PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (March 2, 2022) – Thanks to members of the German Armed Forces studying in Monterey, 182 members of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy have received the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency.
“We wanted to make sure that we had something that would bring everybody together,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Shaun Henderson, assigned to the 314th Training Squadron at the Presidio of Monterey and an organizer of the testing. “The four services worked together to make this happen, including the German cadre.”
Not only did some German service members take advantage of the opportunity to test for the badge themselves, four also earned “expert” on the Army pistol qualification as well. As a whole, the testing improved readiness for two countries and four branches of the U.S. military.
Testing took place over the course of three months in and around Monterey and included a ruck march, pistol qualification, physical fitness test and swim test. In addition, service members had to show they received first aid and Mission Oriented Protective Posture, or “MOPP,” gear training and are proficient. Depending on how well they did in each event, those who passed could earn bronze, silver or gold medals.
Most of those who earned the badge are students at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. Service members from all branches of the military attend the schools and serve at the installations.
Henderson and other U.S. service members organized the testing alongside members of the German Armed Forces studying at NPS. German Armed Forces Maj. Benjamin Polzin was one of them, and he served as the main German liaison for the testing and certified that organizers conducted the testing correctly.
Polzin said that for German Armed Forces members, testing for the badge is not required (the military requires some portions of it but not all), but many German service members make it a yearly event and are used to it.
“If you do it yearly, you can have a five-year badge, a 10-year badge, a 25-year badge,” Polzin said. “There are actually some soldiers in the German Armed Forces who have a 25-year badge. That’s really impressive.”
For the U.S. service members who tested, it was a purely a personal challenge.
Airman 1st Class Trevor O’Reilly, who helped with the testing and received the silver medal, said the spirit of camaraderie throughout the testing helped him succeed.
For example, O’Reilly said he had never had to swim for a physical training test before, and having to swim in full uniform and then take it off in the pool was difficult.
“The German cadre members were very helpful with everything they did,” O’Reilly said. “They were able to cheer on from the side of the pool, as well as everyone else who was competing. It was really helpful.”
O’Reilly said he plans to participate again next year and encourages others to test as well. “I’m definitely doing it again,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Although organizers did not think it would be possible to hold an awards ceremony, Henderson said they now have planned one for April 1. In the meantime, organizers are uploading the record to the service members’ corresponding service and members of the Army and Air Force will be able to wear the medal on their Class A uniforms. The Marine Corps and Navy do not allow members to wear the badge.
Henderson said he is grateful for all the help he received.
“A big thank you to the German cadre because we could not do this without any of them,” Henderson said, “and another big thank you to all the service representatives for making sure that all their folks were squared away.”
In addition, some service members attended events to provide motivation and help with events.
One of them was Staff Sgt. Anthony Tierney, assigned to the 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, who cheered on service members during the physical fitness test.
Tierney said he has always believed that service members must be fit and adhere to standards, so he wanted to help his Soldiers find the motivation within themselves to do well.
“Motivation comes from yourself,” Tierney said. “It’s all discipline. It’s all about finding a reason as to why you do the things you do, and being in the military, the mind is primary, fitness is secondary, and everything else comes after. It all falls into place.”
Henderson, who spearheaded the event because he enjoyed earning the badge in 2018 while stationed in Hawaii, said he wanted to remind service members they are in the military and there is more to life than studying.
Service members had to have high enough grades to participate, and all the testing took place outside of the school day so it wouldn’t interfere with classroom time, Henderson said. Also, since organizers spread events out over several weeks, service members had time to organize their schedules accordingly.
“We should never miss an opportunity to motivate our people, because if they feel like there is more out there for them, they’re going to work harder in the classroom naturally,” Henderson said.