JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- After three, rigorous, weeks of training and preparation, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division's Expert Infantryman Badge and Expert Soldier Badge testing came to a close here, Oct. 31, 2019.
Sixty-eight Soldiers earned the ESB, with 23 designated as "Perfect Edge" as they received perfect scores on every lane and task, while 151 candidates earned their EIB, with 59 identified as "True Blue" for their perfection at the culmination of the testing week.
The month-long journey began with nearly 600 participants out to prove their proficiency in physical training, marksmanship, land navigation, weapons proficiency, and medical aid.
It was also, a first as 2-2 SBCT was the first Army unit to certify Soldiers on the ESB.
"Weeks of training, PT tests, day and night land navigation, 30 tasks and a 12-mile road march, and you're standing here this morning a success," said Brig. Gen. Kevin Leahy, deputy commanding general for operations, 7th Infantry Division, during the EIB and ESB award ceremony. "Today our Army is better - more lethal - because of you, our awardees."
This testing marks the first time in Army history that the EIB and ESB were run concurrently, and the results were a resounding success.
"The integration of ESB and EIB has been seamless," said Sgt. Maj. Stephen Siglock, the brigade operations sergeant major who served as the non-commissioned officer in charge of testing. "The train-up was completely identical, the testing completely identical - with the exception of one station."
ESB test stations include traditional skill level one Soldier tasks as well as five additional tasks selected from their unit's mission essential task list. Being an infantry unit, Lancer Brigade chose to test ESB candidates alongside their EIB counterparts on the Javelin Close Combat Missile System, the M136 AT4 rocket launcher, range cards, shift from a known point, and an exclusive-to-ESB vehicle identification lane.
"We had multiple squads that had EIB and ESB candidates in the same squad," Siglock said. "For the infantrymen, it gave them a chance to give back to the people who have supported them in their operations throughout the year and to share their knowledge, especially on the weapons systems. For the ESB soldiers, it gives them a chance to perform these tasks that often times they haven't been given the opportunity before."
"For us, we're all doing the same thing regardless of MOS," he continued.
For 2nd Lt. Elena Chavez, an infantry officer from Kansas City, Missouri, assigned to 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, the three weeks of training with her Soldiers paid off.
"I got out there and saw my guys and it was just like any other day when we were training," she said. "I lost all my nerves, gained my composure, and it was just another day."
She was one of two female infantry Soldiers to earn the coveted EIB and "True Blue" status, along with 1-17 Inf. Reg.'s 2nd Lt. Natalie Bulick-Sullivan.
"It is really a great feeling," said the first Judge Advocate General Soldier to earn the ESB, Sgt. Matthew Clark, a paralegal with 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment. "During the mock testing phase I realized earning the badge was attainable."
"It was really important to have the hands-on time, getting the repetitions necessary, and listening to my squad leader," added the Las Vegas native. "At the end of the day I really feel like all Soldiers should strive to earn their badge. It was a great experience."
The week ended with a 37% overall success rate of EIB and ESB combined, which Siglock attributes to a thorough pre-screening process, ample train-up time on the lanes, and the emphasis on squads working together throughout the train-up and testing.
Both tests are designed to recognize excellence in Soldier combat skills, while also improving lethality and increasing readiness across the force.
"You've all accomplished something great," Leahy said. "You've done your part to make yourselves and our Army better - more ready and more lethal."
While certainly a momentous occasion in each recipient's Army career, the pinning of the badges at the closing ceremony is only the next step in their EIB and ESB journey, as each badge holder is now authorized to train squads and grade future testing.
"Remember how well this training and test was conducted, and take that with you as your benchmark and standard - the standard which you will uphold," Leahy said to the awardees. "You now bear the responsibility that comes with the EIB and ESB - the responsibility to pass on your expertise during training and during the next EIB ESB testing event."