By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterNovember 15, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 15, 2012) -- The Olympic Games have long since ended, but Soldiers on Fort Rucker had the opportunity to go for the gold during the six-week German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge competition.
Out of 56 Soldiers that started the competition, 33 made it to the end and earned the German badge in gold during a pinning ceremony at the Silver Wings Golf Course clubhouse Nov. 8, according to Lt. Col. Martin Geller, commander of the German Army liaison staff.
"I'm very proud and it's a great honor for me to decorate you with this gold medal," said Geller to the Soldiers. "Everyone here performed in the events to meet the requirements for gold. What a unique chance to take part and get this specific high grade German Soldier award."
The badge is a foreign award offered by the host country, Germany, and was made available to U.S. Soldiers in 1972, according to Sgt. Maj. Mohamed Bouhloui, German Army liaison staff member and training supervisor.
"The badge is awarded based on overall military performance, [the Soldier's] physical ability and, most importantly, their overall professional character," he said. "It is awarded in gold, silver and bronze and depends on the results [of specific events throughout the competition]."
The German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge competition consists of events that include a 200-meter swim, long jump, 100-meter sprint, shot put, 3000-meter run, pistol qualification and road march, said Staff Sgt. Jamie Osmon, 6th Military Police Detachment and assistant trainer for the competition.
"Only Soldiers possessing a high level of aptitude and discipline can be recommended to compete for the badge," said Osmon. "The Olympic-style events are based on the Soldier's age group and are on a pass or fail basis."
The pistol competition and road-march portion of the competition determine whether the badge is awarded gold, silver or bronze, he added. Soldiers are required to hit three targets with five rounds from 25 meters away for the pistol competition, and during the road-march must carry no less than 15 kilograms (33 pounds).
"Soldiers compete for esprit de corps, self-fulfillment and satisfaction, to enhance their DA photograph and to get looked up favorably by promotion authorities with a foreign award," said Osmon.
Capt. Anne Bahu, D Company, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment, said she competed in the competition because she wanted to make sure that she was able to do anything that her students were able to do.
"I'm the commander of the International Military Student Office, so I wanted to make sure that I had done the things that my students were doing," she said. "It was a lot of fun and a great opportunity that I couldn't get at another post."
The competition was also an opportunity for her to see how Soldiers from an international military train compared to her training in the U.S.
"It's a lot of fun to be able to meet people from different places and learn about their military versus our military," said Bahu. "I think everybody in the U.S. Army can run and do push-ups and sit-ups, but to have to do something completely out of the ordinary and learn the techniques and skills of the events was very different."
Bahu said the hardest parts of the competition for her were the shot put and long jump, because she wasn't used to the discipline required to perform the events.
"I learned from my sergeant major that [Soldiers] had to learn that the technique of doing shot put had nothing to do with throwing a baseball," said Geller. "It's very hard [for these Soldiers] to fulfill specific tasks and disciplines that [they've] never done before."
For others, events more common to the U.S. were the biggest obstacle of the competition.
"I'm not a distance runner," said Sgt. William McGilberry, U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory. "The 3000-meter run was the absolute hardest event for me. I'm a sprinter and I'm good at the other track and field events, but the 3k run was definitely the hardest."
This was McGilberry's second time earning the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge in gold and he said he will continue to compete in the competition for the prestige.
"I want the prestige of getting my fifth badge," he said. "That is my main goal. It's definitely a hard badge to get, but you're at the cream of the crop when you have that number behind it."
Although the prestige of the award drives McGilberry to compete, he said the camaraderie he feels and his competitive nature keeps bringing him back.
"You're not really competing against someone else, but you're competing for a time and the camaraderie," he said. "Even if you're not the fastest one, everyone is still cheering you on."