When Soldiers get an opportunity to earn an award that will make them stand out from their peers, most would jump at the chance.
More than 35 Soldiers assigned to 725th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 63rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, participated in several challenging events Oct 7-9 to earn the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency.
The badge, which was introduced to the German armed forces in February 1971, was created to provide a physically challenging event for the troops. The idea behind it was to combine a civilian German sports badge with strictly military type events to show the embedding of the armed forces into the society they serve.
Capt. Justin Gerron, 725th EOD Company commander, coordinated with German Sgt. Maj. Joerg Pohl, liaison noncommissioned officer at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., to fly to Fort Drum in early August to conduct and grade the events.
“This is something my Soldiers wanted to do, so I made it happen,” Gerron said.
There are three GAFBMP badges – bronze, silver and gold. Each badge requires a different number of points a Soldier must earn to qualify for it.
The challenge was made up of seven events – a 100-meter swim in uniform, a first aid multiple-choice test, 9 mm pistol shoot, flexed-arm hang, 110-meter shuttle sprint, 1,000-meter run and a ruck march with a designated distance determined by what badge for which each Soldier was eligible.
“It’s an annual event,” Pohl said. “It’s mandatory for us to pass to become an officer or an NCO.”
On the first day, Soldiers met at Magrath Sports Complex to complete the swim test. Each Soldier was required to wear swim shorts and the Army combat uniform during the challenge. The swim test must be completed in four minutes or less. After completing the swim, Soldiers had to remove their trousers and jacket while still in the water.
“The swim portion for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency was pretty brutal,” said Cpl. Francisco Becerra, a communication specialist. “A lot of the guys (who) did well had practiced leading up to the test.”
Soldiers who were unable to pass the swim test the first time were able to retest.
The first aid written exam was conducted in the afternoon. Soldiers were given a study guide to help them prepare. The exam consisted of 10 questions in a multiple-choice format. Soldiers were required to score 70 percent or better to pass the exam.
The third portion of the challenge was the 9 mm pistol shoot. Soldiers convoyed from the company motor pool out to Range 9 on Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield. Once the vehicles were parked on line at the range, the Soldiers were given a safety briefing and instruction on the requirements for the shooting portion.
Each Soldier was given a magazine of five rounds to shoot three silhouette targets 25 meters away. The targets were approximately one meter apart from one another.
To qualify for the gold badge, the shooters had to place two rounds in two targets and one round in the last target. For the silver badge, Soldiers had to place at least two rounds in one target and one round in the last two targets. To qualify for the bronze badge, the shooters were required to place at least one round in each target.
“Everyone showed up with a great positive attitude,” said Sgt. Joshua Osting, team leader. “We went out and shot very well.”
The next event the Soldiers were tested on was the flexed-arm hang. After hearing the command “begin,” they completed a single pull-up and held their chin above the bar for as long as possible.
The 110-meter shuttle sprint followed the flexed-arm hang. The event was not the traditional shuttle sprint the Soldiers were used to performing. Participants had to lie in the prone position with their arms at their sides. At the sound of a whistle, they jumped to their feet and ran down a track 10 meters around a marker and back to the starting line where they had to lie back down and clap their hands behind their back. This was repeated 11 times to complete the shuttle sprint.
Once all of the Soldiers finished the shuttle sprint, they started stretching in preparation for the 1,000-meter run. They lined up and ran two and a half laps around the track.
For each event completed, Soldiers earned points. The total number of points accumulated during the first six events identified what badge the Soldiers could earn after the final challenge.
On the morning of the last day, Soldiers completed a march with a 33-pound ruck sack. Each badge had a designated distance requirement for the ruck march. The bronze medal required the Soldier to ruck 3.8 miles in less than one hour, the silver badge required them to ruck 5.6 miles in less than an hour and a half, and the gold badge required them to ruck 7.5 miles in less than two hours.
The badge presentation was conducted the afternoon of the ruck march. Pohl congratulated the Soldiers as he presented each of them with a badge.
“It was an honor to be a part of such a prestigious event,” said Staff Sgt. Keith Carpenter, a team leader. “I gained a lot of respect on the physical condition of the German army.”