Badge of honor
October 22, 2012
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Drive and determination are good qualities to have as a Soldier. It is what motivates many military members every day.
Such is the case with 1st Lt. Michael Lacombe, who went above and beyond the call of duty to challenge himself.
Lacombe works in the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade (Ground-Based Midcourse Defense) as the executive officer.
He recently competed for the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge and successfully earned the gold badge. The highest color badge a Soldier can get.
The German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge is one of a few foreign badges recognized by the United States military and approved to be worn on the uniform; it is also among the most coveted awards.
The competition spans three days and requires participants to compete in several different challenges. The most basic challenges are running, jumping, swimming and ruck marching. Some events, like swimming, can take the place of one of the running categories.
On Lacombe's first day of the competition, he tested his strength and speed.
"We did the shot put where we used a 16-pound ball that you had to throw eight meters," said Lacombe. "There was also the high jump which was 54 inches that I had to clear and the 100-meter dash that I had to complete in less than 13.6 seconds for my age group."
On the second day of the competition, Lacombe participated in the 1000-meter swim.
The competitors had 26 minutes to complete the event, and Lacombe completed it in less than 17 minutes; a time that even he did not expect.
"I was surprised with the results," said Lacombe. "Nobody's telling you if you are going fast or slow, so you just keep on kicking off the wall going back and forth. When I got out, they said 16 minutes 28 seconds and I knew the hard time was more than 26 minutes, so I was shocked."
The second day also covered the 9mm pistol qualifications. The competition was held inside a building on Fort Carson, Colo., where the competitors used the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) 2000 to qualify.
On the last day the competitors did a 12-km ruck march.
"We had to carry packs that weighed 33.1 pounds, for the march," said Lacombe. "We had to march 12 clicks in under one hour and twenty minutes."
Lacombe said he had to train well in advance so he would be comfortable competing.
"I did group physical training with the unit which helped me with the run," said Lacombe. "Swimming, I do all the time on my own, and the unit had qualifications last month with the 9mm so I was able to further sharpen my skill with that. Then for the ruck march, I hiked up Mount Shavano (the 17th highest peak in Colorado) with a lot of weight less than a month out from the competition and that was way tougher than the ruck march. I also rucked around my [apartment] building with about 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of water weight."
So what motivates a Soldier to want to subject himself to this kind of discomfort, one may ask? Lacombe suggests that it may just be the right month to do it.
"The driving force behind this is just to stay motivated. That and with October having Oktoberfest and the German Armed Forces Badge, they kind of go hand in hand. Plus it's an extra award, and I didn't have any foreign awards. So when I heard about this opportunity, I got the itch to compete."
His advice to anyone whom may be interested is to, "Read through the criteria and do an analysis of your physical capabilities. It's well worth it. If you plan on doing it, then do a little bit of prep training and do plenty of running."
Lacombe will receive his gold badge in a ceremony Nov. 14 at Fort Carson.
Anyone interested in competing for the GAFPB, whether in the Air Force or Army, National Guard or active duty, contact Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Douglas at (720) 250-1221 or e-mail David.Douglas1@us.army.mil.