FORT POLK, La. - Soldiers of the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment and the 162nd Infantry Brigade competed April 18-22 in a grueling series of tasks and examinations in hopes of earning the coveted Expert Infantryman's Badge.

The schedule of tasks included an Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation, testing on lanes focused on urban operations, traffic control points and patrol lanes and ended April 22 with a 12-mile road march. Each candidate is graded as a "go" or "no-go" on the PT test, land navigation and road march. On each lane, candidates can get a maximum of two no-gos.

The EIB competition began in 1944 when Army Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. George C. Marshall, decided to develop an award to honor Army infantrymen. It was not meant to draw importance away from other branches of the Army, but to honor those who served in a difficult and physically demanding aspect of the Army. The EIB acts as a reminder of the tradition of Army infantrymen and their role in Army history.

The first EIB test in 1944 included 100 NCOs of the 100th Infantry Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. For three days, the infantrymen were tested on weapons, two continuous foot marches in full gear, one for 25 miles in eight hours and the other 9 miles in two hours, a physical fitness test, combat courses, grenade courses and a military subject test.

By the end of the test, only 10 NCOs remained. On March 29, 1944, the first EIB was presented to Tech. Sgt. Walter Bull.

The original EIB standard enacted in the 1943 document stated either attaining the standards of proficiency established by the War Department or satisfying performance of duty in action against the enemy could earn an EIB.

The present EIB standard, created in June 1988, consists of 18 testing stations with a possible 33 individual tasks over the course of 12 days. All candidates must serve in infantry or special operations military occupation specialties.

The EIB test began April 18 with an Army Physical Fitness Test. Each candidate was required to earn 75 points out of a possible 100; 15 points higher than the Army PT standard.

The PT test consisted of push-ups, sit-ups and a 2-mile run. Of the 146 candidates participating, 134 moved on. April 19 through 21 required the candidates to complete a series of lanes at Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center mock middle-eastern town of Sadiq. The lanes dealt with urban operations, traffic control points and a patrol lane.

The urban operations lane required the candidate to assemble a radio, begin a computer system within the HMWWV, and move through the urban area along with joint forces.

Along the way, the candidate encounters the enemy, requiring him to return fire. He then must accurately conduct a search identifying the enemy and for hidden items.

While conducting the search, the two joint force members take fire, wounding them both. The candidate must assess the wounds and treat them.

After waiting in a holding area, the candidate begins the TCP lane. "The lane throws a lot of things the candidates' way. They have to decide to treat the casualty or eliminate the threat (the enemy fire). They also have to call in air support to combat the mortar rounds fired at them," said Sgt. Maj. William Thompson, 1st Bn (Abn), 509th Inf Reg.

"The candidates have no training prior to today. They have been trained on tasks, but not in a tactical lane. They have no idea what to expect or in what order they will be tested on them," said Thompson.

The final lane of testing dealt with patrol lanes.

The candidates leave their holding area to discover unexploded ordnance and are required to call it in. Only after getting a clear signal, the candidate proceeds past it to begin the lane. They encounter a silhouette where they are tested on throwing grenades. They must throw the grenade and land it within five meters to get a "kill." Only after the grader declares a kill can the candidate move to the next phase. They come across direct fire, requiring the candidate to low crawl, displaying his knowledge of the different types of crawling. He then moves on to conduct an air assault on a village and provide medical care to a wounded Soldier. While conducting checks on the causality, the candidate must explain what he is doing to display his knowledge to the grader.

"It's the shortest timed lane (25 minutes) because some of the tasks are tough," said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Clark, 1st Bn (Abn), 509th Inf Reg. "There are no individually timed tasks throughout the lane. Soldiers can take their time through individual tasks and speed through the ones they're good at."

The same day as the tasks, the candidates are tested on day and night land navigation using a map and their compass.

The final phase required each candidate to complete a 12-mile road march in less than three hours. Candidates each carried an M4 rifle and a rucksack containing 35 pounds and began the march at 5 a.m. April 22. The first candidate, Pfc. Adam Ruel, crossed the finish line at 7:40 a.m. finishing the march in 2 hours, 40 minutes. All candidates crossed the finish line, but some did not finish in the allotted time, disqualifying them from the competition.

Pfc. Deyin Bellini, medic, 1st Bn (Abn), 509th Inf Reg, said he wanted to be involved with EIB testing to prepare for Ranger school in June. "I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and show that it's a piece of cake," he said. "It's all about mind over matter and how determined you are to get what you want."

To get what they wanted, some Soldiers did their own training to prepare. Second Lt. Kyle Gunn of the 162nd Inf Bn did his own training through fitness and brushing up on land navigation, but those weren't the hard parts. "The road march was hardest, but I've always wanted the EIB. It was a personal goal of mine," he said. Gunn was the only Soldier of the 162nd Inf Bn to earn the EIB.

At the end of the week-long testing, Soldiers and Family members lined the 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Field at 11 a.m. for the pinning ceremony April 22. Out of the 146 candidates that began the test, only 24 were awarded the EIB and two Soldiers - Sgt. Robert Baker and 1st Lt. Adam Menzal, both of 1st Bn (Abn), 509th Inf Reg - were considered true blue (finishing without a single "no-go" in all areas of training).

"For those of us who have earned this badge, it has never lost its luster. The badge is for us, and will be for each of these paratroopers and Soldiers here a discriminator, one that will set them apart from their peers," said commander of 1st Bn (Abn), 509th Inf Reg, Lt. Col. Anthony Judge.

"It is an award that is earned and never given. You have the right to be proud of what you have accomplished. Today you are an expert infantryman."

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