Monday, April 18, 2011

The Manchu Mile

When I served in Korea back in 1998/1999, I was given the opportunity to participate in a legacy of my Unit.  I was assigned as a scout to 2/9inf.  The 9th infantry apprently marched 85 miles into battle during the Boxer Rebellion in China.  When the commanding officer was shot he passed on the guide-on (unit flag with battle streamers) to the man beside him and shouted, "Keep up the Fire!"  The shout is so legendary, that it was how we would greet officers.  Instead of saying "hello, sir," we would say "keep up the fire, sir!"  The march was the harder part.

To commemorate the gruelling journey that these soldiers took just to arrive at the battle that they would then have to fight, we did a 25 mile road march through the mountainous terrain around Camp Casey.  They tend to change the route from year to year and our Sergeant Major must have been a masochist.  The whole route was up and down.  Who were we to complain?  At least we didn't have to do the whole 85.

We did train up for this by doing much shorter marches, one of which took us up a mountain to buddhist temple that was very beautiful.  On the night we were to begin, there was some hubbub about who should take point.  We made the arguement that the scouts should as that is where we were supposed to be.  It was in our job description.  It was conceded and we took point.

The thing I remember most about that night was being told to slow down.  Not me personally but the scout platoon.  The first time we stopped was probably for half an hour so everyone could catch up and then rest for the ten alloted minutes.  This was repeated at all the appointed stops.  Then towards the end, word came that we had to take another stop because the Mess Hall wasn't ready for us.  The mess hall would go all out for the breakfast feast that would welcome us home, but the food wasn't ready, so they slowed us more.  It turned the last few miles into agony.  Everyone wanted to just finish.  Sure we were all tired but we still had something left.  The last mile was marched in formation, which was the worst part of all.  I am sure it looked cool to see a bunch of march weary soldiers finish the 25 miles in step and singing, but we didn't really care how we looked. 

When you finish, you don't just get to go eat breakfast.  You have to wait and get your belt buckle.  Thankfully they didn't make us wait for the whole battalion and we were able to go through the ceremony without much delay and go eat.  The belt buckle is the only authorized unit buckle in the Army.  Once you earn it, you can wear it wherever you go.  It is kind of a mark of distinction.  Before you get it you think it is pretty lame, but after you get it, it does mean something to you.  12 years later, I still have mine and still wear it, even though I have been out of the military since right after I finished the Manchu Mile.  I earned that baby. 

5 comments:

Jennifer Hillier said...

You SO earned that baby.

I loved this story. Thanks for sharing.

wbryanga said...

Budd I was in Headquarters I was a medic. I did this thing three times when I was there. I did two that we had to and then one that was a make up for people. I was there 99/2000. That was my most memorable time in the Army. I loved it thanks for sharing and I still have my buckle.
"keep up the fire"

Budd said...

Wbryanga- our time probaby overlapped. Our medic was Jasso, I believe. I had a lot of fun there. Loved going down range and I should really do a post about getting lunch at the Warrior Club. Memory is tinted with rose colored glasses, but those burgers were awesome.

Budd said...

Wbryanga- our time probaby overlapped. Our medic was Jasso, I believe. I had a lot of fun there. Loved going down range and I should really do a post about getting lunch at the Warrior Club. Memory is tinted with rose colored glasses, but those burgers were awesome.

Hank Yoo said...

Good memories. I served in 1/9 Inf. located in Camp Hovey for 2 years 1998-2000 as a KATUSA. I did Manchu mile 3 times and got 2 buckles and 1 medal. Unfortunately, they are missing now. Hope you have good memories in south korea. Keep up the fire!