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Service members earn German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge

Staff Sgt. Sara Kolinski, 104th Fighter Wing public affairs specialist, swims during the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge event Sept. 9, 2021, at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. Participants were tested over a three-day period on swimming, a ruck march, marksmanship, a fitness assessment, and more.

Staff Sgt. Sara Kolinski, 104th Fighter Wing public affairs specialist, swims during the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge event Sept. 9, 2021, at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. Participants were tested over a three-day period on swimming, a ruck march, marksmanship, a fitness assessment, and more.

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Eight Airmen with the Massachusetts Air National Guard's 104th Fighter Wing tested their military proficiency to try to earn the German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge Sept. 9-11.

"Competing at the GAFPB was an awesome experience," said Staff Sgt. Sara Kolinski, 104th Fighter Wing public affairs specialist. "It's a great opportunity to push yourself and see what you are capable of. Crossing over the finish line after the ruck on the last day is such a satisfying feeling."

Depending on their scores, competitors earn the honor of wearing the gold, silver or bronze GAFPB, one of the few foreign awards U.S. service members are authorized to wear on their uniforms.

Chief Master Sgt. Brett Barbee, 104th Fighter Wing command chief, and Kolinski earned gold. Chief Master Sgt. Kyle Kiepke, Senior Master Sgt. Chris Byrne and Staff Sgt. Griffin Moore earned silver. Senior Airman Cody Fongemie earned the bronze badge.

"I couldn't have done it without the other 104 FW members that were there with me," said Kolinski. "Having a team of Barnestormers from all different sections was the best part."

Throughout the event, participants completed an 11 x 10-meter sprint test, flexed arm hang test, 1,000-meter run, 100-meter swim in uniform, and a road march while wearing a weighted rucksack. They were also assessed on first aid, nuclear biological and chemical mission-oriented protective posture proficiency, and completed a pistol qualifications test.

Senior Airman Ivan Villavincencio, 104th Security Forces Squadron defender, helped proctor the NBC proficiency test and the pistol marksmanship event.

"The members of the 104th did really well," said Villavincenio. "During the events I was able to see, they seemed to be doing great and be having a blast."

Villavincencio earned the gold badge when he competed in 2020. He said pushing yourself is rewarding no matter the outcome.

"Personally, I feel the benefit and value lies in the intangibles," Villavincencio said. "More so than any badge, certificate, or recognition is the unexplainable feeling one has of accomplishment."

Kolinski and Villavincencio both said Airmen should try to earn the GAFPB.

"The GAFPB is an event that helps Airmen develop as individuals and hone many values instilled by the Air Force such as perseverance, teamwork and resilience," said Kolinski. "It also helps build confidence and presents competitors with a challenge that, although difficult, can be overcome."

Kolinski competed in 2020 and received the silver badge. She was able to display those values of perseverance and resilience by competing for a second time this year. She said she could not have done it without the help of the other Barnestormers.

"I'm beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to compete this year and achieve what I strived for," said Kolinski. "Although we each earned badges individually, we ended the competition as a team."
 

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