Three hundred and 10 Soldiers assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) completed five days of rigorous testing in order to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB), Mar. 18-22, at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
"It is a big deal to earn this badge," said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lewis, EIB grader, Commander-in-Chief's Guard, 3d U.S. Inf. Reg. (The Old Guard). "This is an important step in their careers."
Soldiers conducted an Army physical fitness test, day and night land navigation and maneuvered through training lanes that simulated scenarios experienced in a deployed environment during the week-long course.
"There were a lot of things to memorize and understand and Soldiers were constantly tested on this knowledge," said Lewis. "We always expect only the very best to make it through to the end."
Soldiers were graded on their ability to complete each timed individual event properly and safely. Sgt. Robert Keifer, EIB candidate, Honor Guard Company, 3d U.S. Inf. Reg. (The Old Guard), explained how he prepared for each lane.
"I just took it one day at a time. I broke it down by task and just did my best," said Keifer. "If I was struggling mentally, I would just stay motivated to let them know that I wanted to be here."
Lewis said Keifer's attitude was right in line with what they were looking for in the candidates.
"Each task should be important to the Soldiers," said Lewis. "They should be moving and reacting with quick speed."
However, by day two and three, some Soldiers struggled with meeting the strenuous requirements.
"Guys were getting sent home daily, so all I could think about was not being one of those guys to leave," said Keifer. "That is when I just concentrated a little harder."
The final event that tested the Soldiers' mental and physical endurance was a 12-mile road march.
Soldiers traveled over a wide variety of terrain carrying more than 75lbs of equipment during the event. Soldiers who made it across the finish line within three hours were awarded the EIB.
"I felt so relieved when I finished. My family was there and that made it more memorable than I can express," said Keifer. "Not only am I an expert in my ceremonial duties, but now I am expert as an infantryman."
Worn out from the 12-mile foot march, the 93 remaining infantrymen took part in a badge pinning ceremony. Lewis hopes the infantrymen who did receive the badge this year leave with a better sense of what to look for in the future.
"In the time that I have been here, I really appreciate the Soldiers within The Old Guard and their espirit de corps. Each one of them is tough and competitive," said Lewis. "The Soldiers that come back next year will be better prepared."