27 Soldiers earn the title of expert infantryman
May 1, 2012
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Weeks of training and testing concluded with a ceremony, which inducted a chosen few who have proven themselves worthy of displaying the mark of an expert. It is the Expert Infantryman Badge, a 1795 model Springfield musket encased by a silver border with an infantry blue background that is exclusive to the Infantry.
Twenty-seven Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment donned the coveted badge during a ceremony held at Fort Hood Apr. 27. Of the 457 candidates who began testing, these Soldiers earned the right to join fellow EIB holders as experts in their craft.
Created in 1944, the testing was designed to display the level of skill possessed by each infantryman. Normally held once a year, it has earned the reputation of being one of the most difficult testing in the Army with a success rate of about 10 percent.
For the regiment, this test marks another first for the unit, since it began its transformation in November from an armored cavalry regiment to a Stryker brigade.
"We are the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. A regiment now made up of light infantryman, a first for Fort Hood," said Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Akuna, the senior enlisted member of the regiment.
"What this means is Strykers moving light infantry platoons and troops, such as the rangers, pathfinders, air assault and Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leaders Course qualified troopers that now make up our formation, into battle. All the facets of light infantry are now at Fort Hood, which gives a heavy force like III Corps a quick strike capability to deploy forces into a theater of operations and set the conditions for follow-on forces," said Akuna.
How quickly a unit can deploy has been one of the main factors in military training since the war on terror began, which means Soldiers not only have to be proficient in their duties but must be able to react at a moment's notice. The addition of the scenario-based training to EIB testing was designed to simulate these conditions and test how well each Soldier reacts under pressure.
"You can't tell someone who has not been deployed, in words, how to react to something like this," said Pfc. Trevor Debeaumont, from the regiment's 3rd squadron. "When you get the hands-on [training] of every task and you are under pressure, it makes you think more and react quicker."
"If the situation arises, I know what to do because of this training," said Debeaumont, a native of Las Cruces, N.M., who added that he took notes during training and studied them every night, talking himself through each of the scenarios step by step.
Many of the candidates, like Debeaumont, formed study groups to learn from one another and hone their skills, like attention to detail, which seemed to be the Achilles' heel for many of the Soldiers.
"Some of these Soldiers are only privates and may not understand attention to detail, but when they are placed in charge, it's that attention to detail that saves lives," said 1st Sgt. Lance Kirkham, the Urban Operations lane noncommissioned officer in charge.
For an infantryman, to earn the EIB as a junior enlisted Soldier not only comes with respect and bragging rights, it brings with it career advancement, said Kirkham.
"The EIB is a key deciding factor on the centralized promotion board for Soldiers who want to make it to sergeant first class and higher," said Akuna, adding that it is up to him and his board members to train the Soldiers on the additional skills that are required of them as infantryman, since most of them are coming directly from basic combat training.
With about a year in service, Pfc. Cody Muir, from the regiment's 2nd squadron, jumped at the opportunity to participate in the testing. As one of the 27 remaining candidates, Muir said to stand on Veterans Field in front of senior leaders, friends and Family was overwhelming because he made it through something that so few have done before.
Spc. Michael Bartlett, a cavalry scout from the regiment's 4th squadron, as the only Soldier to achieve "true blue," a status reserved only for those who complete each task on the first attempt. For his achievement, he was also awarded the Army Commendation Medal.
Each of the remaining candidates also received the Army Achievement Medal for successfully completing the test.
For the hope of earning the mark of an expert, 457 Soldiers put themselves through weeks of training and testing. Although not all of them earned the EIB, they received valuable training, which allowed them to hone their skills and prepare their minds and bodies for the battlefield.