U.S. Army troops compete for German badges

HAMMELBURG, Germany — Army Soldiers from Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, Schweinfurt, Germany, fire the MG3 7.62mm Machine Gun here July, 26, 2007. The Soldiers qualified on the weapons as part of the Schuetzenschnur German Army Marksmanship Badge Test hosted by the Training Support Company, German Armed Forces U.N. Training Center here. (Department of Defense photo by Army Capt. Kevin Calkins, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment)

HAMMELBURG, Germany - Army Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, Schweinfurt, Germany, got the chance to participate in qualifications for the Schuetzenschnur and Leistungsabzeichen badges with the German Army here July 24-27. The competition took place at the German Army Regional Training Center South and Infantry School here.

Qualifying for the Schuetzenschnur, a weapons proficiency badge given by the German Army, was a multi-day and multi-weapon event for the Americans. Depending on qualification scores, the badge is awarded with either a bronze, silver, or gold device and is worn with a cord by U.S. enlisted Soldiers on their class-A uniforms.

The 1-91 Soldiers qualified on the German P8 9 mm pistol, the G3 7.62 mm rifle, the G36 5.56 mm rifle, and the MG3 7.62 mm machine gun. All 26 Soldiers participating qualified for a Schuetzenschnur badge.

While aiming for a Schuetzenschnur is a fairly common occurrence for the squadron, once every couple of months or so, the chance to earn a Leistungsabzeichen, a German army physical fitness badge, is a rare opportunity and proved to be an even greater challenge. With some very high standards to meet, only four American Soldiers actually qualified for the gold Leistungsabzeichen.

The Leistungsabzeichen is also a multi-day and multi-task event that German Soldiers normally compete for over the course of a year, but 1-91 Soldiers squeezed it into four days. Soldiers had to accomplish at least a minimum standard for each event to recieve an award.

The events included testing the proficiency of first aid tasks, a 30-kilometer foot march to be completed within five hours, 100- and 400-meter sprints, a three-kilometer run and the choice between a 15-kilogram stone throw, eight-kilogram shot-put event or a 100-meter swim. The Soldiers also had to complete a long jump and 200-meter swim during the competition.

Anytime Soldiers get to train with their NATO counterparts, it's appreciated, said Capt. Kevin Calkins, 1-91 Civil Affairs Officer and Officer-In-Control of the event.

"For the march there was a lot of interaction," Calkins said. "Of course, there is a language barrier and most of it is on our side. German is not a commonly taught language in American schools, but English is very common in German schools. Most of the German soldiers are young and not that far out of high school and they were able to communicate on a basic level. Some are advanced. But there was definitely a comradery among them."

"After the 30-kilometer foot march, I had some soldiers come up to me, and even though their feet were like hamburger, they said it was the greatest time they have had in the Army," he said. "They get the chance to get away from base, away from the normal training and they get to do something different and fun in a more relaxed environment — something they don't normally get to do."

The 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment was reactivated on June 8th, 2006, at the Conn Barracks Parade Field in Schweinfurt, as part of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. This reactivation was the first time the colors of the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment had flown since the end of operations in WWII.

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