FORT STEWART, GA -- Seven years of foot marches, numerous nights in the woods, and pulling security in the rain, sleet, snow, or hail is how Staff Sgt. Andrew Debastiani, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, described his time served in the U.S. Army's infantry. The staff sergeant said that some may view the tasks that come along with being in the infantry as rough, harsh, or just plain undesirable, but to "real" infantrymen, it's just their way of life.

Debastiani said Soldiers of the infantry world take pride in being proficient in special skills and warrior tasks that their military occupational specialty requires. He said that once Soldiers complete the strenuous prerequisites, training and testing to earn their Expert Infantry Badge, their status as an infantryman is raised immediately.

"Earning the EIB is a huge stepping stone for an infantryman. It sets him aside from his peers as well as symbolizes that he is an expert at his craft," Debastiani said.
Debastiani, who in 2001 earned his EIB, is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 'react to fire' station at Fort Stewart's EIB training this year.

"It really makes me feel proud to be able to pass on the knowledge and experience I have as an infantryman to these younger Soldiers," he said. "To know I'm helping them to achieve something so prestigious is fulfilling to me."

Debastiani said that though it can be tiring as well as strenuous, the Soldiers usually enjoy the training.

"I remember how excited I was at my first duty station, Fort Bragg. I began training for my EIB just two days after I got there, so I relate well with the Soldiers' enthusiasm," he said. "A lot of the time I find myself feeding off of their motivation," he added.
Debastiani says that the tasks and training required to earn the EIB have not changed much over the years.

"The standard is still the same; these Soldiers are working just as hard to earn their EIB as I had to earn mine. The only difference that I can see is in the equipment; we wore the LCEs as opposed to their IBAs, but that's it," he said.

Debastiani changed his MOS to geospatial engineer in 2008 when he was found medically unable to serve in the infantry. He now works in the 2nd BCT engineer cell, although he will remain an infantryman at heart and is proud to help train Soldiers to become expert infantrymen.