My friend Mad Max back in my last assingment in Germany had the good fortune to meet a man named Giro, a ranger in the Bundeswehr (the German Army). Giro introduced Mad Max and our squadron to the German Military Efficiency Badge (GMEB) program. Despite the name, anyone in the military could enter the program. In order to earn this badge, one had to participate in three days’ worth of events. The order of events wasn’t necessarily important. The three events essentially were a sports day, a shooting day, and a foot march.
Several folks from our squadron earned the badge in mid-2005. I wanted to get in, but the program days seemed to always fall on days when I was TDY, or on a weekend that I didn’t want to lose with Christina. Mad Max mentioned that civilians could participate in sports day and earn the German Sports Badge (below left). So finally in November Christina and I took a Saturday and we participated.
To qualify for the GMEB, one had to earn the German Sports Badge. You had to qualify in five different sports categories. Everyone had to perform a 200 meter swim within a certain time. The time requirement (for this and all swimming or running events) depended on gender and age*. Afterward, we planned to go to a gymnasium and knock out the high jump, then go outside to a track to run the 100m dash, the 3K run, and throw the shot-put.
I initially had some concern about the swim. I was a blazingly mediocre swimmer back on the high school team, and the last time I swam laps was 1999, and that was only two or three times while I was at Laughlin AFB. I hopped in, warmed up, and ultimately finished in somewhat under three minutes (well below the seven minute limit). Christina had never swum competitively, so she elected to forego the 200m swim. I felt good enough about that that I went ahead and performed the 50m and 1000m events, passing each of them easily (as I recall, I finished the 1K in under 23 minutes). I had qualified in three of five events, so I was feeling pretty good. I think Christina did swim the 50m and passed that.
Life is never quite so simple. Since I used to dive better than I swam in high school, and since I had tried high jump back in high school, I figured that event would be a piece of cake. I ended up being one of only two people that day (out of around 30) who couldn’t jump high enough to qualify. Fortunately the alternate event for the high jump was the running long jump, which after six attempts I finally passed. Christina easily made her high-jump goal. I did throw a qualifying shot-put, mostly because I’d never thrown before and wanted to try it.
Both Christina and I made our 100m dash times, although after over 20 attempts at the high jump, I hit my time exactly. Had I been one tenth of a second slower, I wouldn’t have made it, and I didn’t have the energy to go faster a second time! Could I have made the 400m dash time? Probably not. I may have been able to make the 1,000m run, but that would really have been tempting fate. I find it unusual that I can go without swimming for six years and then go 1,000m with plenty of time to spare, but I can run every week and still have trouble.
To cap the day, I wanted to run with Christina while she completed the womens’ 2,000m run and go on to see how well I’d do at the mens’ 3,000m run. I was so worn out, I couldn’t keep up with Christina, and I didn’t even make the womens’ 2,000m run time. Lucky for me, it didn’t matter. I’d finished the Sports Day. Christina finished most of the events, so we’re looking for an opportunity for her to do her 200m swim and earn her badge.
As my tour in Germany drew to a close, Mad Max found a Friday and Saturday and put together the shooting and foot march events on my last weekend before I had to leave for my TDY. I have to say, it certainly is nice to have friends who’ll arrange a squadron schedule around you!
On Friday, 7 Apr, a bunch of my squadron mates, half a company of Army soldiers from various units, a platoon’s worth of Bundeswehr soldiers and I rolled out to the Wackernheim range. We got to shoot 15 rounds with the German’s HK P8 pistol (link to US site) (a rather nice piece with better sights than the M9 Beretta that we use in the US armed forces), it was a fairly short-range set, all 15 shots were at 10 meters. Some of the folks got to shoot the MG3 machine gun (due to a comedy of errors, the Army folks brought tracer rounds to the range, which were not authorized for use. One might think the Army would know what kinds of ammo they could take to their own ranges, but one would be wrong). I had to forego the opportunity to shoot the MG-3, and in any case, I’d fired the US M60 back in my ROTC days, so it wasn’t a huge loss. We all shot 20 rounds from the Germans’ H&K MG36 assault rifle at 100m. I hit 100% with the pistol, and 95% with the rifle. The holographic aimpoint on the rifle was set for the rifle’s owner, not for me, and as a result, I was shooting high and right, and I failed to make the required adjustment for one of the shots, and just missed the target sillouhete’s left shoulder. In any case, I qualified* for the Schuetzenschur at the gold level, and had a good time on the range.
The following day, many of the same folks that shot yesterday showed up for the foot march. The folks who organized the event picked a mercifully flat stretch of 15 kilometers along the scenic Rhein River for us to walk along. We all had to carry 10 kilograms (22 pounds) in a backpack, we had to be in uniform, and we had to meet a time goal*. It turned out to be a really nice, mild day. The weather and terrain really could not have been better. I went to sign in with one of the attendants, who advised me that based on my age, I had to complete 25 km within 4 hours and 10 minutes to qualify for the gold GMEB. I actually thought I’d be able to run much of the way, and go the full 30 km, but at about the 10 km point, blisters started taking their toll on my enthusiasm, and I simply walked out the required 25 km. I finished with about 20 minutes to spare. I scored one gold GMEB!
I drove home with some sore feet and walked with a slight limp for the next three days, but meeting the challenge made my entire week. I owe a huge thanks to Mad Max for setting everything up, to friends who made the experience more fun, and to Christina for sparing me for a couple of Saturdays to get this knocked out!
*For anyone interested, I found a li
nk to Texas Christian University’s ROTC page. Some time ago the cadets apparently participated in the GMEB. Click here for the Sports Badge qualification requirements. Click here for the GMEB qualification standards. Or click on the images.