Written by: SPC Jacqueline Robinson
Keep swimming! Don’t stop! Run fast! Hold on! Shoot straight! All words that rang through the heads of U.S. military service men and women as they participated in the German Armed Forces Badge for military proficiency course at Camp Lemonnier Djibouti City, Djibouti June 5, 6 and 11 2019. Ten of these service members consisted of 2-113th Infantry Battalion Soldiers as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. These Soldiers challenged themselves with three days of events meant to test their combat readiness capabilities.
The first of these events consisted of a 100 meter swim in under 4 minutes, followed immediately by treading water and removing the outer layer of their uniform and successfully tossing it out of the pool. Service members swam using a variety of techniques as they worked to stay afloat until the very end. Many service members underestimated the difficulty of this task and became too winded to finish the required laps. Panic struck the eyes of others who reached the end of their swim but began to sink gasping for air as they attempted to remove their uniform.
“I was a swimmer in high school, but the swimming was definitely the most challenging part. There’s no other event or challenge or badge, besides scuba school, that has a swim event in it so having to swim with my uniform on is something that we’re not used to doing so that was definitely the most challenging part. I was glad when I finished it.” said Staff Sgt. Randall Ferrara of the 2-113th IN BN. This event eliminated many service members from the course, but the ten 2-113th IN BN Soldiers remained strong as they completed this event and moved on to the next phase.
The fitness test! The physical fitness portion involved a 1000 meter sprint, 11 repetitions of 12 meter sprints with each service member required to drop flat on their stomach clapping their hands behind them and popping back up in between each completed repetition, and lastly a chin up hang in which Soldiers must hold their chin above the bar for as long as possible without dropping. Based on the results of this, service members are placed into bronze, silver or gold standings that determines the category they would be participating in throughout the rest of the course.
Day two, the swim and the fitness test is complete and it is now time to stand the test of time, heat, strength, endurance and of course more heat. Soldiers stood on the starting line at 7:00pm with ruck sacks on their backs and a heat index of 94 degrees. Requirements of the road march are 3.75 miles in 1 hour for bronze, 5.6 miles in 1 hour and 30 minutes for silver and 7.46 miles in 2 hours for gold. As each service member stepped off one by one, bodies were immediately drenched in sweat as waves of hot thick air blew back in their faces. Each step taken was motivated by the desire to reach the next water checkpoint. As the night went on, the heat held its ground as service members crossed the finish line one by one. Bronze came in first. Then silver. Now gold! The road march was complete.
The last of the three days arrived and it was now time for the M9 range qualification course. Service members packed onto a bus at Camp Lemonnier and drove 2 hours to Arta range in Arta, Djibouti. As the trucks arrived outside the range, service members stepped out staring up at a small hill lined with a cliff overlooking the water. The range was on the other side. They started to trek up the rocky pathway and along the ridge, eventually arriving at their destination. Paper targets blew around by heavy winds coming off the water as service members took aim and fired away. Bullets filled many silhouettes while others took with the wind. The GAFB is complete.
The starting ten 2-113th IN BN Soldiers stood at the finish line of the award ceremony ready to receive their badges for bronze, silver and gold levels. German officer, LT Ernst Haft pinned each Soldier with a smile as he shook their hands, proudly congratulating them for taking part in the GAFB. Courses like this not only provide the opportunity for service members to challenge their combat readiness capabilities, but work in continuing to strengthen the respect and bond between the United States military and one of our foreign military partners. At the end of the ceremony LT Haft smiled as he thanked our military, “Thank you for having me and allowing me to challenge all of you. And if you didn’t get gold, you should come out and try again. Some of you struggled a bit, but it’s like I said, just keep moving!”