News: Arizona Guard member earns elite infantry status
Story by Sgt. Lauren Twigg
PHOENIX - An Arizona Army National Guard member recently earned the prestigious Expert Infantryman Badge at Fort Bliss, Texas, during the weeklong EIB qualification course.
With more than 19 years of service, 1st Sgt. Justin Zulueta, from Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment, felt it was time to assert himself as an expert in his field.
“The EIB is the expert Infantryman Badge and I’m a senior noncommissioned officer, and would like to consider myself an expert in my profession,” Zulueta said. “It certainly seemed time to prove it.”
In the Arizona Guard’s history, nobody from the infantry has made this achievement in nearly 10 years due to time constraints with deployments, said Command Sgt. Maj. Fidel Zamora Jr., battalion command sergeant major for the 1-158th Infantry Regiment.
“Considering 1st Sgt. Zulueta had very little train up time, this is a very impressive achievement and one he should definitely be proud of,” Zamora said. “There is a very small community of infantry soldiers that have the EIB and the testing is very selective. Earning the badge sets you apart from your peers, because not everyone is going to get it.”
The course, consisting of 63 evaluated tasks, places soldiers in a number of physical and mental tests to determine overall infantryman expertise.
Anyone wishing to compete must be focused, dedicated and motivated, Zamora said. “The technical and tactical proficiency is important but your attitude plays a big part in earning the badge.”
The trial begins with an Army physical fitness test where participants must score 75 percent or better in each event. Over the next four days and nights, soldiers complete a land navigation course, while testing on various infantry skills, and finally, finishing a 12-mile road march within three hours.
“Any soldier who has participated in an EIB knows how challenging the testing really is, and among infantrymen, it’s a sign of competence if you successfully earn the badge,” Zulueta said. “Some infantrymen wear their EIBs rather than their Combat Infantryman Badges, as they consider it more difficult to earn.”
Out of more than 500 soldiers from across the country who tried to earn the badge during this event, only 15 made the cut. When Zulueta crossed the finish line of the 12-mile road march, he knew he would be a part of the 15 esteemed.
“There was incredible relief when I survived the last day of testing. I went into the road march feeling good and it was a fast and easy 12 miles for me,” Zulueta said. “It was the most tremendous feeling knowing I made it – I was grinning like a kid on Christmas morning.”
Living up to the infantry’s motto “Follow Me,” Zulueta paves the way for other Arizona infantrymen.
“If a semi-crusty senior NCO, who by nature doesn’t get behind the equipment and weapons as much as he would like, can earn this badge, hopefully all of the state’s infantrymen will know the goal is attainable if they want it,” Zulueta said.
Zulueta’s unit plans to have their own EIB course later in the year to test all of their infantrymen’s skills and to inspire others to reach for this prestigious honor.
“We want to give all of our soldiers the opportunity to achieve this great feat in their careers,” Zamora said.