FORT STEWART, Ga. - The sound of enemy gunfire crackles through the air as a U.S. Soldier quickly dives to the ground and finds cover. The Soldier, fighting nerves and enemy contact, notices a wounded Soldier nearby. Pinned down, with a wounded comrade at arm's length, the Soldier knows what he has to do. The Soldier, tired to the point of exhaustion, musters the determination and energy to fight back his foe and aid his fallen fellow Soldier.

This scenario is all-too familiar for the Soldiers of the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. However, this was not on foreign soil. This scene and many others were part of the Spartan Brigade's Expert Infantry Badge Competition held at Fort Stewart, April 11-15.

Approximately 350 Fort Stewart Soldiers began the two-week training and competition to earn the prestigious Expert Infantry Badge. However, by the week's end, only 42 earned the right to wear the coveted silver musket.

"This was the first time I have seen the newest version of the EIB competition," said Sgt. Wesley Broussard, Company A, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd HBCT.

"The whole thing was definitely combat orientated," said the combat veteran. "The last time I attempted the EIB competition was in 2002. However, this one is much more realistic. There were no retests if you failed a lane like the older version, and everything here is more reaction oriented."

To earn the EIB infantry Soldiers must complete numerous tasks which are considered key to basic infantryman skills, including: land navigation, movement under fire, call for fire, urban assault and fighting from a defensive position. Candidates for the competition were also required to qualify expert on their rifles as well as score 75-percent or higher on each of the Army Physical Fitness Test events.

While Sgt. Broussard felt the training and testing for the competition was excellent, he said the desire to earn the badge is what motivated himself and fellow Soldiers.

"Most infantrymen have the Combat Infantry Badge, which Infantrymen earn for combat action; not many have the EIB," said Sgt. Broussard. "When you see a Soldier wearing the badge, you instantly respect them and their skills because you know the level of competence they have to have to earn it."

Specialist Jamie Stillings, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment agrees with Sgt. Broussard. However, for Spc. Stillings, who earned the badge in 2006, it holds another special meaning for him.

"I was 32-years-old and the oldest during that competition to earn the badge," said Spc. Stillings, an instructor for the Spartan Brigades recent most recent EIB competition.

"There were guys much younger than I was failing out of the competition, so knowing the mental and physical determination needed to earn the badge at my age, when many younger Soldiers than me couldn't, it just holds a special meaning to me," Spc. Stillings said.

For the approximately 300 Soldiers who did not finish the competition, all was not a total loss, according to Cpl. Luis Castaneda, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd HBCT.

"I failed out pretty early. However, I still learned a lot from the training leading up to the competition," said Cpl. Castaneda. "That training still made me a better Soldier, and I have even more tools for when I earn the badge next year."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16