Paratroopers compete for the Expert Infantry Badge
September 24, 2008
Fort Bragg, N.C. - "I got blown up."
That's how Spc. Andrew Cossette describes the incident that earned him his Combat Infantryman Badge, a prestigious award given to infantrymen who come under fire in combat.
While patrolling through Baghdad in 2007, Cossette's Humvee hit an Improvised Explosive Device, and the explosion knocked him briefly unconscious. Months later, after the paperwork was processed, Cossette had his CIB.
Though he is proud of what he accomplished during his 15-month deployment, Cossette said he realizes, in his case, it didn't take a lot of skill to get the CIB.
"All you have to do is be in the right place at the right time," Cossette said. "Or, the wrong place at the wrong time, depending on how you want to look at it."
By contrast, Cossette and 181 other infantrymen from 2nd Batallion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division are currently competing for a badge that is unequivocally a measure of individual Soldiering skills: the Expert Infantryman Badge.
"If you're in the right place at the right time, you can get a CIB. You have to show some motivation, some interest, and some knowledge to get the EIB," said Sgt. 1st Class Frederick Shinlever, of Indianapolis, Ind., the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 2nd BCT EIB site.
The EIB is awarded to infantrymen who score a "Go" at 24 graded skill stations testing their infantry knowledge and skills. Before they even get to the test site, candidates must have already completed a 12-mile road march, shot expert on the firing range, and scored well on a PT test.
During the testing, candidates are evaluated on their ability to operate weapons systems such as the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M240 machine gun, and the AT4 rocket launcher; communicate over a radio; perform land navigation; apply first aid to a casualty; emplace a claymore mine; and much more.
The EIB was first awarded in 1943, and although some of the tasks have changed, the basic concept has remained the same.
"It's just all the basic infantry tasks that a Soldier should know," said Sgt. 1st Class Paul Cottrell, a platoon sergeant with Company D, 1st Battalion, 325th A.I.R. Cottrell, who got his EIB in 2001, was running the M4 station during the testing.
While the EIB is typically held annually, this year marks the first time 2nd BCT has held EIB testing since 2006, due to deployments.
Shinlever said the pace of deployments in the modern era means infantrymen are almost guaranteed to see combat, making the EIB more important than ever.
"The skills they learn here is what saves lives," Shinlever said. "It's some of the best individual training these guys will ever get."
Out at the test site in the Fort Bragg woods, the candidates went through a grueling three-day train up, and then two days of practice under real conditions prior to test day. On day two of the train up, Pfc. Carl Miller, of Big Rapids, Mich., sat in the shade taking a quick break between stations. Miller was tired and drenched in sweat, but he said he was still motivated. He was determined to get his EIB, he said.
"As an infantryman it lets people realize that you're a professional in everything you do," Miller said.
Cossette, who earned his CIB without having to think about it, said he was looking forward to putting his skills to the test and earning his EIB.
"It will be nice to get it, just to say, 'yeah, I know my stuff,'" he said.