By Maj. Robert Wagner, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade, Division WestNovember 16, 2012
FORT BLISS, Texas -- The German Air Force's (Luftwaffe) German Air Defense Center has been a member of Team Bliss for more than 40 years, and the relationship continues to be enhanced and grown in joint efforts.
Over the past three years, Team Bliss has trained and qualified more than 400 U.S. Soldiers with German Proficiency Badges and more than 200 German Airmen from both Fort Bliss and Holloman Air Force Base with U.S. Army Marksmanship Badges.
Last week was a prime example of this cooperation and reciprocation as 55 U.S. Soldiers and 36 German Airmen earned each other's marksmanship badges at McGregor Range, N.M. Nov. 5 and 6. Excitement and competition were in the air as Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 402nd Field Artillery Brigade hosted the training event, with HHB commander, Capt. Gia La, running the ranges. One hundred fifty participants qualified, coached and befriended the German airmen from Fort Bliss and Holloman AFB.
"We don't shoot weapons, so this was very exciting," said Master Sgt. Sven Schindler, from the German Air Force Flying Training Center, Holloman AFB. "We really appreciate the opportunity to shoot the M9 and the M16 with the Americans."
During the Nov. 7 and 8 training, 60 U.S. Soldiers attempted to earn the German Weapons Proficiency Badge. The German Marksmanship Badge consists of qualifying on three weapons systems: the machine gun, the G36 rifle and the P8 pistol. There are actually two pistol events, but, since the German Air Force doesn't have machine guns with them in the U.S., the second pistol event is waived.
Perhaps the most difficult event for the American Soldiers was the PS3, or the pop-up pistol event. Shooters had six rounds, but two targets popped up at the same time. The first two targets are fired at from the standing position, which for most U.S. Soldiers is not a problem. The next two must be fired at from the kneeling position, and the last two targets are engaged from the prone position.
To qualify in the PS3 event, Soldiers had to hit at least four targets, including at least one of the two targets at each of the positions. So, even if shooters hit the first four targets but missed the last two targets in the prone position, they did not qualify.
The week ended with an award ceremony attended by all the German Airmen, U.S. Soldiers, unit leaders and Family members, at the German Community Club on Fort Bliss. Although this was a day of no scheduled activities for most of Team Bliss, the event was well-attended and everyone was treated to German food.
The ceremony started with the German and American national anthems, which highlighted the joint cooperation and strong relationship between the two countries.
"The German Airmen really loved it," said Master Sgt. Jerry Silva, 5th Armored Brigade. "I also was given numerous patches and coins by Germans from both Fort Bliss and Holloman Air Force Base. These patches mean more than anything, and I made a lot of friends."