FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERBER, Kuwait (2/2/2012) —Those who
chose to enter the ranks of the citizen-soldier infantry are
a breed a part from the rest. Often times volunteering to
serve in the most dangerous and demanding ways for the needs
of the U.S. Army. It's these soldiers' military occupational
specialty that has become increasingly important to the U.S.
in a world where small-scale acts of terrorism and
unconventional warfare are the order of today's battlefield,
but what sets an infantryman apart from his peers?
Sgt. Maj. Joseph Meyer, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the Expert Infantry Badge testing from 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division leads the formation before handing it off to the officer-in-charge Maj. Jeffery Blowers, Jan. 27,
2012 at Forward Operating Base Gerber, Kuwait. At the start of the qualifications there were 294 individuals, but only 53 were awarded the coveted EIB. The last time the battalion hosted an EIB qualification was in 2008 during a deployment to Kosovo.
Photo by Army Cpl. Trisha Betz
Earning the coveted Expert Infantryman Badge not only
designates an infantryman elite in his career field, but it
is considered to be ‘the mark of an infantryman'.
Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, 1st Brigade
Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, currently deployed to
Kuwait, hosted an EIB validation for the first time with the
Army's new revised testing standards for the EIB.
Maj. Jeffery Blowers, the battalion's Operations
Officer-In-Charge, oversaw all plans for the validation as
he watched his soldiers strive for what is considered a
must-have accoutrement for any infantryman.
a lot to be able to offer this for soldiers to go through,”
said Blowers. “It hones a great skill level one task that
all infantrymen should be experts at and to allow soldiers
to earn the coveted Expert Infantryman's badge which is only
worn by less than 10 percent of all infantrymen in the Army
today and is something they can be proud of—they are true
In 1993, while stationed on Fort
Lewis, a young private Blowers proved the mastery of his
skills and earned his EIB.
Before any deployment,
validating on the EIB is rarely an option for most National
Guard infantry soldiers because of how time consuming and
labor intensive the training and validation for the EIB is.
1st Sgt. Paul Oakes, grader and Headquarters and
Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry
Division First Sergeant, agreed.
Depending on where
the unit is in their mission training cycle for deployments
it typically can't be fit it in, said Oakes, we just have so
much to do and minimal time to do it in.
committee members at Fort Benning, Ga., took into account
the constant combat since Sept. 11 and attempted to create a
test that would fit between repeated deployments and added
updated combat-related situations.
The outcome is a
12-day process and requires less time, personnel, and
Following the new test standards, soldiers
had seven days to train on required tasks and five days of
On first day of validation, EIB candidates
took an Army Physical Fitness Test and had to score 75
points or higher in each event in order to move on to the
next day along with passing a day and night land navigation
course separate from the lanes.
Over the next three
days, soldiers ran through three lanes: urban, patrol and
traffic control point. Each lane had 10 to 12 tasks
including moving under direct fire, engaging an enemy target
with a grenade, providing first aid to a simulated casualty,
and one decision task which had the soldier applying
critical thinking while performing their mission.
Oakes noted that there is an added level of stress since
soldiers had to take on multiple tasks throughout the lanes
as opposed to the focusing on one at a time at individual
stations like in the previous test.
This, he said,
affects not only the candidates, but the test graders as
“Before, graders only validated one task,”
Oakes explained. “Now that one grader has to know 10 to 12
different tasks and master them.”
If a soldier is
deemed a “no-go” on a task, he does not have the option to
retest like the old standards allowed.
On the final
day of testing, the soldiers who are left set off to
complete a 12-mile foot march in less than three hours.
For soldiers, such as Oakes, who earned his EIB in 1991
with others in the 1st Ranger Battalion based out of
Savannah, Ga., there's something that makes earning an EIB
even more highly regarded – being a “True Blue” EIB holder.
“True Blue” means a soldier completed every task without
a “no-go,” thus every “go” box on his score sheet has a blue
mark all the way down the page.
Staff Sgt. Robert
Ehrreich, an infantryman with A Company, 1st Combined Arms
Bn., 194th Armor, was the first of 53 soldiers to cross the
finish in around two hours, 12 minutes.
everything—it means that now I'm an Infantryman, but not
only am I an Infantryman, I'm one of the best infantrymen
out there,” said Ehrreich.
Even after accomplishing
so much throughout testing, it was his service in the
Minnesota National Guard he was most proud of.
plan on staying in the military for quite some time as long
as a can,” said the infantryman from Roseville, Minn. “I'll
be in the Minnesota National Guard leading troops and taking
on anything that I can—now I just have to find something new
to challenge myself.”
Out of 294 soldiers, 53 earned
More photos available below
By Army Cpl. Trisha Betz
1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division
Comment on this article