CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Soldiers participated in weapons-firing qualifications in Geilenkirchen, Germany, May 16, to earn the German Armed Forces Badge for Weapons Proficiency known as the Schützenschnur.

Soldiers became familiar with two German weapon systems, the G36 rifle and the P8 pistol. They received instructions on each weapon, firing techniques and a safety briefing before firing.

Soldiers had to rely on their fundamentals of marksmanship training, breathing techniques, trigger control and picture sight alignment during the qualifications.

The German military members displayed their knowledge in the range. The range instructors strived to continue building cohesion between the German and U.S. forces by conducting these range operations.

Army Staff Sgt. Taylor Bowsher, a military policeman at U.S. Army Garrison Benelux in Schinnen, worked with a German military police for the initial planning.

Over several face-to-face meetings, email exchanges and phone calls, all plans were approved and ready for execution. The plan was simply to provide U.S. forces with the opportunity to qualify at a German range and to provide German Soldiers the same opportunity at U.S. firing ranges.

"It was an honor and I am truly thankful for the opportunity that Master Sergeant Lopes (German representative) gave me and all of the USAG Benelux Soldiers. For Lopes to welcome us with such open arms was simply amazing and inspiring," said Bowsher.

WHAT IS A SCHÜTZENSCHNUR?

The Schützenschnur is a decoration of the Bundeswehr, the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. The decoration is awarded to German military personnel of all grades but is only allowed to be worn by enlisted members. The Schützenschnur is a decoration for weapons proficiency for enlisted Soldiers. Foreign military members also may be awarded the badge.

There are three classes or grades for this award: bronze, silver and gold. Each class is determined upon how many rounds hit the targets. Gold is best of the three classes.

There are two versions of the Schützenschnur. One is the Army and Air Force version, which is a silver colored rope with a round metal badge on a flat end near the top of the rope, on its center it displays the German eagle surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves.

The second one is the Navy version of the award that looks the same except the rope's color is navy blue. Once the rounds were fired and the smoke cleared, eight of the 10 Soldiers earned the gold class and two earned the silver class.

"If you can attend this range, go. It's a great opportunity to achieve the award and an even better opportunity to learn from German service members about firing their weapon system. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity in your career to achieve this award," said Army Sgt. Leon Mendoza, the religious affairs NCO.