AZNG Soldiers partner with ROTC to compete for German Badge

AZNG Soldiers partner with ROTC to compete for German Badge

Arizona Army National Guard Soldiers and Army cadets carry 35-pound packs as they compete against the clock in a ruck march at Florence Military Reservation March 5. The ruck march was one of several timed events the Soldiers and cadets needed to complete in order to be awarded the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge, a military decoration of the Bundeswehr, the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany

FLORENCE, Ariz. – The glint of a gold badge on the Army service uniform is not something you see every day. The sight of its gold eagle sitting majestically above a soldier’s name tape stands out and makes others take notice. More than 70 competitors representing the Arizona Army National Guard and Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University and Northern Arizona University Army ROTC programs, competed for the honor of wearing that eagle on their Army blues, March 5.

The German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge (GAFP-B) is a military decoration of the Bundeswehr, the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. The country’s infantrymen are required to compete for and receive the gold badge in order to graduate their initial schooling and join their fellow Soldiers in the field. For the United States Army, the GAFP-B is one of the few foreign awards approved for wear, and it sets the wearer apart from his or her peers.

Private 2nd Class Saul Lucero, HHD 1-158th Infantry Battalion, said when he heard about the competition a week ago he knew it was something he wanted to do and despite the short window he was determined to walk home with the gold badge.

“I just joined the [infantry] scouts,” Lucero said, “ I’m the youngest one there and I wanted to set myself apart from the crowd and earn the respect of my peers.”

He said when the competition started he didn’t think it looked all that hard, but as the day went on he was feeling the drain. Despite blisters that covered his feet and blood seeping in his boots, Lucero made it all the way back to receive the gold badge that he had worked hard for all day.

In order to earn their badge, Soldiers and cadets had to make it through a grueling day of trials beginning with three basic fitness tests of shuttle runs, flexed arm hang and a 1,000-meter run all taken in sequence. The Soldiers and cadets then moved to the pool where they swam 400-meters in their combat uniform. They then had to remove their uniform in deep water without assistance from others or the pool structure.

After a short break for hygiene, the Soldiers and cadets were off to the 9 mm pistol range where they fired six rounds for their weapons qualifications. Finally, they road marched carrying a 35-pound ruck sack.

There are three levels to the award: gold, silver and bronze. A competitor’s placement in events leading up to the road march determine the distance he or she will ruck: six, nine or 12 kilometers. This competition is non-gender specific and every competitor must meet one minimum standard to receive their badge.

Cadet Maj. Matt Farberove, ASU Army ROTC, has earned the GAFP-B twice in the past few years, the silver his sophomore year and then he returned to earn the gold his junior year.

“I would tell any cadet or Soldier the GAFP-B is an opportunity to see if you can compete on the German Infantry level,” Farberove said. “It’s a huge token of pride for an American Soldier to wear.”

He went on to say that the opportunities to earn the badge are limited as it must be administered by a Senior NCO or officer from the German Army and they are not readily available to everyone.

Sgt. Maj. Matthias Wendorff, German Liaison NCO at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., has completed this test 15 times in his career and was on hand to observe the competition and to verify its validity.

“It is amazing to see these Soldiers and cadets do in one day what we do traditionally in two,” Wendorff said. “They are motivated and smiling and it is amazing to see. It’s a good feeling to see the pride in their faces as they finish the competition and receive their badges.”

At the end of the day Wendorff presented six bronze, 16 silver and 30 gold GAFP-Bs to the day’s competitors.

Sunnyslope recruiting NCOIC, Sgt. 1st Class John Acosta, who earned the gold badge after the long grueling day, said that the partnership with the college ROTC cadets is a valuable experience that allows the participants, cadets and Soldiers alike, to see what it takes to set themselves apart from the rest.

“I encourage Soldiers to participate in events like this, anytime you can do something extra, out of the ordinary, something to set yourself apart from the field,” Acosta said. “Push yourself and challenge yourself. If you are remaining stagnant you are not growing.”