Marching with tradition lighting and drumming the way

The DANCON March begins ~ La marche de DANCON commence

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By Major Tyler Lavigne, Operation KOBOLD, Kosovo

Operation KOBOLD is a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) mission in Kosovo. It is Canada’s role in the Kosovo Force (KFOR). KFOR is a NATO-led peace-support operation.

On the 21st April 2019, CAF members including myself participated in the DANCON March, a unique and challenging event, that was organized and conducted by our Danish allies in Kosovo.

DANCON, which is the short form for Danish Contingent, has been a tradition with the Danish Defence since 1972, when the Royal Danish Army was deployed to Cyprus. This tradition has since expanded to all locations where Danish Forces are deployed and the march invites foreign troops, allied with Denmark, to participate in a 25 km march.

The march rules were that all participants must wear their country’s respective uniform, boots are mandatory, and they carry at least 10 km of equipment, and complete the march in no longer than 8 hours.

With only a week into the CAF rotation in Kosovo, this proved to be an excellent opportunity to introduce ourselves to allies in the KFOR and immerse into the geography of Kosovo.

Lieutenant-Colonel Haylock represented the Canadian Army as the March Contingent Commander and after receiving the approval of the Task Force Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Carolyne Chartier, the coordination of the logistical details began. Fortunately for us the Task Force Chief Clerk had established an impressive network with every nation in KFOR and as a result, was able to secure transportation for CAF members with the Irish contingent to and from the event.

Upon arrival, it was confirmed that the route was 26.1 kilometres in duration. The energy and anticipation just prior to the march was amazing, with all participants excited and looking forward to beginning. After opening speeches the march began and in true Nordic fashion, lit torches were stationed on one side, complete with a line of barrel drummers on the other, to motivate the participants for the first 250m. It was truly impressive to be part of the 450 plus participants.

Kosovo’s hilly terrain presented a challenge with the ascension and descent of numerous slopes. At times the pathways consisted of nothing more than a gravel with loose rocks with a few sections of paved roads.

The local Kosovo population was very friendly and often stood on the side of the road to wave and cheer the marching contingent on. The final summit scaled was immense with a severe slope angle. After reaching the top the view appeared to extend for hundreds of kilometres, putting into perspective the work that Canada and its allies have invested to maintain peace in this area.

After five hours and eighteen minutes, we crossed the finish line successfully completing the DANCON march. A momentous experience and challenge that I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to embark upon.

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