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NEWS | June 12, 2018

Gold, silver or bronze: Soldiers and Airmen interweave training into earning coveted badge

By SFC Emily Anderson 80th Training Command

After graduating from her advanced individual training in March, Pfc. Maria Litterio, assigned to the 97th Transportation Company at Fort Eustis, Virginia, knew training to serve her country would be an ongoing requirement during her military career. But, her training to earn the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge became a task that proved to be taxing.

“I’m exhausted,” said Litterio, one of more than 75 Soldiers and Airmen who tested their mental and physical fortitude by striving to earn the badge for military proficiency here June 1-3.

“I was really nervous about coming out here and trying, especially the swim,” said Litterio, an Active Duty Soldier trying to earn the gold badge in the competition. “As a watercraft engineer, the swim part should be easy, but by my third lap, I ran out of time.”

Hosted by the Regional Training Site – Maintenance Fort Indiantown Gap, the event included a 1000-meter sprint, an 11 x 10-meter sprint, a flexed-arm hang for time, a 12-kilometer ruck march with a minimum of a 33-pound ruck, a pistol marksmanship test, and a 100-meter swim in uniform to be performed under four minutes. The swim included removing the uniform while staying afloat.

The RTS-M Fort Indiantown Gap falls under the command and control of the 94th Training Division, headquartered at Fort Lee, Virginia. The 94th TD supports the 80th Training Command's mission of more than 2,700 instructors providing essential training to Army Reserve, National Guard and Active Duty Soldiers.

“The thing is, to see a schoolhouse put this type of event on shows we are going above and beyond,” said Sgt. Maj. Ronald Howard, operations sergeant major for RTS-M Fort Indiantown Gap.

“Not only do we have all the components coming together, but we also have the Air Force, our sister service, involved,” Howard added. “It’s not about the RTS-M, but about the whole Army and opportunities like this for everyone, no matter what your rank or military occupational specialty is.”

Like Howard, Brig. Gen. Hector Lopez, commanding general of the 94th TD, echoed similar sentiments about the competition and the importance of knowing competitions like this help the bigger picture of military readiness.

“Events like this are generating readiness for the Army,” said Lopez. “The GAFPB is a great achievement, and it motivates me to see a job well done.”

Lopez explained earning the badge is not what makes the Soldiers great, but getting out, trying and passing on the experience and training to their fellow Soldiers.

“There will be some that try and fail, but it’s about taking this training back to their units and helping others,” said Lopez. “That’s how we generate readiness.”

Training was an important part highlighted by many staff members including Lt. Col. Andres Weselschwerdt, the German liaison for the event.

“I saw some of the guys really had to fight,” said Weselschwerdt. “They had to fight with the swimming, arriving at the last second. During the march, some of them had blisters, and they were hurting because the ruck was maybe too heavy, but they were still running and fighting.”

“Get familiar with the prerequisites, train in the swimming, train in the basic fitness test and the marching,” Weselschwerdt added. “It’s a training issue. If you do it often enough, everyone can succeed. This is all doable.”

Litterio agrees with Weselschwerdt. Despite her falling short in earning the badge this time, she is determined to continue to train and try again.

“I always look to trying new things. I may not be the best Soldier, but I do try and give it my all in everything that I do,” said Litterio. “You know it’s a great thing to do new stuff, things that you don’t normally do. At least you can say you did it, and as I think about it, I did amazing. Much better than I thought I was going to do.”

“I’m pretty sure when I go back to my unit, they’re going to be proud of me because I went out there and I tried it,” Litterio added. “I’m just going to practice that swim and get a go next time. Hopefully, I can get a chance next time to try the pistol again and shoot for the gold.”