Germany wins European Best Squad Competition
October 22, 2015
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — For the first time in more than a decade, U.S. Army Europe has a new king on the infantry squad throne, and it isn’t an American team.
A German squad won the Joint Multinational Training Command’s European Best Squad Competition in Grafenwoehr. It was the first such contest to be held under the auspices of USAREUR in more than 10 years.
The Bundeswehr troops had to out-shoot, out-march and generally out-soldier 16 other teams in more than 20 events spread across four grueling days and nights. Germany and the U.S. were among 13 nations represented at the competition. The others were: Albania, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovenia and Britain.
Each nation fielded the best troops in its infantry. Some countries held preliminary competitions to weed out the slower, weaker troops. The tryouts worked well for the Latvians, who placed second.
The Americans sent five units to particpate. A squad from the Vicenza, Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade came in third. But in the end, it was the Germans who came out on top.
“I’m really proud,” said German Pfc. Andreas Kling. “To come here and win the first European Best Squad Competition, in my own land … it’s so good a feeling.”
During the four-day event, squads tackled obstacle courses, hiked dozens of miles in full combat gear, scaled rock walls and even pulled Hummers. They did all that and more on little sleep, mostly grabbed in brief naps outdoors while temperatures dipped to freezing.
The competition was so extreme, even the winners said they had second thoughts about sticking with it.
“It was tougher than I expected,” Kling said.
How did he overcome his doubts and push through?
“We wanted to win this competition. For my nation, for my company and for my squad members.”
Once an annual event, the competition was put on hold given heightened operational commitments for the U.S. and its European allies.
But at last year’s Combat Training Center Conference, USAREUR’s commander, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, made returning international team-building exercises like these a priority, said JMTC’s Sgt. Maj. Tony Tuck. Team-building happens at massive training events like the current JMTC-hosted Combined Resolve V, but also at smaller events like the best-squad competition, Tuck said.
“Combined Resolve does the tactical piece. But this gets down to the soldier level. So you got privates out here that are actually competing against other privates,” Tuck said. “Who’s out in the foxhole? Those soldiers are going to be side by side with other NATO soldiers fighting the battle, if we are given a battle in the future.”