By Spc. Alan Graziano, 95th Military Police BattalionDecember 9, 2010
MANNHEIM, Germany - U.S Soldiers recently had the opportunity to earn the Deutsches Leistungsabzeichen, a badge worn on the German military uniform.
The event required the supervision a of a host nation soldier to ensure that events were graded to the proper standard.
German army Sgt. 1st Class Per Griebler from 3rd Company, 251st Feldjaegerbataillon, was there to make that happen. This was not Griebler's first time assisting American Soldiers with earning their GAFEBs. "I really love to do these events, and I think since 2005 when we did the first event, I have helped about 350 to 400 American Soldiers earn their GAFEB or Schuetzenshnur," Griebler said.
The first portion of the events was at the high school track in Benjamin Franklin Village. Soldiers participated in the 100-meter sprint, the 3,000-meter run, the long jump and stone throwing.
Each event had a standard which had to be met or a medal would not be earned at the end of the day.
The test then moved on to the Lampertheim swimming pool where the requirement to swim 200 meters in less than six minutes proved a difficult task for untrained swimmers and forced some out of the competition.
Spc. Drake Bistrow from the 92nd MP Company went above and beyond by swimming the 1,000-meter event rather than the 200-meter and finished in 18 minutes and 56 seconds, well below the allotted time.
The final event was a 12-kilometer ruck march that Soldiers had to complete in less than two hours.
In previous years, the ruck march varied in length from 12-30 kilometers.
Receiving silver or bronze was based on how fast Soldiers completed their marches. Today Soldiers can lower the total distance of the march and, by doing so, their medals are downgraded to silver or bronze.
They receive silver for completing the 9-kilometer march and bronze for the 6-kilometer march. But for this group, no one chose to strive for less than gold.
Pfc. Bryan Willis from the 230th MP Company finished the march in one hour and 15 minutes, well before his battle buddies.
Upon completion of the physical endurance events required for the GAFEB, one requirement remains to fulfill the criteria for the badge.
It is called the Schuetzenshnur, a weapons qualification event that can take a full day. Battalion Soldiers will complete that training another time. But many said they enjoyed the challenge.
"The swimming part had to be the hardest because we haven't done that, so it was something new. I liked it. I think we should actually put that into our PT program more often if we can," said Sgt. Joe Rodriguez from the 230th Military Police Company.
Earning the GAFEB is not a requirement for German soldiers. "No soldier must earn the GAFEB, but they must make an attempt. Everyone wants to wear the badge on their uniform jackets," Griebler said.
In fact, German soldiers are not guaranteed to earn the GAFEB, even if they fulfill all of the physical and marksmanship requirements.
"The soldier's commander has to decide if the soldier's behavior is worth the decoration," says Griebler. "Before I started doing this training with Americans, I only knew about them from TV and from vacations, like most Germans know about them," he said. "Today, I think it's a good thing to get closer together, to learn from each other - not only as comrades, but also as friends. In the end we stand together in international missions like in Afghanistan or the Balkans. In my opinion, getting to know each other back home makes it easier to work together on a mission," Griebler added.