FORT CARSON, Colo. – Sgt. Sarah N. Long became the first woman in 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, to earn an Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) on Oct. 16 at Fort Carson, Colorado.
The EIB is a special skill badge earned by infantrymen who demonstrate their proficiency in land navigation, weapons training, physical fitness, and Soldier tasks. Only one other woman has earned the award in the 4th Infantry Division.
Long, an infantry team leader assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, said that it was just another day at work for her. “Everyone should strive to get their EIB if they are infantry,” Long said.
Out of the 711 Soldiers who began testing to earn either an EIB or Expert Soldier Badge, Long was among only 85, or 11.9 percent, to succeed. To earn her EIB, Long had to pass a fitness test, complete a day and night land navigation course, and demonstrate above-average proficiency in weapons, patrolling, and medical tasks.
“It was a personal goal because I’ve done it three times prior and I was not going to get defeated this time,” said Long. “I didn’t want to be too confident so I just had to focus on one individual task before moving on to the next.”
Long’s award wasn’t guaranteed until the final ten minutes of testing when she was required to complete a 12 mile ruck march in under three hours. She crossed the finish line at the two hour and 50 minute mark.
“It was amazing. I was freaking out the whole way because they had me running non-stop and I was just like, ‘am I not going to make it?’” said Long. “I was so happy. As soon as they were like you’re so close and then I looked at the time and I just ran the last mile and a half.”
After earning her EIB, Long has been able to put those skills to good use making the Soldiers in her unit more proficient.
“I find myself talking about it a lot,” Long said. “It’s pretty cool to say that I’m an expert at my job. I’m proficient. The guys want me to train them on our downtime, and I love it because I actually know what I’m doing.”
As of June 2020, the Army reported that 601 women were either in the infantry career field, attending training, or in the accessions pipeline. The Army began allowing women into the infantry career fields in 2016.
Long acknowledges that entering into a predominately male career field has not been easy.
“You cannot go into thinking you are a female,” said Long. “You are all the same. Don’t give yourself the barriers. You just have to go in and say ‘Ok you need the (.50 caliber machine gun) put up, too easy.’ I didn’t care what the job was. I just did it.”
Long, a native of Ravenna, Ohio, joined the Army almost four years ago in order to be part of something bigger than herself.
“I was working at a factory right out of high school and it was just work, go home, work again. I needed to get out of the trap. This got me out of my state, got me to socialize with people. It helps me see the bigger picture and grow up in a way,” said Long. “I couldn’t see myself in any other (military occupational specialty). Kicking in doors, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”