FORT STEWART, GEORGIA - Infantrymen across the Army have either attempted, failed, or succeeded in obtaining the prestigious Expert Infantry Badge, or EIB.
It is not awarded to the faint of heart though, and is given only to those who can endure the four-day intensified, attention-to-detail, “go” or “no-go,” event that has beckoned many and been triumphant for few.
Achieving the EIB for Staff Sgt. Thomas Rowe, an infantryman, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 188th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, was a chance at “accomplishing a personal goal” and when career progression presented itself to Rowe he decided to go after it.
“It’s rare that you see an infantryman at my rank without their EIB because it is frowned upon by your peers if you don’t have it,” said Rowe. “The badge isn’t needed for promotion, but it’s a badge that I don’t have, and it will solidify me as an expert infantryman so I’m trying to get it and that’s why it’s my personal goal.”
With 12 years of service as an infantryman, three deployments to Afghanistan, and a chance to be promoted, Rowe said he felt the EIB was the only thing standing in the way of accomplishing his goal of achieving the next rank.
Despite his experiences he decided to enlist the help of others.
Rowe trained with Sgt. 1st Class Damon Wishnack, an Infantryman, assigned to Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 395th Armor Regiment, 188th Infantry Brigade- who helped Rowe focus on his running- and Staff Sgt. Johnathan Lee, an infantryman, assigned to Alpha Company, 1-306th Infantry Battalion, 188th Infantry Brigade- who sharpened Rowe’s skill on land navigation.
Both Soldiers tag teamed their workouts to help increase Rowe’s potential for success during EIB events.
“In terms of physical training, we created a workout schedule that encompassed skilled progress as well as proper rest,” said Lee.
The training process covered every event of the EIB to work on Rowe’s speed and time management.
“We conducted running workouts approximately two to three times a week that varied between long slow runs, intervals, and sprints,” Lee continued. “We would ruck four to six miles and gradually increase the weight [of the ruck sack] while decreasing the time per mile. I would also have him practice land navigation by plotting given points, creating attack points as well as resection.”
The EIB consists of a physical fitness assessment, day and night land navigation, weapon qualification, a 12-mile foot march with a 70 lb. load, and lane and station testing in individual tasks.
“I was able to accomplish all of the tasks in the amount of time given, and receive a go on the day and night land navigation, but I didn’t make it,” said Rowe after the event.
It wasn’t until waking up after he passed out just before the finish line of the last event- a heat casualty- that Rowe realized achieving the EIB was going to take more training, grit and determination.
“This doesn’t take the fight out of me at all,” he said. “This just motivates me to go back out there and get it.”
Rowe made it a point to express gratitude for the training other Soldiers gave him and said he will continue to train for the next iteration.
“We trained for two months before the actual EIB,” said Rowe. “This was definitely a team effort, and all help was very beneficial throughout this process, but I refuse to give up on getting my badge.”
Rowe’s teammates said they were looking forward to supporting him for the next iteration.
“I’m bummed that he didn’t make it this time because he pushed himself so hard during our training,” said Wishnack. “He’s a hard working dude, and it broke my heart that he heat catted on the ruck, but I’m positive that he will get it the next time around.”
With Rowe’s fellow Soldiers and co-workers behind him, a team to train him and the motivation to keep going after failing, Rowe has become an inspirational example of the words “never give up.”
“I’m definitely going to go back and accomplish this,” said Rowe. “Success has no timeline, and I know that at the end of the day, as long as I put forth an effort to go back out there to train and execute those tasks to standard, then I will be successful.”
The next iteration for the EIB will be October 25, 2021, where there will be practice days before the four-day qualifying tests November 6th through the 10th.