Three Fort Benning Soldiers were among the first women to receive the gold German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge April 6, German liaison office noncommissioned officer SGM Bernd Rabenstein said.
CPT Caitlin Chiaramonte, CPT Sarah Sykes and CW3 Kerstin Sheffey, all of the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, completed the badge requirements, finishing at the highest level. The test is completed by all German soldiers each year, but Rabenstein said he has never awarded the badge to a woman in 20 years of military service.
"It's very tough," he said. "It was a great experience to see how these ladies did it. They suffered a lot, and I am very proud of them."
Rabenstein said the achievement is even more significant for American Soldiers because some of the events like the shot put and long jump aren't commonly trained disciplines in this country.
This year, only 10 male Rangers have been awarded the badge, Rabenstein said.
"It was challenging," Sykes said. "But we thought the three of us could do it together and have some fun, and it would be a good bonding experience."
Each said there were times when one of them would want to quit, but they pushed each other in a way that is only effective among friends.
"It wouldn't have been as fun if it was a forced thing," Sykes said. "The motivation was to ... earn it together, and it is very meaningful that we did something that apparently many people can't do."
U.S. Soldiers are given a year to complete all categories, but the three Soldiers finished in about a week.
The badge is one of the few approved foreign service badges for Army Soldiers, and to earn it, Soldiers are timed and tested on a combination of swimming, sprinting, firing a pistol and a 12.4-mile road march with a 22-pound rucksack.
Sheffey, who is German but has 14 years in the U.S. Army, said the group of friends chose to pursue the badge just to see if they could conquer it.
"It was a personal challenge," she said. "It's something I've always wanted."
Chiaramonte, a former professional basketball player, said each of them has varied athletic backgrounds, but they share similar personalities and a strong dedication to the Army.
Sykes said she struggled with the long jump, but the other two found the weapon qualification test most difficult.
"I didn't know how to use a pistol at all," said Chiaramonte, who credited her success to "beginner's luck." "But I got out there, and I hit all five shots."
The trio said they are honored to be among the first women to achieve the accomplishment, but their success has only fueled their drives to be more physically fit.
"This is only the beginning," Chiaramonte said. "I'm ready for the next challenge."

Page last updated Thu April 15th, 2010 at 17:56