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    101st AIRBORNE DIVISION: Taking the challenge 101st Soldiers test skills for Expert Infantryman Badge

    101st AIRBORNE DIVISION: Taking the challenge  101st Soldiers test skills for Expert Infantryman Badge

    Photo By Sgt. James Griffin | 2nd Lt. Zachary Mohr, Infantryman, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Infantry...... read more read more

    101st AIRBORNE DIVISION: Taking the challenge
    101st Soldiers test skills for Expert Infantryman Badge
    Sgt. James M. Griffin 1st Brigade Combat Team
    One day in 1944, 100 noncommissioned officers assigned to the 100th Infantry Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were selected to compete in three days of physically and mentally challenging testing to determine the Army’s first expert infantryman.
    At the end of the three-day test, only 10 infantrymen remained. Those 10 went before a panel of officers who decided which would be the first expert infantryman. On March 29, 1944, Tech. Sgt. Walter Bull became that Soldier.
    The Expert Infantryman Badge is a symbol of excellence and dedication. Soldiers from 101st Airborne Division, 82nd Airborne Division, 3rd Infantry Division, and units across the Army entered the Expert Infantryman Badge crucible Oct. 22-26 to prove they had what it takes to be called an expert infantryman. For Spc. Clark Sebastian Jones, infantryman, D Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Abn. Div., this was the kind of challenge he was looking forward to.
    “Just being here and having that experience and being able to train,” Jones said. “That’s what I like, I like to challenge myself.”
    On day one, the candidates formed up on the wet grass of Johnson Field in the cold early morning hours for the expert physical fitness assessment. The assessment included two minutes of push-ups, sit-ups and a 4-mile run in 32 minutes or less.
    Jones blazed through the push-ups and sit-ups, but felt anxious about the run. So he found a fellow candidate and friend who runs much faster than he does and stuck with him for the whole 4 miles.
    “We got through the run with two minutes to spare,” Jones said. “And I had never run a 4-mile [run] that fast. So that right there was accomplish all in itself. I was super proud of myself.”
    Second Lieutenant Victoria Oliver, infantryman, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Abn. Div., also was among the candidates who survived day one.
    Oliver was making her second attempt for the badge.
    “The Expert Infantryman Badge, to me, is a course that makes you better as an infantryman,” Oliver said. “Especially as an officer.”
    Following the physical fitness assessment, the candidates were given a short break for breakfast and to prepare for the next event. The candidates were then bused to a training area where they tested their skills in day and night land navigation, an event that Oliver was looking forward to.
    “I enjoy land nav because you succeed or fail on your own,” Oliver said. “You can’t say oh the grader got me on my pushups or he got me on my lane, land nav is on you. You do it or you don’t. You’re good at it or you’re not.”
    This lethal combination of the physical assessment and land navigation proved to be too much for 65 percent of the candidates, of the 1,249 that began the first day only 440 would move on to day two.
    Expert Infantryman Badge candidates faced three days of evaluations on 36 individual tasks where a single mistake could result in failure.
    When candidates arrived at the testing site and were divided into groups then sent to one of the three categories of lanes.
    Jones did not know if he was going to be doing medical, patrolling or weapons on the first day. After receiving some instructions he and his fellow infantrymen were tasked with the patrolling lanes first.
    His first station was camouflage and visual signaling techniques, Jones said. And he passed with flying colors. His next station, chemical and biological operations, however, proved to be much more challenging.
    “That was where I received my first no-go,” Jones said shaking his head. “The second station. Man, I was nervous. It’s really simple, but there is a lot of different steps and you have to do them in sequence.”
    Jones was sent back to retrain and 30 minutes later he redeemed himself.
    “After that,” he said. “I just started knocking stuff out and I felt pretty confident.”
    After three days of nerve-racking tests only 98 Candidates remained. All that stood in their way was a 12-mile foot march that must be completed in less than three hours and one final station in which candidates had to disassemble, reassemble and perform a functions check on an M4 carbine.
    Jones felt the first-day nerves all over again. It was raining and cold, Jones said. He was not confident in his foot marching abilities, and so he prepared himself mentally. The timekeeper shouted go and the candidates took off into the dark.
    “You have to get your mind out of the suck, take yourself to a happy place,” Jones said. “And the next thing you know there is only 4 miles left.”
    As the clock ticked up toward the 3-hour mark, Oliver knew she had to give it her all.
    “I might have been out of breath on some of those hills,” Oliver said. “But there was no way I was going to stop or slow down.”
    With only seconds to spare Oliver sprinted across the finish line.
    The candidates later gathered at Hangar 3 on Fort Campbell to receive the EIB in a ceremony. Oliver was on top of the world.
    “They handed everyone their Expert Infantryman Badge and everyone kind of just put it in their pocket,” Oliver said. “But I just wanted to hold it and look at it.”
    When the time came to have the EIB pinned on his chest, Jones stood proudly at the position of attention waiting to receive his badge. His platoon sergeant was joined by Jones’ former first sergeant from his first unit.
    The first sergeant gave his EIB to Jones’ platoon sergeant who pinned it on Jones’ chest.
    “When you really want something and go out and try your hardest and you accomplish what that goal was and you feel complete and overwhelmed emotionally,” Jones said. “It’s kind of like playing baseball and you’ve never hit a baseball then you finally make contact and the ball just goes skyrocketing off [...] but earning your Expert Infantryman Badge, it’s in its own category.”
    In the end 97 of the original 1,249 earned their Expert Infantryman Badge with 16 of them earning the title of True Blue, which is only awarded to those who passed every test perfectly.



    Date Taken: 10.26.2018
    Date Posted: 11.13.2018 12:27
    Story ID: 299703
    Location: US

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