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JBLM Soldiers earn elite German badges

20th Public Affairs Detachment

Published: 03:55PM June 19th, 2014

Networking can lead to mentorship opportunities or even new jobs.

For two sergeants major, networking led to a unique training opportunity for more than 200 Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Soldiers with 62nd Medical Brigade, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command hosted a qualification event for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency in which U.S. Soldiers took on a foreign challenge.

To earn the badge, candidates pass the German Basic Fitness Test, a 100-meter swim, pistol qualification, first-aid test and foot march. They must also protect themselves during a chemical attack.

German Army Sgt. Maj. Mike Kitzler and U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Arnold Hill met as students at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy in Fort Bliss, Texas. They stayed in touch after graduating in 2013.

Hill earned his German military proficiency badge after 10 years in the Army. He told Kitzler he wanted to bring the challenge to junior Soldiers, and the two started coordinating the event.

Kitzler, assigned to the German military liaison staff in the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., said qualifying for the badge fosters strong character traits in soldiers of any nationality.

“At first, you build confidence in yourself. Then you have trust in your leaders when they lead by example and participate in this competition,” Kitzler said.

The qualification presented U.S. candidates with new challenges like the 100-meter swim test.

While Kitzler was the only foreign military service member present, 1st Sgt. Sandro Vazquez, a badge candidate with the Warrior Transition Battalion, Madigan Army Medical Center, said the qualification allowed U.S. Soldiers to empathize with German troops.

“They gain a little more respect for other cultures and the way they perform,” Vazquez said.

The challenge also allows leaders — from senior NCOs like Vazquez to physicians at Madigan — the opportunity to show their Soldiers they have what it takes to win.

“Soldiers want to be you when they grow up. And the only way they will want to be you is if you demonstrate, as you mature, that you’ve still got it,” Hill said.

Kitzler hopes Hill will soon be able to see firsthand how the German military trains its junior and senior enlisted leaders.