JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Through the darkness, the Soldiers pushed forward toward their objective. Sweat was dripping off the chins of some, hitting the ground as each mile passed.
Their rucksacks seemed heavier with each passing step, their helmets weighing down like lead covers on their heads. They had to complete a full 12 miles before their trek was done.
Once they reached their destination, there was one more task at hand: each Soldier had to treat a simulated casualty and carry him out on a litter.
This was the final event for the Expert Infantryman Badge testing that took place Dec. 11-15, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Out of the 324 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team Soldiers who started the Expert Infantryman Badge testing, only 73 successfully completed all the required tasks and earned their Badge -- making the attrition rate 78 percent.
"The test has evolved over the years," said Command Sgt. Maj. Walter A. Tagalicud, the I Corps command sergeant major. "It certainly differs from the one I participated in to earn my EIB in 1989. But, the spirit and intent remain. There is no greater individual training mechanism to building the fundamental warrior skills required in our profession, than the EIB."
There is a lot of train up to the EIB, said Spc. Tyler Conner, an infantryman with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. Even if a Soldier is not trying out for the EIB, the train up for the testing is valuable to see the right way of doing infantry tasks. When a Soldier finally earns the EIB, it shows that they have honed their skills enough to be called an expert infantryman.
The EIB evaluation included an Army Physical Fitness Test, with a minimum score of 80 points in each event; day and night land navigation; medical, patrol, and weapons lanes; a 12-mile forced march, and Objective Bull (evaluate, apply a tourniquet to and transport a casualty).
"These crucial skills are the building blocks to our battle drills and collective gates," Tagalicud said. "The Expert Infantryman Badge is as much about the training, leading up to and through the testing, as it is about proving your mettle."
"Earning the EIB was one of the best experiences I had in the Army," said Sgt. Wilmar Belilla Lopez, a Soldier with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. "Being tactically and technically proficient is the core of being a Soldier. When a Soldier earns their EIB, it signifies they have achieved a level of proficiency all Soldiers should strive for."
"The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said, 'Out of every 100 men, 10 shouldn't even be there, 80 are just targets, 9 are the real fighters and we are lucky to have them - for they make the battle. But the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back,'"Tagalicud said while addressing the new EIB holders.
"You are that warrior. You Infantrymen, you Soldiers, you leaders and candidates are the one in a hundred," he said. "Many stepped forward to answer the question am I good enough. For you the answer in a resounding yes!"
The EIB was developed in 1944 to represent the infantry's tough, hard-hitting role in combat and symbolize proficiency in infantry craft.
For the first EIB evaluation, 100 noncommissioned officers were selected to undergo three days of testing. When the testing was over, 10 NCOs remained. The remaining ten were interviewed to determine the first Expert Infantryman.
On March 29, 1944, Tech. Sgt. Walter Bull was the first Soldier to be awarded the EIB.