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The cadets lined up at the start line, poised and ready. Bang! As the gun fired a blank, the cadets exploded into action, sprinting for the 100-meter line.
On March 1 and 2 cadets from eight schools across Utah gathered to earn the coveted German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge. To earn the badge, cadets were tested in a variety of skills, including pistol marksmanship, swimming, shot put, high jump, long jump, sprinting and running. The event ended with a 12-kilometer road march with cadets carrying a 33-pound backpack.
In order to earn the badge, an officer from the German Armed Forces must oversee the event. Lt. Col. Dewey Boberg, director of the BYU Army ROTC, coordinated with the German Liaison Officer at West Point for the event.
“The event allows us to build camaraderie internationally,” Boberg said. “It also pushes cadets and soldiers out of their comfort zone. They develop skills in other areas; they are well-rounded because of the experience.”
The badge is unique because few foreign badges are permitted on U.S. Army and Air Force dress uniforms. The opportunity is so rare that a few National Guard soldiers also participated to earn the badge.
The badge was more common when the U.S. military had a heavy presence in Germany. Opportunities to earn the badge have become rare since the U.S. began pulling out of Germany in the 1990s.
Bryan Reil is one of BYU’s Air Force cadets who earned the badge. Reil spent about three weeks preparing for the event with other Air Force cadets. The badge is rare in the Army, and more so in the Air Force.
“I had a couple friends in the Air Force program that have done it, and they said it was a blast, so that’s why I (did) it,” Reil said. “It looks cool on the uniform too, so why not?”
Hyrum Dean, a freshman Army ROTC cadet, participated in the event. Dean was already a swimmer, but appreciated the opportunity to develop more skills and meet cadets from other schools.
“It’s good to see a bunch of different cadets and get to meet other people from different schools,” Dean said. “I’m pretty excited to see us all together and trying to cheer each other on and trying to achieve the same goal.”
Participants who passed all events earned a gold, silver or bronze badge. Out of 134 participants, 80 were awarded the gold German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge. For those who did not pass all events, they have one month to make up the event for a silver or bronze badge.