By Jennifer Villaume
Baton Rouge Recruiting Battalion
May 27, 2017
CAMP VILLERE, SLIDELL, La. - Thirty-nine Baton Rouge Recruiting Battalion Soldiers competed for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency here April 25-26.
The Soldiers' agility, endurance, strength and mental toughness were put to the test in several timed events: a basic fitness test, first aid test, pistol marksmanship, a 100-meter swim in full uniform, and a 7.46-mile ruck march carrying 33 pounds.
"They are all professional Soldiers who are all trying to do their very best to earn their badge," said Command Sgt. Maj. Uwe Liner, a Sergeants Majors Academy instructor who administered the qualification.
Soldiers competed for different reasons, including for the desire to develop and hone Soldier skills and the right to wear the badge on their uniforms. This badge is one of the few approved foreign awards a U.S. Soldier can wear on his uniform.
"A competition like this builds esprit de corps and confidence," said Baton Rouge Recruiting Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Perez. "It is a testament to the level of Soldiers in this battalion to have over 30 percent compete."
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Manwarren, Philadelphia (Mississippi) Recruiting Center, said in this competition, Soldiers actually compete against themselves.
"We do not get to test ourselves this way very often and hone our Soldier skills," Manwarren said. "It is about self-development and self-improvement, and I wanted to prove to myself that I still have what it takes to compete."
Soldiers had to swim 100 meters in full uniform in under four minutes and remove all outer garments down to their swimwear while continuing to tread water before exiting the pool in order to pass the swim test.
"The events were definitely extremely challenging," said Manwarren, who earned a silver badge. "I definitely had to dig deep especially on the ruck march and the 100-meter swim."
Staff Sgt. Jayson Ingram, Cortana (Louisiana) Recruiting Center, who earned a silver badge, wanted to prove to himself he could still make the cut.
"I decided to compete because it was something that I let all my Soldiers do when I was on the line, and now I had a chance to do it," Ingram said.
Infantryman and Jackson Company Commander Capt. John Helmers earned a gold badge.
In (the United States Army Recruiting Command), we don't get many opportunities to go to the field or spend time outside," Helmers said. "I enjoy competing in these events because it challenges me and my recruiters to improve not only as leaders in the Army but as individual Soldiers."
Staff Sgt. Harry Weaver, Oxford (Mississippi) Recruiting Center, said he was glad to have the opportunity to compete in this event.
"I have long heard about it but never had an opportunity to compete," Weaver said. "I think the most difficult event was the 10 x 11 sprint test of the fitness test, as I was not accustomed to starting each sprint in the prone position."
The event also tested the Soldiers' mental resiliency, character and grit determination.
"I have not worn a rucksack in over 12 years, and it was 85 degrees and not a cloud in the sky when we did this march," said Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Willamson, Bossier City (Louisiana) Recruiting Center, who earned a gold badge. "Then accidently going about a half mile the wrong way, we had to overcome losing motivation of having to now go over eight miles. I felt like I truly accomplished something in my career."
Everyone in the formation earned a medal. The top finishers in each category received a German Armed Forces coin for excellence.