25-kilometer ruckmarch
NIEDERMOHR, Germany (November 6, 2008) -- Sgt. Mark McClanathan (right), 43rd Signal Battalion, slaps hands with German Airman 1st Class Hans Ettelbrueck, Polycone Air Defense Unit, during a 25-kilometer ruckmarch to earn the German Proficiency Badge. 12 Soldiers from the 43rd marched in the ruckmarch event and will compete in a myriad of other events to include a 200-meter swim, high jump and long jump at the end of November.

NIEDERMOHR, Germany (November 6, 2008) - Leaves crunched underfoot as a group of German and American Soldiers took off with 25-pound rucksacks strapped to their back under an overcast German sky.

12 Soldiers from 5th Signal Command's 43rd Signal Battalion and members of the German air defense unit Polycone, stationed in Bann, marched together Nov. 6 toward receiving the German Proficiency Badge.

The ruckmarch is a portion of the proficiency badge and is split up by age groups and gender. Two Soldiers, based on their gender and age, marched for 25 kilometers with four hours to complete it. The 10 other Soldiers had five hours to complete a 30-kilometer ruckmarch. The proficiency badge is an annual requirement for German units and gave the Soldiers of the 43rd a chance to get out of the office and train in a way their jobs generally do not afford with the added benefit of getting to intermingle with German servicemembers.

"There are many benefits in our company's attempt to qualify for this badge. First,
it challenges the Soldiers physically, second, it breaks the monotony of their daily duties," said Capt. Hans Weber, 181st Signal Company commander. "Third, it enables them to set a goal and push themselves to reach that goal, and fourth, it builds unit cohesion."

"I have been here since 2001 and this is my first chance to work with the German military," said Sergeant 1st Class Justin J. Gussler, 43rd Signal Bn. "This was a good chance to get on the ground with another unit. It is great for the younger Soldiers to do this early in their careers so they can take it and be able to use it later on."

The team, split up between the 181st Signal Company and the 11th
Signal Detachment, trained for a month and a half to ready them for the physical task of the march.

"The biggest challenge was the preparation. When we started doing the four-mile march, it was hard for me to keep up with the pace; by 14 miles, I was able to keep up," said Pvt. Ashley Slason, 43rd Signal Bn., the only female on the team. "It was a really good opportunity to do extra activities outside of the unit."

The preparation offered its own set of rewards.

"It was great to look with the Soldiers at what seemed to be an impossible goal, but we followed a set training plan and on the day of the march, they were ready to go, knowing they could do it," said Gussler. "It just shows them you can achieve whatever you set your mind to."

The German servicemembers took something away from the march as well.

"This was my first time hanging out with Americans, it was a good chance to see the different ways our armies work," said German Pvt. 2nd Class Dominic Weber. "It was fun to talk with them as we marched and to see a different side to things."

Besides the ruckmarch, the Soldiers will be performing in a myriad of sporting events to include a 200-meter swim, and a high jump. They will also have the option to qualify on German weapons.

"This is a good opportunity to work in an international environment, to see different nations doing the same thing," said German Sgt. Maj. Johann Gayer.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16