue, Polish, with members of Multinational Battle Group East's Polish Contingent and European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo. Bujak, who was born in Poland, moved to the U.S. at age 11 and joined the U.S. Army five years ago. Bujak's temporary assignment at Camp Bondsteel allowed her to experience a familiar ceremony in a new location.

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