JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. -- During intense testing an evaluator yells, “If it ain’t raining we ain’t training,” as soldiers of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, threw simulated grenades, cleared weapons malfunctions, assaulted positions and treated simulated casualties.
In typical Western Washington state, weather infantrymen with 4/2 ID tested for the Expert Infantry Badge here, April 9-13.
Army Chief of Staff, George C. Martial, brought the idea of the EIB to fruition in 1944.
It was designed as a way to recognize those soldiers that chose a hard, dangerous and often thankless job when other safer jobs were available, according to expertinfantry.com.
Candidates begin the testing process by attempting to complete an Army Physical Fitness Test with a minimum score of 75 out of 100 in the pushup, situp and run events 15 points higher than the Army minimum standard. Soldiers must also pass a daytime and nighttime land navigation course. The candidate must pass these events first to stay in contention for the badge, said Sgt. 1st class Steven Bliss, non-commissioned officer in charge of the EIB testing.
With these events behind them the infantrymen must successfully complete at least eight out of 10 basic infantry tasks in three evaluation lanes. The lanes include a patrol lane, an urban lane and a traffic control point. Once complete the soldiers needed to conquer a 12-mile foot march in less than three hours to earn the coveted badge.
“Earning this badge states that you are an expert at your job as an infantryman. As an infantry officer you should be an expert because people are putting their life in your hand,” said 1st Lt. Chase Burnett, platoon leader, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment.
The EIB represents more than just being able to complete a set of tasks, to many of the infantrymen it’s a “rite of passage.”
“Without that symbol on your chest how can you tell a junior soldier that you are competent enough to lead them,” said Burnett.
“This badge is a standard that sets you as an individual apart from the rest of the infantry,” said Sgt. Francis Aque, C Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment. “Everybody out of Advanced Individual Training, 11B, can call themselves an infantryman but not everyone can be an expert infantryman.”
Competing for the EIB can be stressful and often brings out strong emotions.
“If I don’t make it, I’ll be pretty depressed,” said Burnett. “I’ll be crushed because I am a competitor at heart.”
Some infantrymen spend their entire careers chasing the distinct badge that has a silver musket in a field of “infantry blue.”
“I’ve heard of soldiers testing three, four, even five times for the EIB and never earning one,” said Aque.
“This is my first time testing for the EIB; the last time I wasn’t able to participate,” said Aque. With a smirk he added, “I’m sure I’ll make it; it’s a piece of cake from here. Just a 12-mile ruck march.”
The badge represents more than the ability to accomplish the assigned task or the simple pride of showing it off but demonstrates to superiors someone’s ability to learn and willingness to strive to be the best they can be.
“I heard some guys saying how it doesn’t matter if they pass or not and how they didn’t care,” said Burnett. “You should always try to set yourself above your peers in order to progress in your career. You should want to be better than your peers so no one will question whether you are an expert at your job or not.”
Once the events were complete, only 234 of the 838 soldiers who attempted to earn an EIB achieved their goal.
Aque and Burnett both earned their EIB with a first time go. With this infantry “rite of passage” under their belts Aque, Burnett and the other recipients will from now on be considered experts in their field.