German “PT” test offers joint services opportunity to compete against each other

By Maj. Marvin Baker | 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command | April 25, 2016

April 22, 2016 — EVERETT, Washington--Nearly 100 military service members from the Army Reserve, Active Army and U.S. Navy gathered at Naval Station Everett in Washington to compete for the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge Apr 12-14. 

The GAFPB is a decoration of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. 
To earn the badge, service members must pass testing in two categories, basic fitness and military training.  Fitness tests include short and long distance sprints and a timed flexed-arm hang.  Military training is a 100-meter swim in uniform, a Combat Lifesaver written test, a 9mm pistol qualification and a road march up to seven and a half miles with a 35-pound rucksack.  

The physical training test differs from the U.S. military test in several ways. However, there are some similarities. 

“The main difference between the German event and the U.S. Army Physical Training test is that the German test is done as a team,” said German Armed Forces Command Sgt. Major. Ronald Schiller of liaison office. “This really is a team-building test,” he added.  

The competition occurred over three days. During the first day, the competitors completed three track and field events that included a 1000-meter sprint, eleven 10-meter sprints and an endurance flexed-arm hang before they headed to the pool to do a few laps. 

 “The swimming is the hardest part,” Schiller said. “Many people are not fast technical swimmers. You have to be able to swim for four minutes with your uniform on,” Schiller added.    

Each event is designed to test a Soldier’s fitness during common combat scenarios. Shooting, sprinting, and swimming in open water are all situations a Soldier might face.

“American Soldiers are very fit,” Schiller said. “I oversee this event in all of the U.S. and see firsthand their commitment and fitness.” 

Spc. Patrick Welch of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, who traveled from Joint Base Lewis McChord, demonstrated his commitment to earn the badge by practicing and preparing for the physically challenging events weeks before the start. 

“I wanted to push and challenge myself. The swimming event was especially difficult,” Welch said. “That’s why we practiced and prepared ourselves weeks before the start of the event.”

Welch said he brought six fellow Soldiers from his maintenance section to compete in the event. By the end of day two, he know he could not qualify for the gold medal because of the slower times he posted during the 1000 meter run. 

Sgt. Ian Pelky of the 364th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) came to the event with a battle buddy from the signal section who learned of the challenge just a few days before the event. 

“I did not know about the event until a few days ago from Sgt. Pelky,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Peterson. “It sounded like something I wanted to jump onboard with,” he added. 

“It is pretty motivating training to another military’s standards,” Pelky said. 

Both Solders said the swimming was the most challenging event, but would eagerly trade it for the Army PT test sit-ups. Both expected the ruck march would be the easiest event for them. Peterson said he earned the silver medal, but would try again for the gold next year. 
Twenty-two service members earned the gold, 30 won the silver badge and 16 earned bronze badges, which were presented during a closing ceremony at Naval Station Everett. 

Soldiers can sign up for the event each year and try for a higher medal or to increase their results. This is the second year that the 364th ESC and the 7th Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division conducted the event in Snohomish County, Washington. 

“The GAFPB brings people together from the Navy, Active Duty and Army Reserve to compete at the same level,” Master Shaun Sgt. Collins, a career counselor with the 364th ESC said. 

Collins participated in the event last year and earned a silver medal. “I first wanted to compete again this year for the gold, but the event needed a planner, someone who knew how it all worked and what need to be done,” Collins said. 

Leaders in the 364th ESC like Collins encourages all Soldiers to take a look around their units and take advantage of all the physical, educational, and leadership opportunities around them. 

“We hope this kind of event is a water cooler activity for Soldiers, something they will talk about for days with their buddies,” Collins said. “This is the kind of event that brought Soldiers into the Army and will keep them in the Army Reserve,” he added.