After nearly three weeks of arduous physical and mental training and testing, 71 Spartan Soldiers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), each received the Expert Infantryman Badge during a pinning ceremony last week on post.
"All of you have demonstrated the spirit of the infantryman," said Col. Sam Whitehurst, 3rd BCT commander, to the graduates during the Sept. 21 ceremony. "Your hard work, the skill, the ability to push through adversity and to never quit is what separates you from your peers, and your efforts this week are once again an affirmation that the strength of our Army can be found in the strength of the infantry."
The EIB was established at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1944 after 100 noncommissioned officers completed three days of intense testing on various infantry tasks. Since then, the holders of the EIB have been held in high esteem by fellow Soldiers as experts in their profession.
"The high standards that were set in 1944 continue today, as out of 422 candidates that started testing on (Sept. 17), there are now 71 infantrymen who will join a very elite and exclusive club," Whitehurst said. "Just over 19 percent of the Spartans who started with you on Monday morning are still standing here today."
Qualifying "expert" on the Soldier's assigned weapon was a prerequisite to training.
Before testing, candidates trained on 30 basic infantry tasks ranging from hand and arm signals, day and night land navigation, treating a casualty and maneuvering to an objective while under fire.
"We spend two weeks with all these tasks, (and) it's just repetition, repetition, repetition, so it's second nature to them," said Sgt. Maj. David Schumacher, 3rd BCT operations sergeant major.
To begin testing, Soldiers had to score a minimum of 75 percent in all three events on the Army Physical Fitness Test. A 12-mile ruck march marked the culmination of the rigorous training and testing.
"The skills that you have demonstrated over the last week are more than about being an expert infantryman, because at their core, the capabilities you have demonstrated are the core of what it means to be both a Soldier and a Warrior," Whitehurst said.
Aside from the prestige of wearing the EIB, the typical infantryman must be proficient in the tasks he is tested on while deployed. Today's multifaceted and often ambiguous battlefield requires Soldiers to know how to fight, treat a casualty, and communicate with the local population.
"The EIB trains the Soldiers to be proficient at individual tasks that they will see every day, whether it is here in garrison or deployed in Afghanistan," Schumacher said. "Almost every task that is out here they will most likely encounter while deployed."
When candidates test on one of three identical EIB qualification lanes, they go through as an individual infantryman, with a grader, and have 20 minutes to complete 30 tasks to standard.
"They (have) to know how to do these tasks to standard, so when they get their scenario next week, they can apply everything they have learned and execute within 20 minutes," said 1st Sgt. Cesar Sanchez, of C Company, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment during the training.
Completing all of the testing and receiving the Expert Infantryman Badge is no ordinary achievement. After qualifying expert on their assigned weapon, passing the APFT to standard, receiving a "go" on the EIB lanes and completing a 12-mile ruck march in less than three hours, Soldiers can wear their EIB with pride. Many infantrymen, despite their proficiency as a warrior, do not complete testing.
"(Only) 11 percent of the infantry of all the United States Army have their EIB, compared to 75-80 percent having their (Combat Infantryman Badge), so it's pretty prestigious," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Phillips, an infantryman in C Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment.
Even Soldiers who did not earn the badge will benefit greatly from the training they received on the EIB lanes.
"It just makes that Soldier a better, well-rounded Soldier, it makes them a more proficient, lethal Soldier," Schumacher added. "Even if the Soldier does not accomplish the end goal of receiving his EIB, the end state really is having a better-trained infantry Soldier on the battlefield."
Article by Sgt. Melissa Stewart, Army.mil