FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Of 457 Soldiers who began the five-day Expert Infantryman Badge assessment, only 89 were able to earn their EIBs at Molnar Range on March 1.
The Soldiers - who came from military units at Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, Georgia - were at the range for one week of training and one week of rehearsal before the testing began Feb. 25.
Rains had soaked Molnar Range, site of the March 1 awards ceremony. Family and fellow Soldiers joined the ceremony. When it came time for the badges to be pinned on the newly-certified expert infantrymen, commanders and Family walked across the soggy field to join their Soldier.
Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Command Sgt. Maj. Martin S. Celestine spoke at the awards ceremony about the exemplary nature of the new badge recipients.
"These officers, NCOs and Soldiers standing beside you are example setters," said Celestine. "They set the example for dedication. They set the example for commitment to their profession. They set the example for perseverance. And they set the example for leaders, peers and subordinates to emulate."
The first day of testing involved both a physical fitness assessment and land navigation. In the physical fitness assessment, the Soldiers had to complete 49 push-ups in two minutes and 59 sit-ups in two minutes and run four miles in 32 minutes or less. If a Soldier was unable to complete this physical assessment, the Soldier could no longer continue the competition.
The land navigation, which included both a day and night assessment, required the Soldiers to navigate through the land surrounding the range without the aid of electronic navigation devices. If they were unable to complete land navigation, they could no longer compete for the badge.
Through the three days that followed, candidates tested in weapons, patrol and medical tasks. The number of remaining Soldiers dwindled day by day.
Entering the final day of the testing, there were only 91 Soldiers left. The last day began at 5 a.m. with a 12-mile road march the Soldiers had to complete in less than three hours. After that they had to disassemble and reassemble an M4 carbine and perform a functions check within two minutes.
"You have achieved a milestone that not every infantryman will achieve," said Celestine. "You are true warriors."
Soldiers of Task Force 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, organized the event. Sgt. Maj. Travis Quade, operations sergeant major for Task Force 1-28, earned his EIB in 1995 as a private.
"It's been rewarding just to see how much better some of the younger Soldiers are at some of the tasks they've been performing over the last two weeks during train-up," said Quade.
Assessments for the EIB take place across the country. Even while the Fort Benning assessment was taking place, there were assessments happening at Fort Carson, Colorado, and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Quade, however, spoke about the significance of the testing taking place at Fort Benning.
"Fort Benning is the home of the Infantry," said Quade. "This is where the Infantry School is. So, every one of us started basic training here at Fort Benning on Sand Hill -- everyone out here. And now they earned their EIB where they started their Army experience."
For Capt. Brian Johnson, commander of Alpha Company, Task Force 1-28, this assessment was his second attempt to earn the EIB.
"I'm certainly honored to have this and join my peers receiving it today," said Johnson. "It says something about an individual that wears this. It's an honor, and you know it's a difficult task. You have to work hard to achieve that ... It's something I can take with me and cherish forever."