By 1st Lt. Verniccia FordSeptember 21, 2018
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- In the spirit of camaraderie, partnership, and marksmanship, 130 Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and their German counterparts occupied the Maholic Range Complex to participate in the "Schutzenschnur" to earn their German proficiency marksmanship badge.
German army Maj. Andreas Mehlhron, a field artillery officer who serves as the German liaison for the Northern Train, Advise and Assist Command, and Sgt.1st Class Michael Michna, a combat medic, hosted the event to grant "Screaming Eagle" Soldiers the opportunity to qualify on the German weapon systems.
Soldiers began the day by conducting a safety handling class and then capitalized on the opportunity to fire the HKG36 rifle and Koch P8 pistol. Participants fired the weapon systems with high hopes of earning a gold, silver, or bronze marksmanship badge.
"It's an amazing opportunity for Soldiers to train, and become familiarized with the weapons that we qualify on annually," said Mehlhron. "The 'Schutzenschnur' badges are awarded to great riflemen and women who exhibit professionalism; it was a pleasure being able to share our customs with the Soldiers."
Shortly after being announced, the range quickly became popular.
"We anticipated no more than 60 Soldiers, however we were notified that 130 people wanted to participate," said Michna.
First Sgt. Brandon Rudder, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 101st Abn. Div. senior non-commissioned officer was the driving force behind orchestrating the event. He worked tirelessly to ensure its seamless execution.
"This range increased Soldier morale while demonstrating interoperability with our NATO counterparts," said Rudder. "It's a great opportunity for our Soldiers to break away from the daily deployment battle rhythm and conduct some unique training."
Soldiers relished the opportunity to get away from the office and spend the day enhancing their rifle marksmanship skills.
"I was very eager to get to the firing line," said Spc. Anthony Addcock, a motor transportation operation specialist for the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade. "The instructors were very attentive, they helped me identify my targets and properly function the P8 pistol and G36 rifle; this was my first time working with a German soldier and it was extremely exciting."
Although the weapon systems were different than the M4 rifle, Screaming Eagle Soldiers adapted to them exceptionally well with the guidance of Mehlhron and Michna.
After the scores were tallied, 91 participants qualified earning the coveted German proficiency marksmanship badge -18 earned gold, 37 earned silver, and 36 earned bronze. Soldiers were then recognized for this unique accomplishment during a ceremony in the 'Eagle's Nest' where they were awarded a certificate of achievement.
After presenting the awardees with their certificates, Rudder presented Mehlhron and Michna with certificates and coins of appreciation, thanking them for their patience, execution and extreme professionalism at the range.
"I'm so thankful for this training opportunity," said Spc. Eriq Hall, an information technology specialist who earned his gold marksmanship badge. "I can't wait until the next event, and I can't thank our instructors enough for all their help."