USAREUR soldiers vie for German military proficiency badge
By DAN STOUTAMIRE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 20, 2016
WIESBADEN, Germany — Fourteen soldiers from the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade earned the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency after competing for three days in a battery of events designed to test their physical and mental strength as well as their marksmanship.
Depending on their performance, soldiers earned bronze, silver or gold-level badges. During this week’s competition, one earned bronze, nine silver and four gold.
German Army Sgt. Maj. Juergen Schulz of the Landeskommando Bayern, which provided four officers and noncommissioned officers to assist with supervision and evaluation during the event, said he has been conducting the qualification for the badge for about 10 years. It’s a good way to build unity between the two armies, he said.
“This brings people together from our different armies and lets us see what our strengths and weaknesses are and how we can help each other, to learn to trust each other,” he said following the award ceremony Thursday.
The first of the three days focused entirely on physical fitness: a 110-meter shuttle run, broken up into 11 10-meter sprints; a flexed-arm hang during which participants had to keep their heads above a pull-up bar for a set period of time; and a 1,000-meter run.
“I thought that the (event) that hurt the most was the sprints. I’m not sure why since it wasn’t very far, but it was a lot of back and forth,” said Spc. Andrew Curtis, who earned a gold badge. “I took a while to recover for the other events, but I never had any doubt that I could perform at a high level and get gold in every event.”
The second day of competition was a mix of physical and technical testing, with soldiers first asked to swim 100 meters in their uniforms in less than four minutes and then, a couple of hours later, hit at least three of five targets in a pistol qualification. The swimming event was a challenge, with five of the original 19 participants unable to finish.
“The toughest part was mind over matter, trying to figure out where you’re at in the pool to keep going,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Dec, who earned a silver badge. “I would say three-quarters of the way in you start to get gassed, and you’re starting to get water in your mouth.”
Finally, on Thursday, the 14 remaining soldiers had to complete a 12-kilometer (7.45 mile) ruck march with at least a 33-pound pack in under two hours.
The soldiers may wear the badges on their dress uniforms for the duration of their military careers.
This article was corrected to state that the number of soldiers successfully completing all of the events was 14, not 15 as previously stated.
Capt. Nicholas Stortini, of the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, performs a flexed arm hang during testing to earn the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, at Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden, Germany. Stortini and three other soldiers earned the gold badge, meaning they scored in the highest bracket on all six events during the three-day testing period.
DAN STOUTAMIRE/STARS AND STRIPES