German proficiency test builds morale
June 9, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - Thirteen service members from the active and National Guard components earned the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency on June 2 during a two-day competition hosted by the 32nd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team on Fort Meade.
The GAFB, also called Das Abzeichen fur Leistungen im Truppendienst, is a decoration of the Bundeswehr, the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany.
In addition to the Asymmetric Warfare Group, participants competing for the badge included the following National Guard units: the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 29th Combat Aviation Brigade, 29th Military Police Company, 158th Cavalry Regiment, 113th Wing Air National Guard, and Joint Force Headquarters-Maryland.
The badge is normally awarded to German soldiers who annually compete in a mixture of light athletic and military disciplines, said Sgt. Maj. Rolf Lichtenberg, the German host for the event who is the liaison to the U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Va.
"German soldiers have to do this at least once a year," he said. "Some units do it more often than others, and that depends on the type of job of the unit."
Allied Soldiers at any rank may also be awarded the badge after completing the events associated with it.
Competing for the badge includes a 200-meter swim, three-kilometer run, 9 mm pistol qualification, and a 12-kilometer road march carrying more than 30 pounds. Olympic-type track and field events include the shot put, 4-foot high jump or 14-foot long jump, and a 100-meter sprint. Each event has time or distance completion standards and is based on age and gender.
The events appear simple individually, but when they are run consecutively over the course of six to seven hours, completing them became quite the challenge, said Staff Sgt. Theo Jones, a logistics specialist for AWG.
"You have to train for it," Lichtenberg said. "Because Soldiers aren't used to most of the events like the track and field, it can be a hassle."
As an athlete who frequents triathlons, Maj. Andrew Collins, deputy commander for the 32nd WMD Civil Support team, said this event was a good fit for his training schedule.
"I do quite a bit of workouts and a number of train-ups. I have an iron man competition coming up in a couple of weeks, so it just fell right into my normal routine," said Collins, who coordinated the event. "But some of the atypical things that I had to put extra effort into that I'm not used to doing were the high jump and the shot put events."
Individual events were measured by three levels of achievement that culminated to the overall level of the badge participants competed for: bronze, silver and gold.
For example, during the weapons qualification range, participants were given five rounds of 9 mm ammunition to shoot at three 25-meter targets.
"To qualify for the bronze badge, you had to hit the target three times," said Sgt. 1st Class Theodore Robinson, a recon noncommissioned officer for the 32 WMD Civil Support Team and range NCO for the 9 mm qualification range. "For the silver badge, you have to hit the target four times. And if you hit five out of five, you were in good standing for the gold badge."
Out of 18 participants, 11 earned the gold badge and two earned silver.
"For those who didn't make it, they will have the opportunity to test at a later time," Collins said.
Unlike competing in the grueling competition, setting up the events was not that difficult.
"In order to set up for the competition, you have to have a German military liaison to observe the events and to make sure that each event is done to standard," Collins said. "Sergeant Major Lichtenberg helped us out with that."
In addition to the liaison, a running track, weapons range, a pool and a place to road march are required -- all locations found on just about any military installation, he added.
"I believe the competition was a success," Collins said. "This is the first time this unit has hosted this event, and based on the result of this competition, our commander intends on hosting several other events in the near future."
Jones, who earned the gold badge, had some words of wisdom for those who hope to compete for the badge in the future.
"If you know that you are really weak at something and don't want to suffer through it, practice it," he said.