By Pfc. Paul A. Holston, 1st HBCT Public AffairsJuly 6, 2010
CAMP HOVEY, Republic of Korea - Warriors from 2nd Infantry Division, and candidates from around the peninsula, competed to earn one of the highest honors an infantryman can earn, the Expert Infantry Badge, June 14-18 at Camp Casey.
Participating American and Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army Soldiers were pushed physically and mentally as they were tested on 36 different tasks, including an Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation, and a 12-mile road march.
"This time around, we've changed the test completely," said Command Sgt. Maj. Raul V. Huerta, of 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment and president of the EIB committee.
"Last time during train up, they were able to go through the lanes and the graders were able to help them," Huerta said. But this time, they had to train away from the EIB site, so it was harder for them, having not seen the lanes prior to testing.
The EIB gives the wearer bragging rights, Huerta added. Soldiers spend weeks upon weeks with their units preparing for this challenge and must qualify "expert" on their weapons before being allowed to compete.
"I've trained with my unit in the past couple of weeks to prepare for this," said Pvt. Richard L. Isom, from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team. "I'm just taking it one day at a time."
The EIB was created in 1943 and can only be awarded to personnel who hold infantry or Special Forces military occupation specialties. Each station is graded by cadre already wearing the badges, who ensure the strict standards of the test are upheld.
The test is not only one of skill; it's a measure of a Soldier's inner will and motivation.
"I think the physical training test, land navigation course and the road march are the events that have eliminated the most this year," said Huerta.
In order to earn their EIBs, the 242 Soldiers had to pass every station. If they received a "no-go" on their first attempt, they would have one more chance to retest. If they received a second "no-go" at any time during the event, they would be disqualified from earning an EIB.
After completing the final test, a 12-mile road march in less than three hours, only 32 of the 242 who started the three-day ordeal, were awarded the badge.
"Everyone who came out here gave all that they could, but some didn't make it," said Pvt. Jonathan Matos, B Company, 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment, 1st HBCT. "I'm just glad I earned my EIB today, while I'm still a young infantryman."
"Every infantryman should strive to earn their EIB," he said. "It sets you apart from the rest and lets people know that you're an expert at your job."