FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 30, 2015) -- As the sun crested the horizon and hurricane-force wind gusts blew through Fort Drum on the morning of April 20, 817 infantrymen from across 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams, 10th Mountain Division (LI), began the first of five days of intense testing as they took aim at earning the revered and highly coveted Expert Infantryman Badge.

It may only be a silver and enamel badge 7/16 inch tall and 3 inches wide, consisting of an infantry musket on a light blue bar with a silver border, but thousands of infantry Soldiers over the past 71 years have been willing to shed blood, sweat and tears to earn it. The EIB is an important rite of passage among the ranks of infantrymen throughout the United States Army.

"The EIB is what denotes you as an expert in your field," said Sgt. Christopher Moyer, sniper section leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, who earned his EIB just last year.

"Anyone can be an infantryman," he continued. "Graduating basic training isn't super complicated. Showing up at your unit and doing whatever they assign you isn't super complicated.

"Being able to perform the 30-some tasks to standard every time on test day is what denotes 'just normal everyday infantryman' to the guys who are the experts in the field," Moyer concluded.

The EIB test is administered on average once per year with pass rates usually near 10 percent, depending on the unit conducting testing, for all Soldiers with a primary military occupational specialty in the 11 or 18 series or commissioned officers in the infantry or Special Forces branches.

Many Soldiers will not earn the EIB on their first attempt. Staff Sgt. Harrison Scurry of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, knows this fact all too well.

"Everybody thinks the EIB is a one-time deal. Sometimes you don't get it. You got people out here -- two times, three times. This is my third time going for the EIB. It's that resilience thing," Scurry said. "You might fail the first time, (but) then you come back hard again. You fail the second time, and you come back hard again. Third time, I'm not going to say you are going to get it, great saying, but you just keep on going and going until you get your EIB."

The EIB test process has been derived to measure the mastery of individual skills through different evaluations over a five-day period. This evaluation consists of the Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation, nine weapons master skills testing stations, three individual tactical test lanes composed of 30 individual tasks, a 12-mile foot march, and a weapons proficiency test.

These evaluations place eligible candidates under varying degrees of stress to test their physical and mental abilities as they execute critical infantry tasks to established standards.

"The men before you earned this coveted award amidst a bizarre array of North Country spring weather: hurricane force gusts during the APFT two-mile run on Monday, sleet and rain during land navigation on Monday night, a little sunshine on Tuesday, snow during lane training on Thursday, and temperatures this morning during the foot-march that dipped well below freezing," Col. Frederick "Mark" O'Donnell, 1st Brigade Combat Team commander, said during the awards ceremony.

"So while the EIB typically rewards technical and tactical competence, the Soldiers here today also displayed incredible amounts of mental and physical resilience that their peers in better climates when testing for EIB never have to endure," he continued. "That extra degree of difficulty is definitely worth noting."

O'Donnell expressed how the EIB is the hallmark of a great infantryman, noting the Soldiers recognized during the ceremony truly reflect the Soldier's Creed in the quote that says "I am an expert and I am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States in close combat."

"It is easy to forget how important mastery of individual skills is to our profession," O'Donnell said. "However, EIB is a reminder of its value and benefit in building other skills. Too often we say how we got it, of course we can do that, but remember -- 817 started, 102 are standing in front of you. Not everyone gets it; not everyone's got it.

"EIB is a reminder that individual skills training, when conducted to high standards, produces masters of our profession," he said in conclusion. "These men, our newest EIB award winners, are truly the greatest warriors in the 10th Mountain Division. I'm very proud of them."