The march, conducted by the Alabama Military Academy’s 200th Regiment and made possible through a partnership with the legendary race track, began at Salem Baptist Church in Eastaboga and represented the second of three marches required to graduate.
After the initial formation of office candidates crossed the finish line, OCS Training Officer Robert Mangum, who had been marching with the group, stayed at the finish line to greet each remaining candidate.
The course began using the Talladega Superspeedway finish line as the end point for their seven-mile marches in 2009. The 200th Regiment holds two accelerated OCS courses each year.
According to OCS Senior Platoon Trainer Maj. Randy Albritton, each officer candidate had to complete the march in under two-and-a-half hours to progress to their next phase of training.
“For some of them, it’s probably one of the hardest things they’ve ever accomplished in their life due to the fact they’ve come from all over the country and they’re not completely acclimated to the weather situation here,” Albritton said. “It’s not bad today, but with the humidity level the way it is, a lot of these candidates from New England and the West Coast aren’t used to that.”
Albritton’s weather assessment proved to be spot-on as a layer of cloud cover helped block out the sun and a light drizzle served to cool off the troops who were lugging anywhere from 40 to 50 pounds of equipment on their journey to the finish line that so many legends have crossed in NASCAR history.
“It’s a motivational thing,” Albritton said. “Once they come through that tunnel and they get to experience and see this, it kind of lifts their spirits up a little bit and they’re not struggling so much mentally.”
Officer Candidate Mikhael Slone, a San Antonio native and member of the Texas National Guard, seemed to enjoy the experience, even with the distinctive challenges the march brought.
“I was actually really excited about coming out here,” Slone said. “This is actually my first time in Alabama and my first time at a NASCAR track. I know for myself and for a lot of my fellow candidates, we didn’t realize the gravity of the race track, especially on the banks — how actually inclined they are. It was really unique experience.”
Contact Shane Dunaway at firstname.lastname@example.org