AMMAN, Jordan –
Following three grueling days of physical tests, more than 50 U.S. Army Central Soldiers, including Maryland and Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 29th Infantry Division, a U.S. Air Forces Central Airman and two Canadian Armed Forces soldiers earned the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge May 30, 2017, in Jordan. The GAFPB is a decoration of the German Armed Forces, authorized for wear by the U.S. military, and awarded to soldiers of all ranks. A German air force officer from the German Embassy in Amman served as an advisor and oversaw the three-day event, which was hosted by the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 149th Military Engagement Team.
“For American Soldiers the GAFPB is a sign of international military cooperation,” said 1st Lt. Pete Knight of the 149th MET, who served as officer in charge of the event. “It signifies that a Soldier has worked with a foreign military officer, competed in a multiple-day series of challenging events, and proven him or herself to be capable of performing in conditions that often are not within their comfort zone.”
Among the U.S. personnel who earned the coveted badge were active duty Soldiers from the 35th Signal Brigade, the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade and U.S. Special Operations Command Central, as well as U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade and the 195th Medical Detachment Veterinary Service Support.
In addition, Ohio National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Battalion, Maryland and Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the 29th Infantry Division, Kentucky National Guard Soldiers from the 149th Military Engagement Team, two Canadian Armed Forces soldiers and one U.S. Air Force Airman earned the badge.
“The amount of participation in this event was phenomenal,” Knight said. “We had participants between the ranks of E-2 and O-6 compete. Furthermore, we had participants from active duty Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Air Force and participants from both enlisted and officer ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces.
“Additionally, we had multiple echelons of logistical support from the Jordan Armed Forces, Jordanian civilian contractors and Jordanian Special Operations leadership, whose help was critical to its success,” he added.
“Everyone was involved, not just the participants,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James Nugent of the 29th Infantry Division, who served as noncommissioned officer in charge of the event. “Whether it was in planning, setting up the lanes, grading, performing duties as a safety monitor, or cheering on the Soldiers from their sections, everyone here had a stake in the event.”
The first day’s challenge was a 100-meter swim in full uniform in under four minutes. Participants, who wore shorts and t-shirts under their combat uniforms, were then required to remove their uniform jacket and pants and throw them to the pool deck while treading water.
“The most challenging event for our participants was the 100-meter swim,” Knight said. “Even for strong swimmers, it can prove to be very challenging. We lost about one third of our participants during the swim.”
Day two featured a fitness test and pistol qualification. The fitness test included a sprint test, a flexed arm hang and a 1,000-meter run. After changing into their duty uniform, participants then moved to the firing range for the marksmanship challenge. Here they were provided with an M9 pistol and were required to hit three targets at least once with one five-round magazine.
On the final day, participants took part in a ruck march in full uniform while carrying a 33-lb rucksack. Competitors were required to march either 6km, 9km or 12km at a pace of at least 10 minutes per kilometer.
All of the GAFPB activities took place early each morning, meaning the participants still had to tackle a full day of work before coming out the next morning for another round of activities.
“We knocked the stations out early in the day, so as not to interfere with the battle rhythm,” Nugent said. “When it was all said and done, 58 Soldiers earned the badge and we didn’t miss a beat. That is due to the quality of the Soldiers and the leaders that participated.”
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Kramer, deputy commanding general of the 29th Infantry Division, Col. Joseph Gardner, commander of the 149th MET, and Capt. Alexander Seelig, a German air force officer currently assigned to the German Embassy in Amman, were all on hand to congratulate the recipients of the GAFPB and present them with the certificate acknowledging their achievement.
“Of course it makes me proud to see that so many of the U.S. Soldiers want to compete for the GAFPB,” Seelig said. “I could see in the participants’ faces that they really want to gain the badge. This shows not only the connectedness between our nations but also that our standard in military proficiencies is something the Soldiers approve. All in all it gives confidence that the German military work is appreciated by so many U.S. Soldiers in different ages and ranks.”
“Many of our Soldiers have never had the opportunity to compete for a foreign award,” Knight added. “This event, courtesy of the German Embassy to Jordan and Capt. Seelig, provided a rare opportunity for coalition forces to compete together for a foreign badge, as well as a great opportunity for our junior Soldiers to see leaders at every level participate together.”