News: 10 ‘Dragons’ survive brutal test, receive Expert Infantryman Badge
Story by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti — The Dragons of the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division accomplished another “first” in U.S. Army history.
The 1-63rd CAB, which was the first active Army battalion to conduct the Regionally Aligned Forces initiative in the Horn of Africa, also became the first unit to conduct an Expert Infantryman Badge qualification in Africa.
Despite the unit’s high operations tempo and hefty training schedule, the battalion commander, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jason A. Wolter, ensured soldiers in his battalion didn’t miss out on any professional developmental opportunities. Wolter’s goals included conducting pre-ranger training, pre-joint forward observer training for his field artillery Soldiers, an Excellence in Armor course for his tankers, and the EIB course.
The EIB course has several events that candidates must complete to earn their badge. First, soldiers must qualify as an expert with their primary weapon, the M4 carbine. Then they must complete an Army physical fitness test with a minimum score of 75 points in each event.
Once the soldiers have finished the weapons qualification and fitness test, they complete day and night land navigation courses followed by three timed areas where they are evaluated in numerous infantry tasks designed to test their ability to shoot, move, communicate and survive.
At this point, the infantrymen, who successfully completed each event, must endure their last test, a 12-mile road march carrying 35 pounds in less than three hours.
Those who pass all of the events earn the right to wear the coveted badge.
U.S. Army Capt. Richard Karmann III, the battalion operations officer, said an event like this takes a lot of time to set up and there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting together an EIB course.
“The battalion staff received guidance and support from the battalion’s EIB committee, which was comprised of soldiers within the battalion who previously earned their badge,” Karmann said. “Their hard work ensured all the rules were followed and the Dragons were allowed to conduct the course.”
Day One began with 171 eager soldiers who were ready to test their skills and abilities to see if they could earn the right to wear the badge.
Of the original group of 171 candidates, only 100 successfully completed the fitness test. Those eliminated during the fitness portion did not meet the EIB standard, which is higher than the Army standard, but most failures were attributed to the 103-degree heat index, Karmann said.
Another 60 soldiers dropped out during the land navigation course as the heat index climbed to a sweltering 122 degrees, and only 18 made it through the rest of the events to the final day.
The last event was the 12-mile road march, which began at 2 a.m. to avoid the hottest part of the day. Despite the early start, the heat was still a factor for the candidates and an additional eight soldiers fell out of course.
When the sun finally peeked over the horizon on the final day only 10 infantrymen met the high standards of the qualification.
“I am proud to have earned my EIB on my first attempt,” said 2nd Lt. Brian England, one of the newest recipients of the badge. “The EIB was especially difficult due to the extreme heat during the road march, which tests your physical and mental endurance and your dedication.”
The soldiers who received the EIB were: 2nd Lt. Brian England, 2nd Lt. Douglas Gain, Sgt. Joshua Hone, Sgt. Colton Johnson, Spc. Brandon Furlow, Pfc. Jose Castro, Pfc. Santos Iglesias, Spc. Sebastion Restrepo-Orozco, Pfc. Bradley Snell and Pvt. Matthew Munson.