NEWS | Sept. 1, 2016

Troops prove German military proficiency in Kuwait

By Sgt. Angela Lorden U.S. Army Central

Sixty-five service members from U.S. Army Central’s area of operations earned their German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge by participating in a competition that tested soldier speed, agility, strength and endurance Aug. 1-5 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

The GAFPB competition, hosted by 10th Combat Support Hospital with the support of German soldiers, spanned over four days and consisted of four events.

“It was a teamwork event,” said Capt. Michelle Maust, a psychiatrist for the 10th CSH. “Coalition forces with the U.S. Army. It brought us together.”

The GAFPB is a uniform decoration authorized for German armed forces and soldiers from allied nations. U.S. Soldiers who are awarded the badge are authorized to wear the decoration on their Army Service Uniform. The badge comes in three colors: gold, silver and bronze. Each color corresponds with a level of military proficiency.

Maust, who earned the gold badge, said earning gold was no easy feat.
“It was a challenge to push our bodies,” Maust said. “Getting up at 0300 most mornings and working hard for four days in a row. Our bodies were exhausted afterwards.”

Soldiers dove into the first event on day one: a swim test. Competitors swam 100 meters within four minutes while wearing the duty uniform, top and bottom. To complete the event, competitors were required to remove their top and bottom while treading water.

“I did swim before the actual event because I heard that made or broke a lot of people out here,” said Capt. Josh Sparks, the Dental Detachment Officer in Charge of the 502nd Dental Company, assigned to the hospital with the 10th CSH.

Sparks said he earned his chance to compete for the GAFPB. Soldiers in his unit were placed on an order-of-merit list based on individual performance during a pre-competition.

“You definitely see the cream of the crop of our soldiers,” Sparks said. “What I see here are physically fit soldiers wanting to do their best.”

The second event the next day was a basic fitness test. The fitness test consisted of three exercises: sprints, a flexed-arm hang and a 1000-meter run. The average score of these exercises determined the badge level service members would qualify for in the final two events.

“Coming out and giving it your all, your 100%, it’s definitely evident when you see them go through all of the events,” Sparks said.

On the third day, competitors woke up hours before sunrise to complete a ruck march. Participants were required to carry at least a 33-pound load and ruck approximately 7.4 miles in 120 minutes for the gold badge, 5.5 miles in 90 minutes for silver and 3.7 miles in 60 minutes for bronze.

“A 12k ruck in this heat and humidity it made us sweat and work hard,” Maust said. “It was a physically and mentally challenging ruck march.”

One of the most memorable moments of the event for Maust was crossing the finish line, she said.

“Jogging along with our buddies; finishing that challenge,” she said. “We pushed together really hard.”

The fourth event on the last day was M9 pistol marksmanship at a 20-meter range. Soldiers were required to shoot 5 targets for the gold badge, 4 for silver and 3 for bronze.

“I think it’s hard to get the gold badge,” said Maj. Annika Heusinger, a German army officer who participated in and assisted with the event. “It’s even better to see that many will receive the gold badge.”

The awards ceremony recognized 6 soldiers for bronze, 37 for silver and 22 for gold.

Sparks said while he didn’t get gold this time around, he was happy with silver and looked forward to the opportunity to compete in another GAFPB event during his military career.

“I’m absolutely going to go for gold,” he said.

While the GAFPB competition events were unique compared to U.S. Army physical training requirements, German soldiers are required to meet the event’s minimum standards annually.

“We do the proficiency badge on a regular basis,” Heusinger said. “This event was very special to me as this was [during] a deployment. …I think that it is beneficial for the overall mission as it creates good comradeship and relations.”

Heusinger said the American Soldiers were highly motivated and not afraid to try something new.

“They trained for it a lot,” she said. “It was a good feeling to see how aware they are of the importance of that badge and take it very seriously. For a German officer, very good to see.”

This particular competition presented a unique obstacle for all the participants.

“I think it was even harder than back in Germany because the weather was very humid,” she said. “The temperature was very high. We are not used to that. I think for everyone it’s a challenge to get the best out of him or herself in that situation.”

At the end of the event, Heusinger said the competition wasn’t just about earning the badge. She said she believes it was also about working together, regardless of nationality.

“In a multinational environment, to work together. That is what we did here.”