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True Blue - Guardsmen Go For Expert Infantry Badge
by U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Rachel Dryden - April 13, 2014

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"Mere Chance" by David G. Bancroft

HINESVILLE, Ga. - Following a tradition that began in 1943, almost 900 infantryman competed for the coveted Expert Infantryman Badge on March 30, 2014. Fort Stewart hosted the event for Army personnel holding the occupation of infantry or special forces. Of those competing for the 3-inch-wide blue badge, only eleven were Guardsmen, from the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

First Lt. Ryan Giles from Covington’s Bravo Company, 1st Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team clears an M240B machine gun after firing rounds during the Expert Infantry Badge Test on April 2, 2014 at Fort Stewart. (Georgia Army National Guard photo by Spc. Ashely Campbell)
First Lt. Ryan Giles from Covington's Bravo Company, 1st Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team clears an M240B machine gun after firing rounds during the Expert Infantry Badge Test on April 2, 2014 at Fort Stewart. (Georgia Army National Guard photo by Spc. Ashely Campbell)

“I'm proud to represent the Guard and want to thank my chain of command for the opportunity,” said Sgt. Kyle Jones, an infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion 121st Infantry.

U.S. Army Expert Infantry BadgeSoldiers have to qualify expert with their assigned weapons before entering the competition. The first day of EIB testing began with 898 officers and enlisted Soldiers aiming for 75 percent in each event of the Army Physical Fitness Test. The day continued with the first portion of master skill set, where Soldiers were tested on the M4 rifle, M249 machine gun and Mk19 grenade launcher, before moving on to the traffic control point lane. At the end of the day, only 589 Soldiers began preparations for day two of testing at Camp Oliver.

“I have gained plenty of knowledge and experience on both weapon systems and tasks, while also familiarizing myself through these events,” said Spc. John Pettas, an infantryman with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion 121st Infantry.

On the second day of testing, five Guardsmen from 1-121st Infantry Regiment demonstrated their master skills on the M2 machine gun, M136 rocket launcher and M320 grenade launcher. Candidates moved on to performing first aid, searching a detainee, donning protective mask and visual signaling techniques in the urban operations lane.

“It's good standard training that gets overlooked because we're not as hands-on with the common soldier tasks anymore. This gives us a good foundation to build upon when dealing with things under pressure,” stated 1st Lt. Johnathan Whitmire, Executive Officer for Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 121st Infantry.

Four Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers stood proud amongst the 255 remaining competitors at day three first formation. After a grueling land navigation course, completed both in daytime and at night, three muddied but resilient Guardsmen remained.

“If you can shoot, land navigate, be physically fit and can ruck march, the rest you will learn in training if you pay attention,” encouraged 1st Lt. Ryan Giles, when asked for advice to Soldiers wanting to earn a badge.

Day four concluded the master skill set with M9 pistol and M240B machine gun testing. By now, only 106 remain with only a few candidates labeled “true blue” because they passed every event on the first attempt. First Lieutenant Ryan Giles, Executive Officer for Bravo Company, 1-121st Infantry, is one of the few. The day continued with identifying grenades, reacting to unexploded ordinance on the patrol lane.

“It's taken a lot of work, it's a pretty intense course, it met all the expectations as far as difficulty but it feels great. As we get closer to the end, it gets more and more stressful, the pressure is higher at each event because you are so close to the end,” continued Giles.

After a well deserved rest, 94 candidates road marched 12 miles to their graduation ceremony on Cottrell Field. Georgia Guardsmen 1st Lt. Giles and Staff Sgt. Norman McFaddin, team leader with Charlie Company, 1-121 Infantry, were awarded their badges to symbolize their proficiency in infantry skills.

More photos available below

By U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Rachel Dryden
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2014

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