Vanguard Infantrymen prove their expertise
November 4, 2009
<B> FORT STEWART, Ga. </B>- Approximately 400 infantrymen challenged themselves to an ultimate test of their trade here, Oct. 26-30, but in the end only 104 Soldiers could adorn the coveted Expert Infantryman Badge upon their chests.
These elite infantry Soldiers not only proved their professional expertise but represented the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division as the brigade hosted Fort Stewart's first EIB testing under the Army's newest standard.
"It's the first of its kind at Fort Stewart, Ga.," said Col. Lou Lartigue, 4th IBCT commander. "The way we did it was also fitting, suited to our combat mission."
He noted the 4th IBCT's recent transition from a heavy armored brigade to a light-infantry unit and said conducting the new standard of EIB testing was appropriate before the Marne Division's sole "light-fighting" brigade departs for deployment.
In the past, EIB candidates were graded one task at a time. Now, under the Army's new standard, tasks are combined into three training lanes: urban operations, traffic control point, and patrol. Each lane offers candidates a scenario similar to what infantrymen face during the current era of persistent conflict.
The U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., mandates EIB hosting units to incorporate at least 30 core infantry tasks such as evacuating a casualty, weapon familiarization, call for fire and searching a detainee into the test.
Additionally, EIB candidates must qualify "expert" on their M-4 rifle, score a minimum of 75 percent in each Army Physical Fitness Test event, locate three of four points in day and land navigation, and complete a 12-mile forced foot march while wearing full battle gear and carrying a 35 pound rucksack in less than three hours.
Soldiers cannot receive a "no-go" on more than two tasks in each training lane or on any of the additional tasks.
"The first day was definitely the most challenging," said Sgt. William Hall, a squad leader with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th IBCT, explaining that he did not complete land navigation until 2 a.m. "We were short on sleep; we had to wake up early and didn't have time to refresh those tasks for the (next) day."
Sergeant Hall said that the training lanes were tough, but that remembering how to execute the tasks was an even bigger challenge.
"Mentally, it drains you," he said. "You have to be able to retain all the information and do it right the first time."
The Rural Retreat, Va., native ended up executing every task to standard. He, along with three other Vanguard infantrymen, was awarded "True Blue" after completing the entire EIB test without a single error.
He said taking time out to study with other members in his unit aided to his success.
"This past month we've worked really hard, put in some long hours, and basically did everything by the book," Sgt. Hall said.
For Sgt. Kenneth Oku, Troop B, 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, earning "True Blue" was long overdue. He said he attempted to earn his EIB at Fort Lewis, Wash., in 2006, but was disqualified after failing a first aid task.
"This time around I made sure that I had no errors," Sgt. Oku said.
In fact, the Camp Pendleton, Calif., native finished first in the APFT's two-mile run and completed the road march far ahead of his peers, with a time of two hours, 24 minutes. He advises future EIB candidates to "remain composed" and to train hard.
Other "True Blue" recipients were Sgt. Andrew Hitchman, Company B, 3/15 Inf., of Stanwood, Wash., and Cpl. Devin Sullivan, Troop C, 6/8 Cav., from Los Alamos, New Mexico.
"The Expert Infantryman Badge means everything to the professional, highly motivated infantryman," said Command Sgt. Maj. Earl Rice, U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, and guest speaker at the EIB pinning ceremony held at Cottrell Field, Oct. 30. "It's not just the little detail that they include into your rAfAsumAfA. It is your rAfAsumAfA.
"This is no small mission that you have accomplished," Command Sgt. Maj. Rice told the 104 EIB awardees. "This is indeed a huge, huge milestone and a marking of achievement that is only reserved for the best."
The EIB was first created in October 1943 and can only be awarded to U.S. Army infantrymen or members of the U.S. Army Special Forces.