42 Soldiers earn Expert Infantryman Badge
May 30, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Soldiers gathered Friday morning outside Fort Jackson's post headquarters to accept the elite Expert Infantryman Badge.
It was a quiet moment capping off a long, arduous week for those testing their skills against EIB standards. When testing began, 102 Soldiers set out to earn the badge, which is a coveted award for infantrymen. Of those, 42 finished, with only two receiving "true blue" designation, meaning they completed all tasks without making any mistakes.
"It was just a matter of being able to execute the lanes properly, to understand the task and understand it's not just for the EIB, but to prepare myself and, in the future, to prepare my Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Jesus Ortega, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, one of two Soldiers to receive "true blue."
Fort Jackson's other "true blue" recipient said he was worried that he wasn't prepared for the tests.
"I was on cycle break, so I wasn't motivated," said Staff Sgt. Darrell Myers, 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment. "I didn't feel like doing it at all. I'm a drill sergeant, and my only break is the cycle break. I wanted to take that time and spend it with my family, but I had to do EIB. Now that I've actually got it and accomplished it, I'm actually satisfied and I'm happy about it."
Established in 1943, the EIB is awarded to Army personnel who hold infantry or special forces Military Occupational Specialties. Soldiers must complete a number of prerequisites and pass a battery of tests on basic infantry skills, including areas such as day and night land navigation, first aid, patrol lane tasks and moving under direct fire. The annual test is capped off by a 12-mile foot march, which Soldiers must complete in three hours while carrying an M4 and wearing more than 40 pounds of combat gear.
"I can't feel it, but I'm sure I will tomorrow, though," said Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Unger, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, who had blood seeping through his boots following Friday's march. "I don't ever want to do it again. I'm so happy to be done with this."
"Being on the trail as a drill sergeant, I don't really have a lot of 'me' time to concentrate on training for the ruck marches," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Burgess, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment. "That was the hardest part, training up for the rucksack march."
Like many of those participating in the road march, Burgess said he didn't get much sleep the night before.
"It was like Christmas today," he said. "It was the final event, the culminating event, and I couldn't really get much sleep. It's a long time in the making for me. I've been in the Army for seven and a half years, and this was my first real opportunity to do it. I'm really happy that I knocked it out and got it done."
Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Cato, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, cautioned Soldiers against undertaking the EIB course without preparing themselves for the road march.
"Get in shape beforehand," Cato said. "You can't expect to come out here and expect to run through it without preparing for the road march."
He said it was difficult to watch Soldiers drop out of the road march on the final day of EIB testing.
"It's heartbreaking, because they put everything into it and missed it by a second or a minute. It hurts," Cato said.
Fort Jackson Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Benson said 14 Soldiers did not complete Friday's road march, which was considered the most difficult challenge of the week by many of the Soldiers participating.
"These are the toughest we have to offer in the Army," Benson said. "Every one of them is a combat veteran and has multiple combat tours. They have taken it to the enemy, day in and day out, time and time again. Then they come here and become drills sergeants, instructors and cadre. Then they take it to the next level, which is training the future of our Army."
"This is a great welcome to Fort Jackson, to see the excellence of these great infantrymen here," said Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs, who took command of Fort Jackson last week. "It's absolutely an uplifting way to start the weekend for Memorial Day, a nice tribute to those gone before us."
Col. Stephen Yackley, Fort Jackson deputy commander, is the most senior EIB recipient on post, and urged Soldiers to be proud of last week's accomplishments. "You will remember this accomplishment for the rest of your career and the rest of your life," Yackley said. "Wearing the EIB means you have demonstrated proficiency in the infantry skills, and it's only awarded to the U.S. Army infantryman. It is not awarded to any other service or any foreign army. It's a symbol of the tradition of the U.S. infantryman's vital role in leading and protecting the freedom of this nation, past, present and future. Be proud of what you've just earned. It is the mark of a true professional infantryman and is well deserved."