Stepping it up for Nijmegen

The 2019 MARPAC Nijmegen marching team. Photo by SLt M.X. Déry

The 2019 MARPAC Nijmegen marching team. Photo by SLt M.X. Déry

SLt M.X. Déry, MARPAC PA Office ~

The final selection for the MARPAC (Maritime Forces Pacific) Nijmegen marching team has been made and the 11 members and one spare are on the home stretch of training before departing for Europe on July 11. 

Leading the team this year is Warrant Officer Nathan Verhoog who was part of the team last year.

“The experience was so wonderful. The pride you get from completing the marches is an incredible feeling. I look forward to the feeling of leading 10 great people across the finish line.”

Aside from the leadership challenge, the march is personal for him.

“The Nijmegen marches has always had a special significance for me. My Great-great-grandfather did it in 1925 and I found out about that five years ago. It just seemed a great way to come full circle for me.”

The Marches, four days of 40 kilometre sections totalling 160km, were originally a means for Dutch infantry to increase their long-distance marching and weight-carrying abilities, but has evolved into an international four-day event that draws military teams and 45,000 civilian marchers from 69 countries.

For many members of the Canadian Armed Forces, it is also about remembrance for the Canadian soldiers that died in the Netherlands during the Second World War and the special relationship Canada has with the Dutch people.

That was part of the inspiration for the morale patch design for this year’s MARPAC team.

“I wanted to venture away from the traditional badges and patches that we’ve used before,” explained Master Corporal Matt Lucas, designer of the winning patch. “I wanted a more modern design.”

The red, white and blue colours represents the Dutch flag.

“I wanted to incorporate that and blend it into our biggest national ­symbol, the Maple Leaf. The script for the text is coloured using the Nijmegen flag. Incorporating the tulip was important as it is also a recognizable Dutch symbol.”

There were many submissions from team members and after three rounds of voting MCpl Lucas’ entry was picked; however, he is quick to point out he had some help.

“I had a lot of help from my very talented spouse, Kara Tibbel. She is proficient in graphic arts and imaging.”

While the patches are being printed, training must continue.

“We still train Monday through Friday,” said WO Verhoog, adding that he has changed the training compared to last year. “We’ve added a little more diversity in our marching routes. We did the same march every Friday last year. It got a little boring.”

The awareness of anatomy, physiology, and how to take care of sore feet has been incorporated in the training to prevent injury.

For any CAF members thinking about participating next year, WO Verhoog suggests staying active and going on hikes.

“Our training plan is a very slow but steady escalation towards the proper distance and the proper weight. We have fantastic support from the Personnel Support Programs staff who help us develop the core strength needed for these marches. If you have a good baseline of fitness and you know how your feet react to long distance marching, you’re going to be set and ready to go come next February.”

If you’d like to meet the MARPAC Nijmegen team, their members will be manning the Naden and Dockyard gates on Tuesday June 18 with a boot to collect funds for Soldier On and Family First. They will have signs and be singing marching songs.

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