RESTON, Va. -- Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers joined hundreds of other Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines Sept. 30 here to participate in a road march in the culminating event for Das Abzeichen für Leistungen im Truppendienst or the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge for military proficiency.
The march began at 7:30 a.m., and took the 23 Virginians around Lake Audubon three times. The Soldiers marched anywhere from 10-30 kilometers based on their age group or the badge they were competing for, Gold, Silver or Bronze.
All 23 Virginia Guardsmen earned the Gold GAFPB, said Capt. Rick Harrison, the assistant operations officer for the 116th Brigade Combat Team.
With a 25-pound rucksack on their backs and combat boots on their feet, many Soldiers felt the pain of the long distance walk/run.
“It was fun. It hurt, but it was fun,” said Sgt. Wesley Hayman, a team leader in Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th BCT. “It was a great experience.”
The Soldiers of the 116th prepared for the competition beginning in June during their annual training at Fort Pickett, said Hayman. To make it to the road march, the Soldiers first had to complete several track and field events, including a 3-5 kilometer run, a shot-put toss, long or high jump and a 1,000-meter swim. The Soldiers were also required to fire with a nine-millimeter pistol at a 25-meter target.
The German Armed Forces Command of the United States and Canada sent several German Soldiers to Fort Pickett to oversee the Soldiers as they completed the prerequisite tasks to earn the badge.
While the Germans were there they also participated in some of the American training, said Hayman.
“They went through Leaders Reaction Course with us,” said Hayman. “They even came out to the sniper range with me and my team.”
Following the road march, the U.S. Soldiers were invited to the German Armed Forces Command building in Reston where they were presented with the badge and a certificate authorizing them to wear the new badge on their class A and dress blue uniforms.
“All of those who will receive the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge shall take this badge as their mark of their personal achievement and wear it with pride,” said Brig. Gen. Gero Shachthoefer, commander of the German Armed Forces Command of the U.S. and Canada. “But they shall wear it also as a symbol for the friendship between our two nations.”
After the presentation ceremony and a brief rainstorm the Soldiers were treated to live music performed by a German Armed Forces Band and refreshments in the way of German bratwursts, pea soup and German beer.