• Local troops vie to earn German badge

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Four days of rigorous testing culminated in 97 Fort Leavenworth service members and one Fort Riley soldier receiving the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency April 30 in a ceremony at the Post Theater.
    “The (badge) recognizes physical fitness and military individual soldier skills and proficiencies for soldiers of all ranks,” said German Sgt. Maj. Markus Hausleitner, Combined Arms Center.
    The German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency — Leistungsabzeichen in German — is worn by soldiers of all ranks and is one of a handful of foreign awards that can be worn on a U.S. Army uniform, making it a highly sought-after award. It not only recognizes the physical abilities of a soldier, but the soldier’s moral standards as recognized by the soldier’s unit, first aid skills as a combat life-saver and their nuclear, biological and chemical preparedness, Hausleitner said.
    “It is worth it to go out for it,” said Col. Carsten Döding, German Army liaison officer, CAC. “While it does not give you a boost in your career, it is an accomplishment you can be proud of. To me, you should never pass down a chance to improve yourselves and experience something new.”
    The seven disciplines the soldiers had to demonstrate are the same qualifications for German Army soldiers who must requalify for the badge each year, Hausleitner said. If a soldier fails an event, he or she has one year to successfully complete the event.
    Of the 138 soldiers who started the test, 74 soldiers earned the silver badge and 24 earned the gold badge.
    Event 1: 100-meter swim
    The first event was the 100-meter swim where soldiers had four minutes to swim 100 meters in full uniform, then undress without touching the sides or the bottom of the pool.
    “From the observer’s perspective, this seemed to be the most difficult task for most competitors,” Döding said, adding that about 20 percent of the soldiers failed the swim.
    Capt. Darlene Sanders, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 40th Military Police Battalion (Detention), said she would feel accomplished once she completed the swim.
    “I’m not a strong swimmer at all so, I’m going to train a little bit more on my swimming,” she said. “It’s definitely challenging, so I will really be proud to be able to wear that badge.”
    Sgt. 1st Class Richie Cruz, HHC, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, who successfully completed the swim and eventually received a silver badge, said it was harder than he expected.
    “You don’t really realize how heavy your uniform is until you’re actually swimming,” he said. “Going in the pool makes you forget how you strategize because once that uniform starts weighing you down, everything you wanted to do you don’t do. You just try to survive.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Event 2: Basic fitness test
    The second day, competitors had to complete an 11 by 10-meter sprint in 60 seconds, a flexed arm hang, and a 1,000-meter run. While the swim was a “pass, no pass” event, the participants’ times on the basic fitness test were converted into points putting them on track for the gold, silver or bronze badge.
    Participants had differing opinions on the difficulty of each task.
    “The flexed arm hang (was hardest) because we generally don’t practice that,” said Capt. William Berry, Command and General Staff College student. “In the Army, we don’t do pull ups as part of our PT test. Everything else transfers over pretty well.”
    Lt. Col. David Goscha, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Combined Arms Center, said it was the sprints for him.
    “I fear the sprints,” he said. “The fact that you have to lay down between each iteration of the sprint, you could really get good at that if you practiced, but I don’t know anybody out here who practiced for that event.”
    Berry and Goscha both earned the silver badge.
    Event 3: 9mm pistol qualification
    On day three, participants had to shoot a 9mm pistol, switching back and forth between two target silhouettes.
    “I feel like the pistol shoot should be right up our alley so I feel pretty confident at this point,” Berry said.
    Event 4: Ruck march
    For the final event, participants had to complete either a six-, nine- or 12-kilometer road march within time limits in full uniform while carrying a 35-pound ruck.
    As participants finished the final event, a few said they were able to reflect on what competing did for them.
    Pvt. Joseph Akpakip, HHC, 40th, said although he had yet to complete the swim, going through each event was still beneficial.
    “I really got a lot of PT in there,” he said. “This is actually the first time I’ve ever shot an M9 (pistol) so I definitely learned something throughout this week. So, it definitely made me a better soldier.”
    Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Jarman, HHC, Joint Regional Correctional Facility, who earned a silver badge, said doing the event gave him a deeper connection with other militaries.
    “It kind of broadens my horizons as far as getting in contact with other nations, militaries and being able to participate in something that they see as a perfectly normal function,” he said. “It’s out of the ordinary for us so it’s a great experience to bring back to the soldiers in your unit and hopefully build that cohesiveness between the different nationalities.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Pvt. Hyeong Yun, Fort Riley, Kan., who earned the silver badge, said the badge would be his first.
    “Fort Riley is my first duty station so I wanted to start earning all my ribbons and my badges,” he said. “I need to come back to get gold.”
    Döding said earning the badge is an honor and an accomplishment.
    “Do not look at it as something else you put on your uniform. Rather, look at it as an opportunity to have earned something that can set you apart from your peers. Wear it proud,” he said.
    “Thank you very much for challenging yourselves. Encourage others to do it as well and do it again to achieve the next level. It is well worth the effort and, in the end, it was not terribly hard.”
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