FORT RILEY, Kan. — The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division recently hosted E3B — a training and testing period for the Expert Infantryman Badge, Expert Soldier Badge and Expert Field Medical Badge — for Soldiers across Fort Riley and nearby posts Feb. 22 through March 10, 2023.
E3B started with two weeks of training in which over 500 Soldiers began the pursuit of their badges. Candidates honed their warrior tasks and battle drills, training on land navigation, tactical combat casualty care, hand signals, weapons familiarization and radio functions.
“Our goal is to get the best results for our Soldiers,” said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Naill Cooper, the command sergeant major for 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Div. and an evaluator for the E3B graders. “The noncommissioned officers leading the lanes are providing mentorship and outstanding leadership that they swore to provide to those they are responsible for.”
The majority of the evaluators and trainers for E3B were senior NCOs that previously earned a badge themselves. They were selected for their expertise, leadership and motivation to make sure each candidate was as prepared as possible for the qualification.
The final week of E3B was dedicated to testing. The event kicked off with the Expert Physical Fitness Assessment as well as day and night land navigation. Approximately 30 percent of candidates failed to progress past day one of evaluations.
At the end of the week, after a 12-mile ruck march and rapid weapons disassembly and reassembly, 133 candidates had proven themselves experts in their craft. In total, 66 infantrymen, 59 Soldiers and 8 medical professionals earned their badges; less than 23 percent of the starting field.
U.S. Army Capt. Royce Woodard, an armor officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Div., earned his Expert Soldier Badge and attributed the badge earners’ success to the NCOs teaching and training during the event. “From beginning to end, leadership within the lanes has been from noncommissioned officers,” Woodard said. “That is what has made this as strong and successful as it is.”
The final ceremony, held at Cavalry Parade Field, recognized the work, hours and dedication the candidates put into the near month of training and qualifying. The 19 “True Blue”, 11 “Perfect Edge” and three “No Blood” candidates — those that passed every event on the first attempt for the Expert Infantry, Expert Soldier, and Expert Field Medical Badges, respectively — were individually recognized and awarded Army Commendation Medals by Brig. Gen. Niave F. Knell, the deputy commanding general-support of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley. Select cadre were also awarded Army Commendation Medals for their dedication and leadership by Col. Brian E. McCarthy, the 1st ABCT commander.
“The key [to success] for me was visualization,” said "No Blood" EFMB awardee Capt. Cara Adams, a dietician assigned to Underwood Army Community Hospital at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. “Visualize yourself doing it, get the reps in and use your peers to study and talk about your tasks.”
The candidates that finished this year’s event returned to their units after the award ceremonies and gave pep talks to Soldiers that are planning on participating in the next E3B.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Adams said. “Use your peers, graders and leaders to help you get there."
Several candidates left the ceremony thanking the noncommissioned officers that graded the tests and mentored them along the way.
“The NCOs came back out here to coach and train their teammates,” Cooper said. “Being out here for the Soldiers going through it, they made sure that we provided the best training and leadership possible.”
The current 1st Inf. Div. NCO of the Quarter and now Expert Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Morgan Hicks, a Black Hawk helicopter mechanic assigned to 601st Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Inf. Div., reflected on everything that led her from training to earning her badge.
“Every ounce of effort I had went into this qualification,” Hicks said. “The absolute support from my chain of command and the training given by the lane NCOs was extremely impactful. Everyone wanted me to succeed.”