Delta 9 Guardian joins 4ID Soldiers for 25-mile ruck march

  • Published
  • By Ms. Emily Peacock

In the early hours of a crisp October morning, Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division completed the “Manchu Mile,” a 25-mile ruck march through the Fort Carson training areas, paying homage to the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment’s 87-mile forced march during the Chinese “Boxer Rebellion” in the early 1900s.

Among the hundreds of Soldiers stood one lone U.S. Space Force Guardian, Sgt. Stephen Lemmons.

A member of Space Delta 9 – Orbital Warfare’s 9th Combat Training Squadron, Lemmons was on a mission to prove that Guardians can go the extra mile.

 “The Army is known for being physically challenging,” Lemmons said. “The Space Force? Not so much. I think a lot of people were surprised to see someone with a U.S. Space Force name tape on their uniform.”

Lemmons first learned about the Manchu Mile from his neighbor, Army Sgt. Jacob Gonzalez, a member of the 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade at Fort Carson.

“I do taekwondo at least once a week and work out with my unit, but I have never trained for or completed something like this,” Lemmons said.

With only a few weeks to train, Lemmons started rucking around Schriever Space Force Base, battling hills, uneven terrain, and heavy wind.

“Training at Schriever was brutal,” said Lemmons. “I completed 12 miles with a 60-pound rucksack, but looking back, I wish I had trained a little harder.”

Despite his short training window, Lemmons was determined to see the Manchu Mile through.

At 9:45pm on Oct. 26, Lemmons and hundreds of other service members took the first of many steps on their journey to complete the 25-mile ruck march.

“We started off in a big group, but as we got into double digits, the pack thinned out to the point where I was by myself,” said Lemmons. “The hardest part for me was ‘agony hill’ at mile 11.5. To come so far, to have this massive hill in front of you, and to know you’re not even halfway through – that was a very humbling experience.”

Sporting a 35-pound rucksack, an M4 carbine, and winter gloves, Lemmons braved the chilly temperatures and rough terrain for nearly 12 hours to earn the elusive Manchu Mile belt buckle.

 “By the time the sun came up, I knew I was in the home stretch,” said Lemmons. “When I crossed the finish line, I was so relieved to be done and to be able to put my rucksack down.”

Waiting for him at the finish line was Lemmons’ entire flight.

“Guardians understand the importance of resiliency, adapting to changes, and challenging themselves,” said Lt. Col. Clay McGillivray, commander of the 9th CTS. “Sgt Lemmons is no exception to resiliency, and as the lone Guardian, he not only represented the entire U.S. Space Force during those 25 miles but made all of us at DEL 9 proud to serve alongside him.”

When asked if he would participate in future ruck marches, Lemmons was already planning for next year’s Manchu Mile.

“There’s a challenge to do four Manchu Miles,” Lemmons said. “Participants who complete all four receive a battalion coin and are usually awarded an Army Achievement Medal, and although I’m not in the Army, I think I’ve proven that I can keep up.”

To learn more about the Manchu Mile, visit: