“Earning your Expert Soldier Badge starts at your unit. Get in the books, get in the arms rooms, hit the pavement and go for a long run,” says Command Sgt. Maj. Francisco Lopez.Lopez, the Command Sgt. Maj. of the Fort Bragg based 82nd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division is the first Army Command Sgt. Maj. to earn the Expert Soldier Badge.Throughout June, Lopez and other paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division braved the North Carolina summer heat and humidity to train and test for the ESB.This was the first time the 82nd Airborne Division hosted training and testing for the ESB, running it concurrently with Expert Infantryman Badge training and testing while ensuring COVID-19 mitigation measures were in place. After two phases of training and testing, 154 paratroopers earned their EIB, 34 their ESB.With standards mirroring those of EIB testing and training, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command announced the ESB in a June 2019 article with the intent of testing a soldier’s proficiency in “physical fitness, marksmanship, land navigation and other critical skills, and demonstrates a mastery of the art of soldiering.”“I learned the future of the 82nd Airborne Division is in good hands. I saw young paratroopers getting after their EIB and ESB that already had Ranger Tabs and are Jumpmaster qualified,” said Lopez about what he observed during the training and testing phases. “I learned that although ESB is an individual award, it takes a team effort just to get one paratrooper through the training.”Earning the ESB is a marathon test of a paratrooper’s grit, physical endurance and mental agility. After earning top scores during an Army Combat Fitness Test and rifle marksmanship range, candidates trained for a week on a myriad of tasks.Testing required the candidates to meet exacting standards to demonstrate their knowledge on those tasks and earn the “Go” necessary to proceed. The testing culminated in a timed 12-mile roadmarch with a 35lb. rucksack through the backwoods of Fort Bragg.“My paratroopers motivate me, I still want to be able to do what they do, I want them to know I will endure adversity right alongside them,” said Lopez about earning his ESB alongside paratroopers of his battalion. “We all had different ways of learning, we all shared it and worked well together.”