News: Experts in the Field: Falcon Paratroopers earn the title of Expert Infantrymen
Story by Sgt. Kissta DiGregorio
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – The morning sunlight glinted off the blue and silver enamel pinned to the proud chests of 101 paratroopers, only a third of the soldiers who began the week in hopes of earning the insignia of the expert infantryman.
Created in 1943, the Expert Infantryman Badge is a symbol of an infantry soldier’s proficiency in his craft. The challenge of earning the coveted pin is a grueling week-long test of physical strength, information retention and implementation, and heart.
“The EIB is a test of skills for each infantryman,” said Staff Sgt. Ashley Brito, B Company, 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, who was grading the test. It challenges their knowledge of weaponry, patrolling, urban combat and detainee procedures, as well as physical fitness and intestinal fortitude.
“It’s about self-control,” Brito said. “It’s up to the individual to push himself.”
On Oct. 4, after about a week of preparation, the 307 soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, the 82nd Pathfinder Company, the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy and 44th Medical Command, conducted a physical training test and day and night land navigation courses to begin the event.
Although soldiers have been testing for the EIB for over 60 years, the course changes almost yearly in order to better reflect current combat situations. “The test is constantly evolving to meet the infantryman’s roll on the battlefield,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Eldridge, a weapons squad leader with A Company, 1-325th AIR.
This year, instead of testing the infantrymen on each of the 30 tasks they learned the week prior, individually, the tasks were combined into three “lanes”; a patrol, urban operations and a traffic control point. At each lane, soldiers were required to perform eight of the 10 tasks correctly, from memory, in order to move to the next event. This method makes each situation more fluid and realistic.
“The [practice] lanes show them what to do,” said Sgt. First Class Daymond Graves, the operations NCO for Headquarters Company, 1-325th AIR, who earned his EIB in 1996. “Then they get out here and have to put it all together.”
Although not all infantry soldiers put themselves through the rigors of earning the badge, several of those who have earned theirs in the past, as well as the soldiers attempting it this year, look at it as an essential decoration on their uniform.
“As an infantryman, it’s what’s expected,” said Lt. Jareth Melcher, a platoon leader with A Co., 1-325th AIR, one of the eighty-one 2BCT Paratroopers to receive a badge at the awards ceremony on Oct. 8. “It’s so others know you’re proficient at what you do.”
Standing on the field, as one of the few infantrymen to be pinned that day, Spc. Saum Salehi, Headquarters Company, 1-325th AIR, had mixed emotions.
“It was good training, but it’s a shame not all the boys could make it,” he said.
But Salehi plans to use the knowledge he gained from the test to benefit his unit and to encourage others to push themselves to earn an EIB of their own.
“I will be able to help lower enlisted with infantry skills, and better the unit in combat as well as in [the States].”
This work, Experts in the Field: Falcon Paratroopers earn the title of Expert Infantrymen, by SSG Kissta DiGregorio, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.