95th MP Soldiers compete for German efficiency badge
December 2, 2010
MANNHEIM, Germany - Nineteen Soldiers from the 95th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, participated in a German Armed Forces Efficiency Badge qualification event Nov. 24 here. The qualification event gave the American Soldiers the opportunity to earn the same GAFEB medal, or Deutsches Leistungsabzeichen as it is called in German. The badge is worn on the German military uniform.
Even though the event was hosted by the 95th MP Bn., it required the supervision and expertise of a host nation soldier to ensure that all events were graded to the proper standard. German army Sgt. 1st Class Per Griebler from 3rd Company, 251st Feldjaegerbataillon, was there to make that happen.
This was not Griebler's first time assisting American Soldiers with earning their GAFEBs, and won't likely be his last.
"I really love to do these events, and I think since 2005, when we did the first event, I have helped about 350 to 400 American Soldiers earn their GAFEB or Schuetzenshnur," Griebler said. Many of those Soldiers he assisted have been from the 95th MP Bn.
The first portion of the day's events was at the high school track in Benjamin Franklin Village here. It was there that the Soldiers participated in the 100-meter sprint, the 3,000-meter run, the long jump and the stone throwing. Each event had a minimum standard, which had to be met or they would not earn a medal at the end of the day.
After the running and jumping events were completed, it was time to move on to the Lampertheim swimming pool. The requirement was to swim 200 meters in less than six minutes, which proved to be a difficult task for untrained swimmers, forcing some of the Soldiers out of the competition.
Even though many Soldiers had trouble with the swimming event, some were able to show off their abilities in the water. Spc. Drake Bistrow from the 92nd MP Company went above and beyond by swimming the 1,000-meter event rather than the 200-meter, and finished in 18 minutes and 56 seconds, well below the allotted time.
After the swimming portion was completed, the Soldiers were ready to get back on their feet for the final event - the ruck march. In order to win the gold medal for the GAFEB, Soldiers had to complete the 12-kilometer ruck march in less than two hours.
Although most of the GAFEB has stayed the same over the years, the ruck march portion has changed. In previous years, the distances Soldiers were required to travel for the ruck march were divided by gender and age, with the length varying from 12-30 kilometers. The determination for receiving silver or bronze was based on how fast Soldiers completed their marches.
Today Soldiers have the option to lower the total distance of the march and, by doing so, their medals are downgraded to silver or bronze. They receive silver for completing the 9 km. march and bronze for the 6 km. march.
But for this group of Soldiers, no one chose to strive for less than gold.
As is usually the case, one Soldier stood out during the ruck march, finishing well before any of his battle buddies. Pfc. Bryan Willis from the 230th MP Company finished the march in one hour and 15 minutes.
Upon completion of the ruck march, all of the physical endurance events required for the GAFEB were complete. However, there is still one more requirement to fulfill the criteria for the badge. It is called the Schuetzenshnur, which is a weapons qualification event. Because a Schuetzenshnur range can take a full day to complete, the Soldiers of the 95th MP Bn. will need to complete that training at another time.
But, with the physical portion of the test complete, many of the Soldiers said they enjoyed the challenge of competing in events that they were not used to doing, such as swimming.
"The swimming part had to be the hardest because we haven't done that, so it was something new. I liked it. I think we should actually put that into our PT program more often if we can," said Sgt. Joe Rodriguez from the 230th MP Co.
Earning the GAFEB is not a requirement for German soldiers. Griebler explained the significance of the badge by saying "No soldier must earn the GAFEB, but they must make an attempt. Everyone wants to wear the badge on their uniform jackets. And if you have earned the GAFEB more than once, then the number is placed on the medal."
In fact, German soldiers are not guaranteed to earn the GAFEB, even if they fulfill all of the physical and marksmanship requirements.
"The soldier's commander has to decide if the soldier's behavior is worth the decoration," says Griebler.
"Before I started doing this training with Americans, I only knew about them from TV and from vacations, like most Germans know about them. Today I think it's a good thing to get closer together, to learn from each other - not only as comrades, but also as friends. In the end we stand together in international missions like in Afghanistan or the Balkans. In my opinion, getting to know each other back home makes it easier to work together on a mission."