Alan Bennett, a Territorial Army reservist of the Forward Air Control Troop in Bath, put his best foot forward last week at the annual 200km march in the Nijmegen region of the Netherlands. This year’s event held a special significance for the ex-regular soldier, for as well as recently turning 50, it was the tenth time he has taken part in the march.
To commemorate this milestone achievement he brought along a 20-strong team of Air Cadets, military staff and civilian walkers, who to raised funds for the Royal United Hospital of Bath. The event in Nijmegen began on 17 July and ran over four days, attracting contenders and spectators from across the globe.
Originally, the Nijmegen march was a purely military event, however, it has grown in popularity and now over 40,000 people take part including around 5,000 military personnel from over 50 different nations. The event also attracts more than one million spectators.
Alan comments on what the 200km march means to him: “My friends and family thought I was a little crazy to be contending once again and I suppose after four days of boots pounding out 40 kilometres each day in a march that forces you to pit willpower against pain and exhaustion, it’s hardly surprising really. However, my military background has taught me to really appreciate challenges such as the Nijmegen march and relish the opportunity to take part in something that brings confidence to so many people.”
As well as raising funds to help install a Gamma CT scanner at the Royal United Hospital of Bath, Alan is hoping that his achievement will help raise awareness of the work of the Territorial Army and the Forward Air Control Troop in Bath.
Alan comments on what it takes to complete a march of this kind. “I had absolute confidence in my legs but no matter how much you prepare it can turn around and bite you, some years there has been monsoon weather and on others it has been so hot that people have suffered from heatstroke. The march is a real mental game. You’re completing around eight hours of walking a day so you have to keep your mind occupied and fight those inner demons.”
The Forward Air Control Troop supports specially trained Officers and Soldiers who provide the link between aircraft and ground troops. The Troop assists in tactically directing aircraft during missions and controls unmanned aerial vehicles. The FAC Troop is at the heart of Air Land Integration in both training and on operations.
To learn more about the reserve service in the South West, contact Wessex Reserve Forces & Cadets Association on 01823 254571 or log on to www.wessex-rfca.org.uk.