Saratoga County

Soldiers to test selves at Saratoga battleground

U.S. Army soldiers will invade the Saratoga National Historical Park next month in a quest to gain a

U.S. Army soldiers will invade the Saratoga National Historical Park next month in a quest to gain a German Armed Forces proficiency medal.

The Saratoga battlefield park in Stillwater, where American soldiers defeated the British on Oct. 17, 1777, in the Revolutionary War Battles of Saratoga, will host 100 regular Army and Army Reserve soldiers on Oct. 17.

Even with the training, officials said, the national park on Route 4 and Route 32 will remain open for visitors that day.

The soldiers, some from local reserve units and some from as far away as New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, will attempt to complete a rigorous, 18-mile marching test to earn the German proficiency badge.

“It’s issued by the German Armed forces,” said Andy Entwistle, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion in Albany. He said a representative of the German Army will observe, grade and certify the results of the testing.

Many of the soldiers come from the U.S. Army Albany Recruiting Battalion, whose area includes much of upstate New York, Vermont and other New England states. The battalion is coordinating the event.

Entwistle said the German Army badge or medal is one of the few foreign awards that can be worn on a U.S. soldier’s dress uniform and is highly sought.

The proficiency testing includes running, jumping, swimming, first aid and shooting a handgun. The only event to be held at the National Park will be the final test, the road march.

The soldiers will be wearing full field uniform, combat boots and a backpack weighing at least 22 pounds. They will be timed during a march on battlefield park roads and trails.

The march will be anywhere from nine to 18 miles, depending on the soldier’s age. Soldiers from their early 20s to over 40 will be participating in the three-day event concluding at the National Historical Park.

“The Army requested to hold this event at Saratoga battlefield to provide a historic context to one of the first American victories that had global implications,” said Joseph Finan, superintendent of the Saratoga National Historical Park.

“We’re honored that Saratoga battlefield could provide them a distinctive place to reflect and garner energy from the valor displayed by men and women in 1777,” Finan said in a statement.

“It is our hope that this setting will inspire these soldiers and instill pride in their service,” he said.

The other events will be held in Cohoes and Watervliet on Oct. 15 and 16. The soldiers will sleep in tents near the Watervliet Arsenal during the proficiency testing.

The German Armed Forces proficiency badge was established in 1972 as a decoration of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Allied soldiers of any rank may also be awarded the badge.

Entwistle said that German Army Sgt. Major Karl-Heinz Grenzebach, a German Army liaison assigned to Fort Knox, Ky., will supervise and grade the unusual event.

The badge has three grades — grade III (gold), grade II (silver) and grade I (bronze). The grade awarded is determined by the results of the marksmanship score, using a 9mm pistol, and the road march time and distance.

All the other events must be completed satisfactorily, including a first aid test to be done at the Watervliet Arsenal.

“We expect 100 soldiers to be actively participating,” Entwistle said. He said another 100 soldiers from the recruiting battalion will be acting in support of these soldiers during the three days of testing.

The entire program will conclude at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Great Redoubt at the national park where the successful soldiers will receive their medals.

Categories: Schenectady County

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