All pumped and ready to begin their quest for the coveted Expert Infantryman Badge, 280 Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard” stood rank and file on Fort A.P. Hill’s physical fitness field at the Wilcox Camp, Mar. 19-23. Despite frigid temperatures nothing could deter the Soldiers. Their goal was to attain “gold” status as one of the “true blue” infantryman.
Master Sergeant Joseph P. Andrade, U.S. Army EIB Testing Support Office, explained that the “badge” is a mark of distinction – one that only the best will ever achieve.
“Army statistics say only about 20 percent of those who attempt to earn the EIB will earn it,” Andrade said. “But it really is dependent on how strong their NCOs (noncommissioned officers) are.” He added that if the NCO’s standards are high and the training hard, then the individual Soldier will fare better during the EIB testing.
The EIB was established in Oct. 1943 as a sign of distinction and to motivate Soldiers to strive for excellence. To achieve the badge, Soldiers must complete a number of prerequisites and pass a battery of graded tests on basic infantry skills, usually after weeks of training.
For Soldiers with the 3rd Infantry that training began the second week in January. “Every Tuesday through Thursday of every week for those seven weeks, the Soldiers came here and trained,” said Staff Sgt. Kyle Awesome, noncommissioned officer in charge of the EIB testing.
After the training, a date and time for the EIB testing was set to run over the course of five days straight during which the Soldiers were required to successfully complete 30 individual infantry tasks.
The testing consisted of three lanes of 10 tasks each. The lane testing included patrol, urban operations and traffic control point lanes. Tasks included proving their proficiency with various weapon systems such as the M16 or M4 rifle; the M60 or M240B machine guns; hand grenades; and, Claymore Mines.
The Soldiers were also tested on first aid; evacuating a casualty; calling in reports to higher headquarters; day and night land navigation; and more.
The first phase of the testing began at 6 a.m. with the fitness test, then the day and night land navigation course followed where an initial 118 Soldiers lost their bid for the badge.
Andrade said that loses such as this can be expected.
“You can expect to lose about 80 percent during the first day,” he said. Specialist Curtis Branson, E Co., 4th Bn., 3rd Inf. Regt., agreed. He said this was his third attempt and he wasn’t going home this time without the EIB. “I trained up for it,” he said. “There was no way I was going to let anything get in my way. There was no stopping me this year.” Branson’s determination was evident when he finished the 12-mile road march in an astonishing time of two hours and nine minutes.
In all, 97 of the 280 Soldiers who attempt-ed were awarded the Expert Infantryman Badge.