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Utah Guard Soldiers and Airmen prove themselves worthy of the German Armed Forces Badge

CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah — As heavy snow fell on Camp Williams, Soldiers and Airmen lumbered across the finish line of the ruck march, soaked in both sweat and melted snow. Though tired and wet, they were happy, having completed their two-day quest to earn the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency, or GAFPB, Jan. 24-25.

The event, hosted by the Utah Guard’s 300th Military Intelligence Brigade, drew Soldiers and Airmen from all Utah Guard’s major commands, as well as Reserve Soldiers from nearby units. German Army Sgt. Maj. Mattias Wendorff, currently stationed at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., as the U.S. Intelligence Center of Excellence German liaison sergeant major, oversaw the event.

“I’m happy to be here to support you guys,” Wendorff said, adding that he was delighted to assist Utah service members in earning the GAFPB given that it’s “one of the badges which is allowed for you guys to wear on your uniform.”

To earn the GAFPB, participants have to complete tasks in two main categories: Military Training and the Basic Fitness Test. The military-training portion consists of five events: 100-meter in-uniform swim; first-aid test; reaction to nuclear, biological, chemical attack; pistol qualification and timed road march. The BFT is made up of three events: a shuttle sprint, flexed-arm hang, and a 1000-meter run. Based on how well they do in each event, participants earn a gold, silver or bronze badge.

“We’ve got three different badges or colors—bronze, silver and gold—and to achieve the gold one, you have to be an all-around Soldier,” Wendorff said, “not specifically a runner or a shooter, but an all-around Soldier. And at the end of the day, it’s difficult to get the gold badge,” he said.

At the award ceremony following the ruck march, Wendorff pinned 27 gold, 29 silver, and 8 bronze medals onto the collars of Utah Soldiers and Airmen. Out of the 77 participants who started the event, 64 completed all required events and walked away with badges.

“I thought the swimming would be easy because I swim quite often, and that event really kicked my trash,” said Staff Sgt. James Bybee, an intelligence sergeant with 19th Special Forces Group, who earned a gold badge. “I did fairly well, but still, swimming with your clothes on is a drag.”

Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Cook, 151st Logistics Readiness Squadron, 151st Air Refueling Wing, who earned the gold GAFPB, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to compete and represent the Air Force and the Utah Air Guard.

“Being able to compete and represent the United States Air Force and the Air National Guard here in Utah is something that hasn’t been done in the past,” said Cook, who was the noncommissioned officer of the year for the Utah Air National Guard in 2016. “It’s something that we’re really excited to be able to be invited to and to compete in and showcase the strengths we have as Airmen,” he said. “It's something you can take with you throughout your career.”

Sgt. Christy Layne, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment, said she was honored to be able to compete for a GAFPB for both personal and professional reasons.

“It helps me in my military career because I’m a new NCO, and it gives me the chance to develop my leadership qualities and physical attributes so I can motivate and lead other Soldiers as well,” said Lane, who earned the silver badge. “I’m honored to be able to be here and to compete, and I look forward to doing it again so I can get gold in all events.”

Wendorff expressed pleasure in being able to help Utah Soldiers and Airmen earn the GAFPB.

“What I love, at the end of the day, are the smiles of all these guys. They all appreciate the chance to get this badge,” said Wendorff. “I heard some stories about how they have been trying to get this badge for the last six or seven years and now, finally, they did it. It’s a pleasure to be here to support you guys.”

For those competitors who didn’t earn the badge they hoped for, and for Soldiers and Airmen who would like an opportunity to earn the GAFPB, the Utah Guard is likely to host future opportunities to earn the badge. According to 1st Lt. Matthew McPhee, officer in charge of this year’s event, they hope to make the event a yearly occurrence.

Story by 1st Sgt. Brock Jones

Photos by 1st Sgt. Brock Jones and Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stowell

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