CAMP HIGASHI-CHITOSE, Japan -- U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Ballard is determined to earn his own Expert Infantryman Badge or EIB. With roughly ten percent of all Army Infantryman eligible to wear it, this Soldier from Chosin Company, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment strives to be one of the chosen few.
Ballard and 30 of his fellow Company C, 2nd platoon Soldiers, nicknamed Chosin company after the Chosin Reservoir Campaign during the Korean War, are in Japan preparing for a bilateral training exercise. While waiting for their equipment to arrive, they are focusing their training efforts on strengthening their basic infantryman skills six days a week.
The EIB was first created October 1943 as a special skills badge presented for a demonstrated proficiency in infantry skills.
"Having your EIB is a big thing for Infantry Soldiers and it separates them from their peers," said Sgt. 1st Class Jose Rivera, Ballard's platoon sergeant and an EIB recipient.
His unit which is part of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Joint Base Lewis-McChord,Wash. will compete for the coveted badge in February 2015.
The Soldiers are focusing on all their basic level skills, since they anticipate the EIB challenge will include events such as a physical fitness test, day and nighttime land navigation, first aid, and moving under direct fire. They won't know until just before the test exactly which skills will be tested. The test is capped off by a 12-mile foot march that Soldiers must complete in three hours while carrying a rifle and more than 30 pounds of combat gear.
For now, they are in Japan for Orient Shield 14, an annual bilateral exercise to share military experiences and participate in combined light infantry, squad-level training with Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces (JGSDF) from the 11th Infantry Regiment, 7th Armor Division. The exercise includes urban assault, building clearing, lane training and situational training and takes place between Oct. 27 and Nov. 7.
When Ballard isn't in the woods practicing his infantry skills he is spending time getting to know his Japanese counterparts by using old fashioned gestures and modern technology to bridge the language gap.
"Most of us have apps on our cell phones so we just type in the word and hand it to each other to read. Other than that we use a lot of hand signals to get our point across," Ballard explained.