German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge
By Abigail Meyer, Fort Bliss Bugle Editor:
(El Paso, Texas, Mar. 9, 2017) Swimming, shooting, rucking and track events – service members have to do it all to earn the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge. The German Air Force Air Defense Center ran the event for about 100 Soldiers, as well as one Airman and one Marine, Feb. 27 through Friday here.
“For us it’s just to give something back. The Army here at Fort Bliss is doing so much for us and it’s the only way we can pay them back,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Juergan Klinger, command sergeant major, German Air Force Air Defense Center. “It’s part of being Team Bliss. So I always say, it’s really a team, it’s not just a phrase and that’s why we do it.”
The competition started with the swimming event. It’s a challenging 100-meter swim under four minutes in full uniform, no boots, that usually knocks out about 35 to 40 percent of competitors, said Master Sgt. Thomas Schade, officer in charge of the event.
“It’s tough. You jump in and think you’re cruising and get about halfway or you think you’re halfway and then you realize you’ve gone 10 feet,” said Pfc. Robert Schmidt, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. “Then your uniform soaks up all the water and just gets really heavy and it narrowed out a lot of people that first day. It’s a challenge, no doubt.”
If service members make it past the swim, the would-be badge earners have three track events in front of them. A 110-meter shuttle sprint, a flexed arm hang and a 1,000-meter run.
“Today I must say, the Soldiers did really well on the shuttle sprint. Really fast times now. I think the fastest time we had was 35.8 seconds. I never had someone that fast,” Schade said.
The next events are a pistol shooting event followed up by a 12K ruck march. Those hoping for the badge have to carry 33 pounds and finish in under two hours.
“Twelve kilometers is not too easy, with weight on your back it’s not too easy. I always do training with my unit so I was kind of ready for it. It’s pretty tough,” said Sgt. Vincent Torres, 3rd Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
Eight cadets from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, joined the service members for the ruck march and made up the other events over the weekend to earn the badge.
“We had a couple cadets participate from our program last semester and when we heard about the event we thought it would be a great opportunity to give our cadets some more experience training,” said Cadet Loren Gish. “It’s been great. The field and track events were definitely challenging, we had a lot of fun and the ruck march was a lot of fun. We’re really grateful that the Germans gave us the opportunity to come and train with them. “
Schade has been organizing the event for years, and this was his last one before he heads to a new posting in Germany.
“I will miss it, but I’m looking forward to my next job. Thank you to Fort Bliss and the American Soldiers, that they gave me the opportunity to work with them,” Schade said. “Thanks to my German soldiers, they run the events with me and help out every time.”
Schade said many times when they run the event, there’s a Soldier who out performs the group. This time, Pfc. Christian Contreras, assigned to 3rd Bn., 43rd Air Defense Artillery, 11th ADA Bde., was the clear standout. The German Air Force Air Defense Center here hosts the event two times a year.
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