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An Airman’s evolution

An U.S. Army Soldier fires a 9 mm Beretta automatic pistol in the standing unsupported position during the German Armed Forces Badge for military Proficiency event at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Nov. 4, 2016. The pistol exercise is one of six GAFPB events, members fire two bullets performing three different shooting positions, aiming to hit the target. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Daylena S. Ricks)

A Soldier fires a 9 mm Beretta automatic pistol in the standing unsupported position during the German Armed Forces Badge for military proficiency event at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Nov. 4, 2016. The pistol exercise is one of six GAFPB events; members fire two bullets performing three different shooting positions, aiming to hit the target. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Daylena S. Ricks)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Stahl, Air Combat Command, Heritage of America Band bassoonist, dons a gas mask and checks seal during the German Armed Forces Badge for military Proficiency event at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Nov. 2, 2016.  The GAFPB includes a pass or fail nuclear, biological, chemical evaluation of donning a protective mask within nine seconds.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Daylena S. Ricks)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Stahl, an Air Combat Command Heritage of America Band bassoonist, dons a gas mask and checks seal during the German Armed Forces Badge for military Proficiency event at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Nov. 2, 2016. The GAFPB includes a pass or fail nuclear, biological, chemical evaluation of donning a protective mask within nine seconds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Daylena S. Ricks)

U.S. Air Force Airmen, U.S. Army Soldiers, U.S. Navy Sailors put on their rucks for the road march during the German Armed Forces Badge for military Proficiency event at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Nov. 3, 2016.  The GAFPB road march is based on completion time and distance.  To earn gold in this event the member must march 12 kilometers within 120 minutes, silver, nine kilometer within 90 minutes, bronze, six kilometers within 60 minutes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Katherine Ward)

U.S. Air Force Airmen, U.S. Army Soldiers, U.S. Navy Sailors put on their rucks for the road march during the German Armed Forces Badge for military proficiency event at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Nov. 3, 2016. The GAFPB road march is based on completion time and distance. To earn gold in this event the member must march 12 kilometers within 120 minutes, silver, nine kilometer within 90 minutes, bronze, six kilometers within 60 minutes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Katherine Ward)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (AFNS) -- Swimming has never been a problem for me in the past, but this time was different.

As I walked out of the locker room and saw the line of Soldiers and Sailors waiting and watching as fellow participants struggled to complete the swim, a feeling of anxiousness started to overwhelm me.

I’ve never had to swim in full uniform. I also had physical training gear on underneath, because not only was I supposed to swim 100 meters, I also had to shed my battle uniform in the deep end of the pool while treading water.

“What have I gotten myself into?” I thought. Then it was my turn.

I jumped in and the proctor yelled, “Graders ready? Participants ready? Go!”

I took a deep breath and went under. As I pushed off the wall, all those negative feelings went away.

This test was just one of several at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, that was required for Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors to earn the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge.

The badge is a symbol that the recipient met standards set forth by the German military in physical fitness, marksmanship and first aid; designated through bronze, silver and gold achievement levels.

Joint Base Langley-Eustis hosted a qualification program Nov. 1-4, for approximately 50 participants.

When my supervisor brought the opportunity to earn the badge to me, I was excited because it gave me a chance to challenge myself physically and mentally.

The beginning

The GAFPB program was comprised of a series of evolutions spread over four days that tested a participant’s physical and mental stamina.

Day 1 entailed the initial fitness test that would determine what level I could qualify for. The test involved an sprints, flexed-arm hang and a 1,000-meter run.

Day 2 started with a written test on first-aid knowledge, then we moved into a “go or no-go” test of donning a gas mask within nine seconds. After the gas mask test, all participants headed to the Anderson Field House pool and completed the 100-meter swim and de-robe evolution.

On the third day, I had to face the most intimidating evolution by far -- the road march with a 35-pound ruck.

The road march

In my short military career, I never attempted a road march, so I had no idea how to pace myself, when I should run or walk, or how fast I needed to go. With the blow of a whistle the march started. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I just fell behind the rest.

As I made it to the first turnaround, I had banded with an Army specialist and sergeant major whom helped push me. They made sure I would finish the nine kilometers in the one hour and 30 minute time limit allowed to earn silver.

The specialist would call out the time, distance and pace we were going. Knowing the time and distance helped mentally when I started to feel the blister on my foot and the muscles in my legs burned. All I wanted to do was walk in, but having the two Soldiers next to me pushing me to run was a tremendous motivational factor.

An Airman evolved

The final day was pistol qualification. In order to qualify for bronze, I had to hit all three targets at least once. For silver, I had to have five shots on target. Luckily for me, I am a pretty good shot.

Even though I doubted my ability to complete all evolutions to earn the GAFPB bronze, silver or gold, I felt I did exceptionally well. While the final results are still pending, I’m anticipating silver.

I also learned the type of people that are in the Army. No matter what the situation is, they will be there to help and keep motivating a fellow service member.

After this experience, not only will I have earned the GAFPB, I’ve also gained valuable insights about myself and my career. No matter the situation, learning to overcome self-doubt, pushing myself to physical limits, and trusting Wingmen or Battle Buddies will help me achieve whatever I set my mind to.

Engage

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