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NEWS | Aug. 12, 2014

New York Army National Guard troops stepping up to win coveted German Armed Forces Badge

By Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Drumsta New York National Guard

CORTLANDT MANOR, N.Y. - The New York Army National Guard has raised the bar for its troops, who have begun to win the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge.

German army Lt. Col. Rolf Metz awarded the badge to Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Dorvee and Sgt. Sean Massimo after they completed a series of rigorous physical and tactical challenges at Camp Smith Training Site on Aug. 3.

Just four months ago, the pair took top honors in the New York Army National Guard's Best Warrior Competition.

The New York Army National Guard's 53rd Troop Command is conducting the competition, and held a series of events at Camp Smith from Aug. 2-3, according to Maj. John McBride, one of the competition organizers.

While Dorvee and Massimo are the only troops who have completed testing so far, other troops are scheduled to finish the competition, which will remain open until next April, he added.

Metz, a German army liaison officer to the United States Military Academy at West Point, said McBride initiated competition planning by contacting him last September. He trained and certified the competition raters, and certifies final scores, he added.

McBride described the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge as a clear goal for the Soldiers because it shows their peers how well-rounded they are. "I think it's a genuine morale-building event for Soldiers," said McBride, an assistant operations officer for 53rd Troop Command. "You really have to be a well-rounded Soldier to qualify for the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge."

The badge was established in 1971 and is like the U.S. Army's Expert Infantry Badge, said Metz. The competition consists of tests every German Soldier must pass annually, he added.

"(The badge) is given out to German Soldiers who do well on those standardized tests," Metz said. Even so, German army units also hold competitions for the badge to build morale and esprit de corps.

The tests include the German Army Basic Fitness Test, a timed 100-meter swim, a 12-kilometer road march with a 33-pound ruck sack, a first-aid test and a pistol qualification. Some events are scored, and others are go or no-go.

The German Army Basic Fitness Test is made up of 11 timed 10-meter sprints, a timed kilometer run, and a chin-up test.

"You get in the chin-up position, and remain there as long as possible, with your chin above the bar," McBride explained.

The minimum times for the fitness test vary, based on competitors' age and gender, he added.

Between each sprint of the fitness test, competitors must lay down, clasp their hands behind their backs and then jump up, Metz said.

"It's combination of sprints and agility," he explained.

Competitors are required to complete the 100-meter swim within four minutes, then remove their Army Camouflage Uniform blouse and trousers while treading water, McBride said. The swim test seems to be the steepest challenge for competitors in the German army, Metz said.

"Fewer and fewer people who join the German army are able to swim," Metz said.

The German army has begun to give its Soldiers swimming lessons, he added.

In the pistol qualification, competitors must engage two targets each in the standing, kneeling and prone positions, must hit at least one target in each position, and score at least four hits. They have six seconds to engage targets in each position.

"It sounds like a lot of time but it isn't, especially if you're in the prone position," McBride said. It isn't easy, Metz said.

"If you make a small mistake, you don't hit the target," he said. "There is not much room for error."

The final testing and re-testing will take place during the culminating event, which is scheduled for April 17-19 in 2015, according to McBride and event documents.

However, Soldiers can do some tests with their units, or complete some or all of the tests at the 2015 event, he explained.

The New York Army National Guard's Best Warrior Competition was held here in April. Dorvee, a supply sergeant with the 1427th Transportation Battalion, won in the Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) noncommissioned officer (NCO) category. Dorvee scored the highest number of points in both NCO categories and went on to represent New York in the national best warrior competition.

Massimo, a military police officer with the 442nd Military Police Company, won in the Traditional (M-Day) NCO category.

"This came at a great time, because I just finished the (Best) Warrior Competition, so I was physically well-prepared," Dorvee said.

Massimo credited regular National Guard training for his success in the kilometer run and tactical tests.

"The biggest difference was the 12 (kilometer) ruck march and the 100 meter swim, that was the toughest, but it really gave me a chance to test my stamina and endurance," he said. "I have a new-found respect for swimmers."

Massimo urged other troops to earn the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge.

"I'm really glad I participated in this opportunity, and I'm excited about being able to wear a foreign badge," he said. "This is a fantastic chance for Soldiers to show they're prepared in any manner or fashion, and I encourage any Soldier to do it."

Dorvee agreed.

"This was a really cool experience, and I look forward to letting other Soldiers in my unit know about it," he said.