SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Forty members of Joint Task Force-Bravo earned the right to wear the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge after completing three days of fitness and military testing here.
The German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge (Abzeichen für Leistungen im Truppendienst) is a decoration of the Bundeswehr, the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. The decoration can be awarded to all German Soldiers. Allied Soldiers may also be awarded the badge. Any rank may be awarded and wear the badge. In the United States Military the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge is one of the few approved foreign awards, and it is one of the most sought after awards to achieve.
In order to qualify for the badge, service members must pass a fitness and military training test, administered by a German Sergeant Major. Germany Army Sgt. Maj. Stephan Engel, a German Army Liaison stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., visited Soto Cano to administer the tests to Task Force members this week.
"This test is very important," said Engel. "U.S. service members who are older and have served for many years have almost all spent time in or been stationed in Germany, so they have a very strong bond with Europe. However, some of the younger U.S. service members don't have that connection. So by doing this test, we are able to keep that bond intact with our allies."
The testing for the badge includes a 11x10 meter sprint test, a chin-up (flexed-arm hang) test, a 1,000 meter run, a 100 meter swim in uniform, firing a 9mm pistol, as well as a road march of distances ranging from 6-12 kilometers. For Task Force members, the test proved challenging.
"It was very challenging," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Brian Brady. "The sprint test was some of the most painful exercise I've ever done."
Depending on their score, members earned bronze, silver, or gold badges. The colors signify three different levels of proficiency with gold being the highest. Those who qualified were presented with their badge during an award ceremony.
"This was an individual test, and people were trying to reach specific standards for themselves," said U.S. Army Col. Thomas Boccardi, Joint Task Force-Bravo commander. "But what you saw over the last three days was how these service members banded together and drove each other to succeed. They did this not to achieve a badge, but to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to see each other succeed, and if someone fell short, they went out and retested and they encouraged each other. That really embodies the spirit of military service. You don't do it for a reward, or money, or getting to wear a uniform. You do it for each other."
Engel said he was impressed with the camaraderie and teamwork he witnessed during the testing.
"The service members never quit," said Engel. "They worked together as one family. They went into each challenge together and were not afraid to push themselves."
While the three days may be been grueling, those who qualified for the badge now have the unique experience of being awarded a decoration from a foreign service.
"It's truly an honor," said Brady. "I'm glad to think we are doing something here that continues to build on the partnership and camaraderie between our two nations."