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Soldiers compete for badge

Bloomington Herald-Times
by Marcela Creps
February 18, 2007

Their feet thundering, a group of six cadets raced around the track inside Indiana University Fieldhouse.

Knowing each cadet had to meet a certain time, spectators shouted words of encouragement.

"Hurry up," one yelled as the pack ran by.

On Saturday, 150 cadets and even a few of their commanding officers attempted to earn the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency.

The group started with a 200-meter swim and first aid test before making its way to the fieldhouse. Inside, competitors did the long jump, high jump, shot put and 400-meter dash. The day would end with a 5-kilometer run.

Those who successfully competed Saturday's events will compete today in a pistol event and road march.

Even with a group of cheerleaders practicing in the east end of the building, the group managed to stay on task without getting too distracted.

"They've been briefed to pay them no mind," said Capt. Bruce Baltis, Indiana University ROTC training officer.

As an alternative to the shot put, some competitors chose the stone throw. Sgt. Major Karl-Heinz Grenzebach, a liaison from the German Armed Forces explained to Cadet Kevin Wright to throw the stone twice, once with each hand with a goal of 8.5 meters total between both throws.

"It's very easy," Grenzebach said.

Wright wasn't so easily convinced.

"I'll bet it goes like two feet and rolls back on my foot somehow," Wright said.

After throwing with his right for 5 meters and 2 centimeters, Wright had little confidence in his ability to throw with his left hand.

"Now this is the one that will go two feet," he said before throwing it four meters.

"Wow, it's a lot easier than I thought," Wright said before he moved on to another event.

Baltis said the event is rare for the area and was thankful that Emily Ward and Chuck Crabb allowed them to use the fieldhouse.

"They have been very helpful and supportive of our efforts," Baltsis said.

Because the event is so rare, Cadet Leslie Cuma came from the University of Southern Indiana to compete despite having been sick last week. Her attempts to earn the badge came up a little short. In fact, she was about an inch short.

"I didn't make the long jump," she said with a fellow cadet telling her she was within an inch of qualifying.

Cuma said she felt nervous about making the trip, but it was an opportunity she couldn't miss.

"That's why even if you don't feel top-notch, you might as well come here and try," she said.

Sgt. First Class John Wieland is Training NCO at IUPUI and was competing with six of his cadets. At 39 years of age, Wieland was among the small group of older competitors.

"If someone sees you doing something, that sets a much better example," Wieland said.

The standards for each competitor are different depending on sex and age, but Wieland admitted that helped a little.

"It takes me longer to make toast," he said.

As Grenzebach watched and spoke to competitors, he said it was unbelievable the number of soldiers participating in the event.

"It's a great opportunity," he said. "For me, it is an investment in the future of the German-American partnership."