News: German, US soldiers build positive relations
Story by 1st Lt. Casey Staheli
PRISTINA, Kosovo - U.S. soldiers have been expending their energy and effort in pursuit of three German military awards: the German Sport badge, German Marksmanship Lanyard and the German Proficiency badge. German soldiers on the other hand have been taking aim at the U.S. Army marksmanship qualification badges.
These soldiers’ efforts were rewarded Aug. 28 at a ceremony recognizing those who met the requirements and achieved the differing badges.
Amongst applause and photos, 137 U.S. soldiers were pinned with their achievements by German deputy commander, Lt. Col. Norbert Volkl. Col. Michael D. Schwartz, commander of Multinational Battle Group East pinned 49 U.S. Army Marksmanship badges on German soldiers.
Spc. Albert Romero, a member of the liaison monitoring team, from Albuquerque, N.M., enjoyed the chance to participate in the events.
“We don’t ever get the chance to earn foreign awards back home, so this was a great opportunity to do something new, fun and different,” Romero said.
German Staff Sgt. Sasha Schmidt shared the same sentiments.
“This was a lot of fun for us,” said Schmidt. “Working with and participating with other nations in these kinds of events is always enjoyable. We always learn something new.”
The idea of German and U.S. soldiers working together and learning more about each other was precisely the reason the events were put on.
“These activities were put together in order to continue building positive relations between German and U.S. soldiers,” said German Lt. Col. Martin Paulus, German liaison officer to Multinational Battle Group East.
In order for Soldiers to earn the German Sport badge they had to complete a long jump, a short and long distance run and a shot put event. The requirements to pass each event are dependent upon the age and sex of the participant.
In Germany, contenders have a number of physical activities to choose from but during deployment choices are more limited, explained Paulus.
“We looked at Camp Bondsteel and chose events that were based upon the location and available resources and decided we could conduct the long jump, long and short distance runs and the shot put,” said Paulus.
Soldiers earning the German Marksmanship Lanyard passed a pistol and machine gun exercise using German weapons. The score a Soldier received determined whether he or she was presented with a bronze, silver or gold award during the ceremony.
The German Proficiency badge requires soldiers to earn the German Sport badge, complete the German Marksmanship Lanyard and also finish a 12 kilometer ruck march in two hours while carrying 35 pound ruck sacks.
Throughout all the events U.S. soldiers expressed gratitude and excitement for the opportunity to earn the German awards.
“I wanted to experience everything I can on this deployment,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Wendy Franchell, after completing the shot put. “When else are we going to be able to have these chances to train with the Germans?”
As he prepared for one of the ruck march events, Sgt. Jason Serrano, joint visitor’s bureau driver from Albuquerque, voiced a similar thought.
“I wanted to come out and participate because I have been in the military for eight years and never had the chance to earn any of the German awards or badges,” said Serrano. “I’ve heard about it from active duty people for years and told myself if I ever had the chance I would do it.”
For soldiers who could not participate due to the up-tempo of operations, Paulus is hoping to hold another round of events before the current U.S. soldiers return home.
“We don’t have as much contact between our soldiers as we’d like, so we would like to continue these programs, where we learn about each other and strengthen our friendships, as often as possible,” Paulus said. “So we’d certainly be open to doing this again to ensure more soldiers get the cross culture experience.”