CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - United States service members and coalition forces competed in four events from April 8 to 11, 2019, and then their scores were averaged to be awarded a bronze, silver or gold German Armed Forces Badge (GAFB) for Military Proficiency on April 13, 2019, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
Soldiers with U.S. Army Central (USARCENT) had the opportunity to work with the German armed forces to facilitate the challenging events. Participants competed in the combat swim event the first day, range qualification the second, the basic fitness test the third and the ruck march on the last day.
"It is a very good skill check," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Mitchke, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, who facilitated the events and was also awarded the silver badge for the overall GAFB. "It manages to test both your physical and mental abilities. You have to think about not only what you do today, but tomorrow as well."
Participants included coalition forces from Singapore, Italy, Canada and Kuwait. 271 participants started the GAFB but only 179 earned the badge.
"Everyone who thought they were in the best of shape got a good gut check and a measuring stick to put up for both physical and mental readiness for combat," Mitchke said.
During the combat swim event, participants swam 100 meters in uniform within four minutes and then removed their uniform in the deep end without support.
"In swim, it's really hard because you're swimming with your uniform on and you need to keep telling yourself that you need to keep doing this and keep pushing yourself no matter what," said Sgt. Kaitlynn Sweetland-Smith, a human resources specialist with the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard, who was awarded the silver badge for the overall GAFB.
"I thought I was a pretty strong swimmer," said Cpl. Eric Stanley, 637th Chemical Company, Ohio Army National Guard, who was awarded a bronze badge for the overall GAFB. "Probably the most stressful event for a lot of people is the swim."
During the range qualification event, participants stood and shot a total of five rounds with a Beretta M9 at three silhouettes. Participants, who must hit each target at a minimum, shot in order at targets one, two, three, one, two.
During the first part of the basic fitness test, 11 by 10-meter shuttle sprint, participants laid in the prone position with arms beside them. Then, they lifted their body, sprinted 10 meters to a cone and returned to their starting position and clapped their hands behind their back. During the second part, flexed-arm hang, participants stepped on a box and pulled themselves up on a bar in a supine grip. During the third part, 1,000 meter sprint, participants sprinted 2.5 laps around the track.
Mitchke said the graders from the German armed forces who were proctoring the event warned him about the 11 by 10-meter sprints. He stressed the use of safety and emphasized participants should lay down on the mat instead of jumping or throwing themselves down.
"Some people break their noses or break their arms," said Mitchke. "Safety, safety, safety!"
During the final event, participants ruck marched with a ruck sack weighing at least 33 pounds, not including food and water. Participants were preassigned a maximum distance based on prior performance and rucked 12 kilometers within 120 minutes for gold, 9 kilometers within 90 minutes for silver or 6 kilometers within 60 minutes for bronze.
Mitchke said if a participant was awarded silver for the qualification range, then that participant can only go as high as the silver badge for the ruck march.
"At the very end, the highest you're going to get is silver," said Mitchke.
At the end of the ruck march, participants reflected on their accomplishments throughout the week.
"It's something worthwhile to do," said Stanley. "You should always be willing to challenge yourself. Overall, it helps by giving you the ability to understand your own limits and how you perform under different stresses."
Graders and trainers with 1st Theater Sustainment Command proctored and facilitated the events.
"This event is important because it provides an opportunity for our Soldiers to come together and compete and gives them a challenge and builds espirit de corps within our troops," said Army Sgt. Maj. Jeffery Etheridge, 184th Sustainment Command, Mississippi Army National Guard. "It helps prepare them not only from a physical sense. These Soldiers are supported by their teams in preparing for this event and it builds that level of team building that is desired in order to accomplish their missions within USARCENT's area of operations."