For the first time at Army Counterintelligence Command (ACIC), Soldiers ran, rucked, flexed, swam, and shot to try to earn the coveted German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge, or GAFPB, and Schützenschnur.
The competition, held at Fort Walker, Virginia from September 20 through 22, consisted of the German Basic Physical Fitness Test involving sprints, a flexed arm hang, and a one-kilometer run, followed by a 100-meter swim in the Army Combat Uniform that had to be completed in under four minutes, after which the competitor doffs the uniform while in water without touching the pool walls or floor. The next event was a ruck march with 35 pounds of weight in each ruck sack, with the competition concluding with the rifle and pistol marksmanship test. While the qualification usually involves Soldiers engaging targets with the G36 German Army rifle and the German P8 pistol, ACIC Soldiers were allowed to use U.S. Army firearms instead.
Soldiers from the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany, known as the Bundeswehr, traveled from Germany to oversee the event and present the awards. In addition to earning the prestigious awards, the competition aimed to build partner nation military relations and promote esprit de corps.
“The Schützenschnur is a symbol of the excellence and dedication within the German military,” said Maj. Joachim Dey, the commander of the 1st Company, 10th Telecommunications Battalion, 10th Panzer Division of the German Armed Forces, who helped evaluate the events. “The origins of this prestigious badge can be traced back to the 19th century, when Prussia, the predecessor of modern-day Germany, began to recognize and reward the marksmanship skills of its Soldiers. In the years leading up to World War I, the German empire demanded various shooting and marksmanship programs of its military officers.”
The Schützenschnur is a badge of marksmanship and weapons proficiency in which competitors must shoot specific pistols and rifles with high accuracy. The award, which can be worn on U.S. Army uniforms, is a round badge of gold, silver, or bronze, displaying the Bundesadler, or German “federal eagle,” within an oak leaf wreath, attached to a silver-colored rope.
“This badge symbolizes not just a Soldier's ability to handle firearms effectively, but also a commitment to maintaining high standards in marksmanship,” said Dey.
The GAFPB, or Das Abzeichen für Leistungen im Truppendienst in German, is a gold, silver, or bronze badge with an oval wreath of oak leaves around the German eagle.
“I am extremely thankful for the German Military making this trip and giving our Soldiers the opportunity to compete for a foreign award,” said Master Sgt. Joseph T. Cabaday, who helped coordinate the event for ACIC. “For many of our young Soldiers, this is their first experience training and working with our Allied partner forces. This was a great experience for our Soldiers and I am proud of the effort they put forth.”
Nine ACIC Soldiers received the gold Schützenschnur, eight received silver, and seven received bronze. For the GAFPB, one ACIC Soldier received the gold, eight the silver, and four the bronze.
“It was definitely tough,” said Corp. Michael Mathis, an ACIC intelligence analyst at Redstone Arsenal, “I enjoyed that it was challenging,” said Mathis, “testing myself and pushing myself to see how well I could do.”
In addition to participants from ACIC, other Soldiers competed in the ACIC-hosted event from the 704th and 780th Military Intelligence Brigades, Fort Walker explosive ordnance disposal, Fort Myer, the Army Field Support Center, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, as well as a U.S. Marine.
“To our German friends and the Soldiers who competed today, thank you for making this event as good as it was,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Craig Hood, the command sergeant major of Army Counterintelligence Command. “With your assistance, these Soldiers were given the opportunity to earn this very special badge.”