One hundred and eighteen Soldiers competed for either the Gold, Silver or Bronze German Armed Forces Proficiency Badges at Fort Knox April 26-28.
This year’s three-day event tested Soldiers’ basic fitness with a 10-meter sprint test, a chin-up flexed arm hang and a 1,000 meter run.
Additionally, Soldiers tested their military training with a 100-meter swim in less than four minutes, a first aid written exam, a standard donning of their NBC mask in nine seconds as well as their NBC suits, a pistol qualification and a nearly 7 ½-mile road march.
The GAFPB, as it is known, may be awarded in three proficiencies with the highest scoring level yielding the Gold Award, followed by the Silver Award and finally the Bronze.
Each GAFPB contest must be administered by a qualified German physical training instructor, and the award is used as a connection between allies.
“In Germany, it has a very long title, and in Germany it is known as Das Abzeichen für Leistungen im Truppendienst, and the whole [contest] is about testing your basic military skills and physical training in areas of swimming, shooting, marching,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Krebs, with German Armed Forces Command, U.S.-Candada. “My job here is to supervise, but primarily I talk with Soldiers and let them see, talk and interact with a German officer. The whole idea is to build cohesion together. The badge is a nice side effect, but it’s about the partnership and friendship between our militaries.”
Krebs said there is little difference between American and German Soldiers; they are usually competitive and like to look good in uniform.
“[The GAFPB] is popular because it’s one of the few [foreign devices] that you can wear on your dress uniform,” Krebs said. “I’m a Soldier myself, and I have an American badge that I’m able to wear; it’s a pretty cool thing to have a foreign marksmanship badge or foreign paratrooper wings to wear.
“I get to see the competitiveness of Soldiers, and for me that’s exciting.”
Soldiers who don’t get gold can try again next year. Krebs said that opportunity lends itself to greater interest in it.
“For us, this is an annual requirement for active duty, but for [most] Americans it’s a one-time event,” Krebs said. “You can earn it in different [proficiencies]: bronze, silver and gold. Soldiers who get bronze or silver one year can come back again to win gold next time, and that’s something pretty interesting for some Americans.”
The event is competitive, but Krebs said it’s become a delight for him to oversee.
“It’s fun for me to learn more about the Americans, and how would we do that unless we meet? We meet in Afghanistan or Somalia when we’re deployed, but we don’t get to meet in a friendly atmosphere on a remarkably beautiful Saturday in Kentucky,” Krebs said.” On a personal level, I get to talk with a private, I get to talk with a lieutenant colonel, I hang out with a master sergeant and I chat with a corporal.”
The event means different things to different people, but Krebs said the result is camaraderie.
“This is a badge that we explicitly think of as an expression of partnership and friendship. We are all within that alliance, and we stand by each other. In that sense, it has a large tradition,” said Krebs. “It is also something that Soldiers take seriously and prepare for.”
Fort Knox Soldiers earned 25 Gold Awards, 47 Silver Awards and seven Bronze awards.
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