Multinational Soldiers, deployed in support of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group-Poland initiative, earned the U.S. Army’s Expert Infantryman Badge and U.S. Army Europe’s Expert Soldier Badge in Bemowo Piskie, Poland, between March 23, 2020 and April 3, 2020. Notably, this served as the first ESB training and testing in U.S. Army Europe.
Completing the mission, NATO BG-P maintained readiness while supporting the Army's number one priority: combatting the spread of COVID-19. According to Lt. Col. Andrew Gallo, squadron commander, 3rd Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment and BG-P, Soldiers immediately took action to include cancelling travel and following the COVID-19 mitigation guidance.
“We initiated 100% medical screening operations of all Battle Group Soldiers and at the access points to our base," said Gallo. "Fortunately, we didn’t have any Soldiers with signs or symptoms of the virus.”
The BG-P implemented COVID-19 protocols such as routine medical screenings, closing off high traffic areas, emplacement of hand-washing stations outside of buildings and social distancing. Maj. Emerson Davis, executive officer, BG-P, emphasized the unit’s commitment to Soldiers.
“We are committed to the health and well-being of our Soldiers," said Davis. "We continue to train while taking appropriate steps to prevent possible contraction or spread of COVID-19. We will maintain readiness because our commitment to our country and our NATO allies requires that we do.”
Noncommissioned officers assigned as evaluators at the EIB and ESB testing site felt the importance to facilitate training for the candidates.
“This training event teaches and refines the basic skills that infantrymen and Soldiers learn at the lowest level,” said Sgt. Josue Arceo, infantry team leader, Iron Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment. “Some Soldiers may take the skills that we teach here for granted, but when it comes time to use it, being an expert at the fundamentals will benefit those Soldiers and their teammates.”
For Soldiers who previously earned the EIB, there was a strong sense of pride during the training.
Having earned his badge in 2009, 1st Sgt. Adam Prince, senior enlisted advisor, Iron Troop, 3/2CR, mentored Soldiers at every event in hopes that they would earn their EIB. He also served as a quality control expert for this year’s EIB qualification lanes.
“Even though we face challenges associated with the extra precautions for combating the potential spread of COVID-19, the standards for testing have not degraded in any way,” said Prince. “With the precautions and fluctuating weather patterns, I’m proud of all the hard work from every candidate out here, and I hope the majority of our Soldiers get the badge.”
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Gregory Doty, liaison officer, Hammer Troop, 3/2CR, tried out for the badge a year prior but was unsuccessful. This year, he returned stronger and more prepared, successfully completing the grueling 12-mile ruck march to earn his EIB.
“I’m glad I earned it this time around,” said Doty. “I waited a year to get another shot at it, and I’m lucky to have been given [an] opportunity to earn it. As an officer you’re expected to have this. If you’re going to be in charge of Soldiers, you need to be an expert at the basics."
Multinational Soldiers assigned to NATO BG-P also had the opportunity to earn the ESB, with two awardees from the Croatian Army and one from the British Army.
“I can’t say it was easy," said Pvt. Sara Grubic, satellite communications operator, Storm Battery, 5th Croatian Contingent. "We received a lot of information in a very short period of time, and we spent entire days in all weather conditions. In spite of the language barrier, I am very proud to have successfully completed the testing and to wear this badge.”
At the end of the successful training event, 29 Soldiers earned their EIB, and 14 Soldiers earned their ESB. The BG-P emerged from the training even more combat ready.
EIB and ESB training and testing builds Soldier expertise, improves cohesion across the multinational battle group and instills confidence that the alliance is prepared to work together to accomplish any mission. BG-P is motivated to continue to enhance readiness while simultaneously protecting the health of the force through COVID-19 mitigation measures.