SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Completely exhausted but standing proud, Soldiers took their turn having a simple, yet prestigious, badges placed upon their chest after two and half weeks of rigorous training and meticulous proficiency testing.
On the morning of Sept. 25, 2020, Maj. Gen. James Jarrard, 25th Infantry Division Commanding General, and Command Sgt. Maj. William Pouliot, 25th Infantry Division Command Sergeant Major, personally recognized 163 Soldiers from across Hawaii as experts with 148 Soldiers being presented their Expert Infantryman Badge, and 15 Soldiers their Expert Soldier Badge.
The EIB was developed in 1943 and is reserved for Soldiers who possess infantry and special forces Military Occupational Specialties. Conversely, the ESB is reserved for the remainder of MOSs, with the exception of medical specialties, and was officially implemented at the beginning of 2020.
“The training for EIB and ESB is the best foundational training Soldiers can do,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Command Sergeant Major. “All the tasks in the test are crucial to every Soldier in the Army. These are lifesaving skills, whether in combat or here in our own backyard.”
These badges, though unique to specific military occupational specialties, represent the time spent training, the dedication to excellence, and the commitment to being an expert in one’s craft. In order to earn these badges, candidates must qualify expert on their weapon, pass a physical fitness test, complete 30 testing lanes to perfection, all followed by a 12-mile ruck march with a minimum of 35-pounds in their ruck sack.
1st Lt. Andrew King, a mortar platoon leader assigned to 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division shared his personal experience while going through the process and eventually earning his EIB.
“Overall, definitely it was a great experience,” he said. “You go out there, you know, you’re with your Soldiers and your grinding for the first week of train-up and then it’s the individual PT test then you’re back with your group preparing to test.”
During the training week, Soldiers attempting to earn both badges were grouped into 12-person squads whom they remained with throughout the duration of training and testing.
Sgt. Mark Jason Fabro, a Motor Transport Operator and ESB recipient assigned to 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, stressed the difficulty of completing this adventure and explained that squad mentality was the key to him successfully earning his ESB as these tasks are not something he typically trains on in his daily workload.
“Everyone helps each other and if this Soldier doesn’t know this task we would help them out,” he stated. “My squad helped me out with the task to restore breathing. They were out there helping me out making sure I was 100 percent when I went to the testing lane and I would get it.”
This feat means a lot more to Fabro than the prestige that comes with being one of the first Soldiers in the Army to earn the ESB.
“It benefits a lot because if you go down range you already have that skillset that you learned from ESB or EIB, and it benefits me so I can share these skills with my Soldiers,” he explained.
King echoed this sentiment stating, “I believe the EIB and ESB alike is a force multiplier. You have your young leaders in this Army that because they went through this experience and this crucible they’re motivated to stay in and motivate their Soldiers to also want to become experts at their craft.”
Jarrard closed out the event by directly addressing the formation of newly recognized experts, “When I think of professionals, I think of two things. Number one, striving for excellence every day. I also think about experts … experts in your craft and that’s what everybody in this formation worked hard to achieve over the last few weeks.”
The 25th ID conducted the training and testing periods for both badges simultaneously throughout two and a half weeks in September and are planning another opportunity for Soldiers to earn their badges in the spring of 2021.