By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMay 4, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- More than a hundred Fort Rucker Soldiers tested their mettle in April to earn an international accolade and build camaraderie with their German allies.
The 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment hosted this year's German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge competition, which tested all 108 of its Soldier competitors with events meant to test their physical prowess, said Maj. Rosa Delaney, 1-13th Avn. Regt.
Throughout the competition, which ran over the course of four days, Soldiers had to compete in events that included an 11x10-meter sprint, the flex-arm hang, a 1000-meter run, a 200-meter swim; M-9 marksmanship qualification, and a ruck march with full gear in distances from 6, 9, or 12 kilometers -- all while competing for gold, silver or bronze levels.
"The German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge is a German decoration to recognize the achievement of U.S. and allied military member for outstanding military distinction," Delaney said. "The German military values the GAFPB above all other badges because it represents qualification and excellence in several areas, constituting the core competencies of military readiness, and not just performance in a singular military skill."
"It was designed for two things: to test our Soldiers and their soldiers on their military proficiency, and more importantly to build and enhance partnership among their own and allied Soldiers," added Lt. Col. Kevin McHugh, 1-13th Avn. Regt. commander. "This competition is unique in that is a competition where we do not compete against one another, but rather the established standards."
Of the Soldiers who competed, 74 earned badges, which were awarded during a ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum April 25. With 35 gold recipients, 26 silver and 13 bronze, earning a badge for most competitors was no easy task.
"The hardest part for me was absolutely the swim," said 2nd Lt. Morgan Cochran, D Company, 1-145th Avn. Regt. "I'm pretty good at swimming, but swimming 200 meters in uniform proved more difficult than I expected."
"This competition was pretty [physically demanding] -- it was about how much effort you put into it, but if you put maximum effort into it, it's extremely physically demanding," added Sgt. 1st Class Ashton Ace, A Co., 1-223rd Avn. Regt. "The flex-arm hang was tough. To get the gold you have to sit there and flex for over a minute, so that was really challenging -- I actually had to train for that."
Both Cochran and Ace earned gold, but the competition was less about the result, and more about trying new experiences and building relationships.
"During primary, my stick buddy was a German lieutenant, so I think the relationship between the German armed forces and the American armed forces is really important, so by participating in this event it shows my support for that," said Cochran. "One of the greatest things was meeting people from all over Fort Rucker from different units … and building that camaraderie throughout the competition."
"I saw the opportunity and it was something I've never done before, and since I had the time to do it and I wanted to try it," added Ace. "I've never taken part in competitions like this, and overall it was fun and just a great experience."
That level of camaraderie and teamwork in an individual competition is something McHugh said he was proud to see, not just in this competition, but in competitions over the years.
"I have observed you all compete last week and the previous groups last year, the end result has always been worthy of note that during an individual competition you all come together and establish a sense of teamwork and camaraderie," he said. "Be proud of what you achieved, and I ask that you remember the origin of the badge and the heritage of its design, which is the strength of our two armies."