CAMP SIMBA, Kenya –
Fifty-seven Soldiers and Airmen assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa earned the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge July 4-5, 2022, at Camp Simba, Kenya. The badge is a test of physical fitness and shooting proficiency with three levels of the award that can be earned: gold, silver, and bronze. It is a decoration of the Bundeswehr, the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany.
“Bringing a competition like this to a deployed outstation such as Camp Simba took patience, time and coordination,” said U.S. Army National Guard 1st Sgt. Donald Spring, first sergeant for Bravo Company, 1-116th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Red Dragon. “One of the main obstacles to overcome was scheduling and being able to bring everyone together to put on the event.”
“We reached out to the German embassy in Washington D.C.,” Spring said.
“They advised us that there was a German embassy in Nairobi. The conversation started back in May and finally came to fruition over the past two days.”
To validate the GAFPB meant bringing in someone from the German military to attend the event. Federal Republic of Germany defense attaché Sgt. Maj. Christian Nitschke is assigned to the German embassy in Nairobi. Through coordinated efforts, Nitschke was able to make the trip to Kenya.
“I am here to observe,” said Nitschke. “For many of these young Soldiers, it is a great experience and a great opportunity. I was able to speak with some of them, and they had many questions. Part of our job, we as German Soldiers abroad, we are ambassadors of our armed forces.”
To earn this prestigious foreign award, service members must pass a rigorous series of physical tests.
On the morning of July 4, 84 U.S. service members conducted a 100-meter swim assessment while in full uniform. They were allowed four minutes to swim the distance and before exiting the water were required to take off their combat top and bottom and throw them outside the pool.
Of the 84, only 57 remained to compete in the next requirement: a three-event basic fitness test (BFT). The BFT consisted of a chin-up test (flexed-arm hang), an 11 X 10-meter sprint test, and a 1,000-meter run. Each event included time requirements that determine the level of badge earned by the participants.
Day two found participants weighing ruck-sacks (minimum of 33 pounds) and conducting a timed road march. Requirements for gold included a 7.4-mile ruck march completed in under two hours, 5.6 miles in under an hour and 30 minutes for silver, and 3.73 miles under one hour for bronze.
From there they moved on to the final event: the pistol shoot. Participants were allotted five rounds to hit three targets. They were required to hit all three targets at least once and shoot the remaining two rounds at the target of their choice.
“Once the participants hit the ground running with the competition, they realized just how difficult it was,” said Spring, who earned the silver GAFPB badge while deployed to Kuwait in 2017.
“How much of an eye-opening experience it was, especially the swim.”
In total, 57 service members earned the GAFPB. Twenty-six earned the gold badge, 28 earned the silver, and three earned the bronze.
Task Force Red Dragon members made up 49 of the badges earned along with one member of the 25th Infantry Division and seven Airmen assigned to Camp Simba.
“A special thank you to Sgt. Maj. Nitschke,” Spring said. “Without their (German embassy) support, this would never have happened. There were hurdles that we had to overcome, but two months of planning led to us being able to put this on in only two days.”