The task was simple and the message was simple, “we want a chance to earn the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency.” That started in August 2015 when I took command. With that guidance, by October 2016 we had not only found Lt. Col. Presser and Sgt. Maj. Misselbeck of the German Army, but every Delta Battery Soldier had a chance to compete for the badge. After this, word quickly spread throughout the 2/354th Battalion and 1st Brigade, leading up to the August 2017 competition.
Staff Sgt. Curtis Kinsey (center) and Sgt. 1st Class Peter Hoffman (right) discuss scoring with Sgt. Maj. Michael Misselbeck (left) on August 19, 2017 at the Rinehart Gym Track on Fort Sill, while Soldiers prepare for the 1000-meter run.
On August 21, 2017, Soldiers were presented the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency at the German Army’s Fort Sill Liaison Office. (Left to Right) Sgt. Maj. Michael Misselbeck, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Clouse, Sgt. 1st Class Jenna Russell, Staff Sgt. Curtis Kinsey, Sgt. Leslie Hasson, Sgt. Joshua Schenck, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Bryan, Master Sgt. James Glaze, and Lt. Col. Joerg Presser.
On August 19, 2017, Staff Sgt. Michael Allen completes the 100-meter swim test in uniform at the Rinehart Pool at Fort Sill, OK. Upon completion of two laps in the 50-meter pool, Soldiers were required to successfully ditch their uniform top and bottom before receiving a “Go.”
On August 18, 2017, Master Sgt. James Glaze completes the M9 course of fire at Fort Sill, OK. To earn Gold, Soldiers were required to have a score of 6-hits out of 6-rounds. Silver required 5-hits out of 6-rounds. Finally, to earn Bronze and still be eligible for the badge, Soldiers required 4-hits out of 6-rounds. Soldiers moved among the standing, kneeling, and prone firing positions for each pair of shots.
A Coveted Badge and a Grueling Test
Established in October 1980 by the German Armed Forces, the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency has six major components: (1) Basic Fitness Test, (2) 100-meter Swim, (3) First Aid Test, (4) NBC MOPP Test, (5) Pistol Qualification, and (6) a Road March. The Basic Fitness test includes three subcomponents which are scored separately: (a) 11x10-meter sprint, (b) Flexed-Arm Hang, and (c) a 1000-meter sprint. Based upon how a Soldier performed on the scored Basic Fitness Test, a Soldier can then compete for the Gold, Silver, or Bronze level award in the other five “Go/No-Go” events.
Generally, each of the tests are performed in optimal conditions, allowing recovery time after each event. However due to nature of the reserves, Drill Sergeants and Soldiers from 1st Brigade completed all events within a 72-hour timeframe. Even by German Army standards, this was an aggressive feat and performed admirably in all events. By far the hardest event was the 100-meter swim test. This is partially due to the fact that the swim is done in uniform, something most Soldiers don’t train for on a regular basis. Sgt. Maj. Misselbeck highly recommended that any Soldiers seeking to earn the badge spend time training for the swim event, since that is where he sees the most failures.
The Importance of the GAFBMP to the USAR Drill Sergeant Mission
After assuming command, I quickly found myself in a rut of running from fire to fire and forgetting why I became a Soldier in the first place. I found that my Soldiers were having the same problem. It made recruiting and retention fairly hard. Why would a Soldier come to Drill to play on their phone all day with nothing to really do? We saw it impact our recruiting mission too. Why does a Drill Sergeant want to recruit people into a unit that does nothing?
With the support of the Battalion Command teams (Col. Manning, Col. Adams, Maj. Thrash, and Command Sgt. Maj. Hahne), 1st Sgt. Campbell and I set our sights on making this badge a Battery mission by the end of fiscal year 17. We knew that this was something not often done, but once the first badge was awarded, our Soldiers would remember why they were Soldiers, and more importantly do something while at a drill weekend. We started slow, incorporating different GAFBMP events into our Battery physical training plan and whenever we had facilities available. Eventually in August 2017, we made a breakthrough with all ammunition, facilities, personnel, and funding being available at the same time to make a weekend test for the GAFBMP happen.
Since then, the GAFBMP test has given our Drill Sergeants and Reserve Career Counselors something to talk about. Not only will our unit help mold you into a Drill Sergeant, but we actually do things on Drill Weekend and get outside the “drill hall.” It’s an effort that’s already paying off. The question then becomes, when do we test again, and do we turn it into a Mutual Support Operation with other USAR units in the area? If so, how do we sustain it and work the logistics?
Advice to Other Company Battery/Troop Command Teams
Most TRADOC installations have a Foreign Liaison Office from many nations, including Germany. The German Foreign Liaison Officers can either administer the test from their office, or they can help arrange for a test to be conducted with a requesting unit. The biggest recommendation is to send the message to Garcia, and make all the arrangements to run the test (ammo, pool, facilities, and training time). Make it to where all the German FLO needs to do is say yes and show up.