Christian Groom was one of four Maranatha cadets who competed to earn the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency. Groom retells the story from his perspective below.
The badge is awarded by the German army to those who have demonstrated competence in soldier skills, achieving standards set by the German army. United States soldiers may wear it on their dress uniform. The badge can be awarded in gold, silver, or bronze. Four Maranatha cadets—Robert Truax, Michelle Kramlich, Elijah Walters, and Christian Groom—competed for three days alongside several hundred other cadets at the University of Western Illinois. All four met and exceeded the gold badge standards.
Day one consisted of a variety of track and field events to measure speed, endurance, explosiveness, and upper-body strength. The events included long jump, high jump, shot put, 100-meter dash, 400 dash, 1,000 run, 3,000 run, 5,000 run, and bench press. Many competitors did not meet the required standards and were soon dropped from competition. Day two consisted of swimming and a pistol shoot. The swim events (200 and 1,000 meters) measured upper-body strength, endurance, and stamina. The pistol shoot was performed with a 9-mm Beretta M9, the primary United States Armed Forces service pistol. Competitors are required to hit their target five out of five times at a 25-meter distance. Day three consisted of a 7.5-mile ruck march with a 45-pound rucksack and full gear. All competitors had to complete the ruck march within two hours.
The Command Sergeant Major of the German Army, who oversaw the event, awarded the badges. All four Maranatha cadets received official Army authorization to wear the badges on their dress uniforms. The competition was a great opportunity to push the physical limits, meet comrades, and earn a respected military award.