HASTINGS, Neb. –
The Nebraska Army National Guard’s 402nd Military Police Battalion hosted Nebraska’s first German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge testing June 14-15, 2023, in Hastings, Nebraska, with 90 Soldiers striving to earn the coveted gold, silver, or bronze proficiency badge.
The two-day challenge, which tests Soldiers on marksmanship, swimming ability, physical fitness level and endurance through ruck marching was administered by a qualified German physical training instructor. In this case, that was Sgt. Maj. Stefan Mass, a sergeant major visiting from the German Armed Forces.
Testing began at the Hastings Aquacourt with the swim event: 100 meters in uniform. Soldiers had four minutes to complete the swim, and then they had to remove their wet, heavy uniforms while treading water to simulate a successful water rescue.
Spc. Alexander Jacobson, 734th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, said the swim event was a challenge, but he enjoyed doing something different from the dry land training the Soldiers are used to.
Sgt. Joseph Methe, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1-134th Cavalry, agreed the event was a great challenge.
“I went in confident and came out humbled,” Methe said.
The next day, the Soldiers would complete the rest of testing requirements at the Greenlief Training Site. They began with the German Fitness Test: a 1,000-meter run, a flexed-arm hang and a 110-meter shuttle sprint.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Vogel, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 402nd Military Police Battalion, said the 1,000-meter run turned out to be more challenging than the U.S. Army’s standard 2-mile run. All Soldiers competing passed the required track events before transitioning to marksmanship qualification.
The German Marksmanship Qualification has Soldiers fire M9 pistols at specially designed paper targets. And for some, the weapon itself was just as unfamiliar as the target card and testing as many of the Soldiers are not typically assigned a pistol.
“Shooting was fun, but I had to focus on the double action and not anticipate the shot,” said Staff Sgt. Beau Heithoff, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 128th Engineer Battalion.
Testing culminated with the 12-kilometer, 33-pound rucksack road march at the training site, with the goal of successfully marching the distance in at least 10 minutes per kilometer.
For Sgt. Brent Kendall, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1-134th Cavalry, the ruck march was a great way to finish the testing and he was grateful for the entire experience.
“The ruck allowed us to finish as a team,” Kendall said. “It was a great team building event.”
The GAFPB – or in German: Abzeichen für Leistungen im Truppendienst – is one of the few approved foreign awards authorized by the U.S. Military for wear on the service uniform. The award is used to foster connections between allies, building friendships based on common experiences.
Of the 90 participants, 50 earned the GAFPB – 14 bronze, 27 silver and 9 gold.
“I am extremely proud of our Nebraska Army National Guard competitors who accepted the challenge,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Sharp, the 402nd Military Police Battalion’s senior enlisted leader. “They persevered a physically and mentally challenging event, proving their dedication and resilience.”
At the award ceremony, Lt. Col. Troy Dannehl, battalion commander, echoed Sharp’s remarks and thanked the German Armed Forces and the Nebraska National Guard leadership for supporting their initiative to host Nebraska’s first GAFPB testing.
“I look forward to future events that are rewarding and challenging Nebraska’s Soldiers,” Dannehl said.
(Capt. Nathan Reicks contributed to this story)