FORT HOOD, Texas – It began in 1944, the Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall initiated the development of an award to honor the infantryman of our U.S. Army: the Expert Infantryman Badge.
The competition began with 412 infantrymen and finished with only 32 awardees.
After day one, consisting of the PT test and night and day land navigation, there was about a 90 percent drop in participants, said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Moore, a soldier assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop “Hammer” of the Ironhorse Brigade, and the representative for the competition. He added that such a drop is normal.
“The significant drop is normal, we lost 191 on the PT test and another 120 on the land navigation,” Moore said.
The Army requires at least 60 percent in the push-up, sit-up and run events to pass a PT test. The competition requires 75 percent in each event to proceed to the next phase of EIB. The land navigation portion required intense attention to detail and accountability.
“If they didn’t plot their grid properly or got the wrong grid, if they lost any piece of equipment, compass, protractor, score card, the plastic bag it went into, the Soldier was disqualified,” stated Moore. “What it taught them was attention to detail and accountability. That’s what (the EIB is) attention to detail. If we aren’t paying attention and we rush somebody gets hurt.”
Day two started with 101 soldiers and the squad training exercises which lasted three days and disqualified 69 more soldiers.
The STX lanes consisted of many different events, including: call-for-fire, first aid, function checks and assembling of weapons, map reading and detaining prisoners.
“This is a competition that takes a lot of heart,” Moore said. “As an infantryman you have to learn to accomplish the mission at all costs.”
The final event was a 12-mile ruck march, with all 32 remaining Soldiers completing the EIB test.
“The last mile felt awesome, because at about mile nine, I started to feel cramps in my quadriceps,” said new EIB holder, Sgt. Jonathon Morales, an infantryman also assigned to Hammer Troop. “So, when I finally got up to that last mile I was like, ‘you know what, one mile. One mile is not that far.’ So I just jogged through it and got it done. I was very glad, very relieved to finish it.”
Because of the high failure rate, when a soldier receives their badge it leaves in them a high sense of accomplishment.
“When you go down range, every (infantryman) is awarded the opportunity to earn the (combat infantry badge), you aren’t really graded on the skill or knowledge you have,” Morales said. “The EIB takes a lot of patience, a lot of knowledge and skill to get tested and undergo the pressure and succeed. It means a lot to me because not everyone has one.”