Sixty-three Soldiers from several different units across Fort Leonard Wood were awarded the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge Nov. 22 at Lincoln Hall Auditorium after four days of intense tests of their physical mettle.
The Noncommissioned Officer Academy hosted the event -- for the first time -- with oversight from the German Army Liaison, Sgt. Maj. Mirco Probst.
The foreign award is given to those Soldiers who can pass a swim test, pistol qualification, ruck march and physical training exercises, such as sprints and flex arm hangs.
Soldiers who competed in the event said the swimming portion was the most difficult. The event required competitors to swim 100 meters in a pool in full uniform with their physical training uniform on underneath, and then remove the outer uniform's top and bottom portions, and throw it out of the pool while still treading water.
"My greatest challenge has been the swimming event as well, just because I'd never swam in my uniform before," said Sgt. Ryan Curtis, Military Police Advance Leader Course student. "Then, for me to try to ball it up and throw it out of the pool, I didn't realize how much it would weigh with my trying to stay above water. It's heavy."
"That was the first time I've ever (done) it," added Sgt. Ashley Krempasky, another MP Advance Leader Course student. "Knowing that I can do it was just an amazing accomplishment for myself."
According to Sgt. 1st Class Kristy Martin, MP Advance Leader Course instructor -- who led the scoring of the tests -- 75 Soldiers competed.
Despite the rigorous physical demands, both Curtis and Krempasky earned the right to wear the badge.
"I recently had a kid and I went to drill academy," Krempasky said. "I wanted to push myself to do something better."
Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood Command Sgt. Maj. James Breckinridge spoke at the event, thanking the NCOA, the German Armed Forces Liaison Office and specifically, Martin for her hard work in coordinating the trials. He also commended the students temporarily assigned here.
"You never thought that you would come here for school and not only get a great education, but earn a GAFP badge while you're at it," he said. "So that's pretty awesome."
"But there was one NCO that was really the pivotal point to make sure this happened," he added.
Breckinridge called Martin onstage and presented her with a challenge coin.
"Your hard work is the reason why they got their awards," he said. "It's because of you -- NCOs like her who always go a step above and beyond."
Martin said she enjoyed the competition and the chance to work with an allied military.
"It's awesome, it opens up all kinds of doors," she said. "It gives us the opportunity to see what another army does."