FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (April 9, 2009) - A week of testing for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency concluded with an awards ceremony April 3 in the Lewis and Clark Center's Marshall Hall. About 95 Soldiers began the competition, and 54 badges were awarded at the gold level, four silvers and one bronze.

Soldiers were tested on a variety of events including marksmanship, swimming, and track and field. The final event was a road march with a rucksack weighing 23 pounds. There were three different distances for the road march determined by which level a Soldier qualified in the marksmanship event. The longest, or gold-badge distance, was 30 kilometers, about 18.7 miles. The standards for each event, except for the marksmanship, vary by age and gender.

The badge is a German military award, but can be earned and worn by U.S. and other foreign soldiers. Sgt. Maj. Ronny Raemsch, a German Army liaison to the Combined Arms Center, oversaw the testing at Fort Leavenworth and presented the badges to the Soldiers who earned them.

"It's a tough decision; very difficult. It's hard, especially for the muscles," Raemsch said of the competition. "What I found here is that a lot of Soldiers have problems with swimming. They don't get to use it, or didn't learn it, or something."

Sgt. John Lennon of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 705th Military Police Internment and Resettlement Battalion, agreed the swimming events were difficult.

"Every event was challenging. The swimming events were just as hard as the ruck march, and the ruck march was just as hard as everything else. It was all very challenging," he said.

Lennon said he trained for more than a month with his unit for the road march. This year was his second time competing for the badge, and Lennon earned gold.

"I feel I'm ahead of a lot of my peers. It's not something that everyone has a chance to get," he said.

Maj. Timothy Cyprian, an Army Reserve officer from Mississippi and Intermediate Level Education student in class 2009-01, also said the swimming and road march events were the most difficult in the competition.

"The running wasn't that bad because I've been running these hills in Kansas since I got here," he said.

Cyprian has deployed to Iraq twice, and will graduate early because he is deploying again in July. He said the competition has helped prepare him for his next deployment.

"It prepares me mentally to be able to handle the stress and to lead as an officer. If I ask you to do a task and I can't do it, then why should I ask you to do it'" Cyprian said.

Raemsch said every Soldier who competes for the badge could learn something from the process.
"I hope that they see it's a tough competition. I would say that if you have to do this in a short time like a week, you have to push your body, use different muscles from your whole body," he said.

Raemsch said the next competition for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency will be in September or October. He offered some advice for Soldiers who want to compete next time for the badge.

"I would recommend to train for swimming, the long jump and the shot put, because it's different. And I would recommend for a lot of Soldiers to get used to the weight," Raemsch said.