Soldiers earn coveted Expert Infantryman Badge
June 21, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Throughout the Army, a number of skill badges can be seen worn proudly upon the left side of Soldiers' chests. For infantryman, no badge is worn more proudly than the Expert Infantryman Badge.
More than 600 Fort Drum Soldiers started the week of testing June 11, with the hopes of receiving the coveted badge.
As the sun rose over Fort Drum, testing began with the Army Physical Fitness Test. Soldiers who earned a score of 275 or higher then completed a day and night land navigation course, where they must plot and locate four points within two hours.
"Two hours is not a whole lot of time, so most guys were running most of the course in order to get all four points within the time," said 1st Lt. John Steger from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Over the next three days, infantry Soldiers were tested on 36 individual skills within three separate lanes designed to simulate deployed environments.
"As far as the lanes go, we had really good teachers out there, so learning it was easy. It's staying calm and focused when you are running through the lane that's difficult," said Pfc. Christopher Hollingsworth, with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team. "It's more mentally challenging than anything."
Many Soldiers prepared for the lanes by visualizing themselves completing each task.
"You try to go over every little step in your head over and over so it becomes ingrained in your mind, so by the time you get out to the lane, it's muscle memory," Steger said.
The final test standing between Soldiers and their badges was the 12-mile ruck march they must complete in less than three hours while wearing full gear and carrying 35 pounds.
"The ruck was easily the hardest part of the whole week," Hollingsworth said.
As the time ticked down to the final seconds, the last qualifying Soldier crossed the finish line.
Shortly after, Soldiers formed up on Magrath Field for an awards ceremony to honor the 132 infantrymen who can now truly call themselves experts.
"All of you Warriors separated yourselves from the pack," said Col. Stephen Michael, 1st BCT commander, during the ceremony. "This is incredibly hard, and you ought to be proud of yourselves. If you can get through EIB under these conditions, there's nothing you cannot do."
Col. (P) Richard Clarke, 10th Mountain Division (LI) deputy commanding general - operations, congratulated the Soldiers and did the honors of pinning the EIB to their chests.
"The CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge) is timing and luck; the EIB is hard work, dedication and an absolutely true professional effort to ensure that you are a mark above all others," Clarke said.
Nine Soldiers were recognized for earning the title of "True Blue" by completing every task without fail.
Steger was recognized for having the fastest ruck march time, having finished in one hour and 55 minutes.
Hollingsworth also was recognized during the ceremony for earning the EIB after having been in the Army only since Feb. 1.