Fairchild Airmen compete for German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lawrence Sena
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The lapping sounds of the wave pool fill the chlorine-rich air as a crowd of anxious military members wait upon the water-soaked floor. The challenge facilitator begins to call the members’ names one-by-one, assigning each military member a pool lane. As each name is called, the military member submerges themselves in the tepid water, slowly resurfacing as their uniform clings to their body.

The pool challenge was just one of nine physically-demanding events 19 Fairchild Airmen experienced while competing for the coveted German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge Nov. 17 and 18 at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.

The GAFPB is a decoration of the Bundeswehr, the unified armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany, and can be awarded to German and allied soldiers of any rank. In the U.S. Armed Forces, the GAFPB is one of the few approved foreign awards authorized to be worn on uniforms, making it one of the most sought after achievements.

“Wearing the GAFPB is a symbol of pride,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ken Chudoba, 92nd Maintenance Squadron Munitions Material section chief. “The badge shows Airmen stepped outside their comfort zone and did something to set themselves apart.”

There were more than 160 participants from 23 different military units throughout the Pacific Northwest region, including Air Force recruiters, Air Force ROTC recruits and four units from Fairchild.

Competing for the GAFPB provides an opportunity to test the physical and mental skills Airmen may use in battlefield situations and provides a first-hand look at how German forces measure their combat readiness, said U.S. Air Force Maj. Joseph Schneider, 92nd Security Forces Squadron commander.

Participants must complete a variety of events covering both basic fitness and military training in order to earn the badge. Events included a sprint test, chin-up test, 1,000-meter run, 100-meter swim in uniform, removing a uniform in water, first-aid, Nuclear Biological Chemical Mission Oriented Protective Posture testing, pistol qualification and a ruck-march.

“As an Airman, this shows that we are going the extra mile,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Tyler Corter, 92nd Medical Operations Squadron medical technician. “We are pushing ourselves in every way possible.”

Testing for the GAFPB requires administration by a qualified German physical training instructor. To meet this requirement, the EWU Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment flew German Army Sgt. Maj. Ronald Schiller, Combine Arms Support Command liaison, to properly conduct the event.

“The events cover the basics of every soldier,” Schiller said. “I have done this my entire time in the [German] army. It is really good for some of these guys, seeing a German soldier in person for the first time, to see how important it is to have an ally.”

The badge is divided into three different levels of proficiency, and each is represented by either a gold, silver or bronze medal. A point average system is used to determine which medal the participant will receive.

“Events like this really speak to our current multi-domain battle space,” Schneider said. “If you look around [the challenge], you see Air Force ROTC, Air National Guard, U.S. Army and a German uniform. This is what our battlefield looks like today. Our relationship with our partner nations is what certainly makes us a Total Force in everything we do.”

Competing for the GAFPB is just one of many opportunities available for Fairchild Airmen to test their proficiency while working alongside foreign allies, ANG and active duty members from other service branches; further helping them to aim high and remain the world’s finest Total Force Airmen, leading the nation’s premier air refueling team.