By Seth Maggard – Air Force Culture and Language Center
Groans, cries of physical exertion and shouts of encouragement in both English and German echoed off of the walls of the base gym; sweat pouring over the faces of service members.
The sufferers were Army, Navy, and Air Force students from Air Command and Staff College as they agonized with one goal in mind: to pin on the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge to their uniforms.
Nothing says partnership quite like earning another nation’s prestigious armed forces badge. That is what these members from organizations such as the Language Enabled Airman Program, a culture and language training initiative of the Air Force Culture and Language Center, ACSC, and Defense Language Institute did as part of their cultural and language-building capabilities April 27 – May 4, 2016.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Maj. Michael Loy, astudent at ACSC, after diving in to a green pool at the Prattville, Alabama, YMCA for his swim test. “What a great way to test yourself and build on our experiences in this course.”
The service members wore Army black, Navy gold, and Air Force blue PT gear onto the track, into the pool, and through the pistol firing range in order to test their mettle against German Bundeswehr standards and a chance to wear the badge in uniform.
The events began with a timed shuttle run and quickly moved into flexed arm hang, 1000 meter sprint, uniformed swim, 12 kilometer ruck march, and pistol firing qualifications. The students were evaluated by a German liaison officer and awarded based on their performance.
“For Germans who see an American wearing the badge, it provides an instant level of credibility for building instant relationships between armed forces,” said Maj. Ross Dotzlaf, an Army officer attending ACSC.
Maj. George Chapman and Maj. John Casey, German speaking LEAP members attending ACSC, are no strangers to international relationships and jumped at the opportunity to become even more immersed in German culture. Their contributions to the Air Force’s global mission are rooted in their ability to seek out partnership opportunities, as described in numerous government publications.
Chapman notes, “Shared experiences build bridges, and my German culture experiences here have a deeper meaning to me as an American military member.”
One such mantra is stated in The Need for Cross Cultural Competence, a publication on cultural education in the military, as it “value[s] how officers who build their cross-cultural competence are more successful making decisions and working operationally with individuals from other cultures.”
The GAFPB’s inception into American doctrine was created with this goal in mind. The participation by both organizations creates an opportunity to bond over hardship for the common goal of respectful competition.
Casey remarked, “To come out here and exercise as a single team with German soldiers caps off my experiences with my classmates that has included a lot of cultural training in both Germany and back here at ACSC has been a great opportunity, and I’m excited to build on these experiences in the future.”
“This is a fantastic turnout from a joint group of service members that are reaching out to connect with German services and build relationships,” said Lt. Col. Bernd Claus, a German liaison officer at Fort Rucker, Alabama. “I did this as a young soldier in Germany, and this is a great expression and continuation of all of the hard work that German soldiers do in order to wear this badge.”
This badge represents a great addition to the uniform and career of these service members as well as provided them with a fantastic opportunity for complete immersion into both language and culture.
Gold and silver badges were pinned onto the qualifying members’ uniforms in an official ceremony held by the German liaison officers. The service members are allowed to wear the badges on their American uniform as a symbol of their partnership with German military culture.
Chapman remarked after receiving his medal, “These shared common bonds build bridges and bring communities closer together. This is one way we can become cross-culturally competent Airmen!”