Thirteen Soldiers and one Airman from the Wisconsin National Guard earned the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency during testing held at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, earlier this year.
The badge is a military decoration of the Bundeswehr, the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany, and it is one of the few foreign awards U.S. Soldiers are authorized to wear on the Army's dress uniform. Participants can earn a bronze, silver or gold award based on their performances in each event, as well as their age and gender.
To earn the bronze, participants must complete a first aid course and demonstrate they can properly don all nuclear, biological and chemical protective clothing. They also must complete a 100-meter swim in uniform in less than four minutes, and score at least three of five rounds in a 25-meter target during a pistol marksmanship event.
Participants also complete a series of track and field events including a shuttle run, flexed-arm hang, a 1,000-meter sprint, and a six-kilometer ruck march. Each event's standards become progressively more challenging to achieve silver or gold badges.
Six Wisconsin National Guard personnel earned the gold badge during the competition held May 15-17 at Fort McCoy, while eight earned silver.
"It's not about the medal that we got." Col. Julie Gerety, the director of domestic operations for the Wisconsin National Guard, said. "It's that we worked together and watched people progress and do better in each of those events. That was the most satisfying."
Gerety and other members of Wisconsin's joint staff and the 54th Civil Support Team were presented with the opportunity to complete the testing for the German Armed Forces Badge after building a relationship with the U.S. Army Reserve's 646th Regional Support Group. The Madison, Wisconsin-based reserve unit worked extensively with the Guard's domestic operations staff during the 2013 Patriot Exercise at Volk Field in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin.
The 646th, along with German proctors, runs testing for the badge and offered 15 of its 100 slots to the joint staff.
Maj. Eric Leckel and Capt. Megan Stetzer organized an ambitious training plan to help the Wisconsin National Guard participants practice their sprints, ruck marching, swimming and flexed-arm hang skills.
"When we talk about being in the Army or the Air Force, we talk about being professional," Gerety said. "It's a profession of arms, and to be able to do that, one of those characteristics of being a professional is really having that winning spirit. It is having the will to win and going through those kinds of challenges that really test your mettle on whether you can do something.
"It really is about being a professional and really testing yourself both physically and mentally," she said.
The final event of the multi-day competition is the ruck march, which requires participants to carry at least 33 pounds over a minimum of six kilometers to earn the bronze, nine kilometers for silver, or 12 kilometers for gold. Finishing that march was the highlight for Gerety.
"We all sat around in a circle drinking water on our rucks, took our boots off, and everyone was comparing blisters," she said. "It doesn't get any better than that. That's what it was all about."
The following service members earned gold badges: Capt. Christopher Robbins, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Douglas Hewison, Sgt. Maj. Douglas Lofreddo, Master Sgt. Charlotte Koshick, Staff Sgt. Dustin McCormick, and Sgt. Jeremy Smith.
The following service members earned silver badges: Col. Julie Gerety, Maj. Eric Leckel, Capt. Megan Stetzer, Capt. Michelle Baer, Staff Sgt. Johnny Ferreira, Staff Sgt. Daniel Sterrenburg, Staff Sgt. Penny Marsh, and Sgt. Nicholas Kenton.
Another group of Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers will try to earn the badge during testing this fall.