Five students finish a 1,000 ruck-march in Grand Tetons, Wyoming over winter break.

Over this past winter break, several Aggies marched from Arizona to Montana to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation for the third year in a row.

Five members of Project Atlas ruck-marched from the Grand Canyon to the Grand Teton to raise over $15,000 for the Special Operation Warrior Foundation from Dec. 29 through Jan. 7. History senior Ian Morrow, mechanical engineering senior Hunter Birt, international studies sophomore Wyatt Vance, international studies senior Ethan Lochner and English senior Nathanael Duty spent the majority of their winter break making the 1,000 mile march. Project Atlas was founded by Morrow and Birt in 2017.

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation works to provide scholarships and educational counseling for the children whose parents passed away in the line of duty while being a member of the special operations service. Birt said raising money through the ruck-march gives those children a chance to get a college education.

“We had a good experience here at Texas A&M, and we thought it would be good to repay our experiences here and hope that other people can experience similar things,” Birt said.

Project Atlas is not an official organization of A&M or the Corps of Cadets, but rather a non-profit group. Birt said that in years past, groups of two would hike twenty miles each until they reached 1,000 miles total as a group, but this year was different.

“We did all five at once,” Birt said. “We would park somewhere [and] go 10 miles out and 10 miles back … so it was a cumulative 1,000 [miles].”

Ruck-marching, Lochner said, is a military type of hike where an individual hikes with a weighted pack on their backs. With hiking 1,000 miles total in just 10 days, Lochner said the experience was still enjoyable.

“It’s definitely a unique experience,” Lochner said. “It’s therapeutic almost to just be out in nature, just you and the guys that you’re rucking with.”

After meeting their goal of raising $15,000 for the foundation this year, Morrow said the group has been able to raise over $37,000 in total donations since their first year of doing the ruck-marching.

“[To see] it grow over three years and being able to raise a good amount of money for a very good organization,” Morrow said. “I mean it’s very inspiring and very humbling.”

Morrow and Birt created the group to do something charitable over the winter break, Morrow said.

“We found the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and really understood and got behind their cause of helping children of fallen special operations members,” Morrow said. “We really found that a noble and charitable idea that we could relate to.”

Lochner said he was asked to join the Project Atlas, which made him happy because the group marched for a great cause. This is Lochner’s second year going ruck-marching with Project Atlas, with this year’s march giving them some new challenges.

“The biggest challenge I think was the cold,” Lochner said. “It was really cold this year, and the terrain — we were in really high altitudes for most of the ruck.”

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