By Vince Little, The BayonetFebruary 15, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Hundreds of Soldiers from units across Fort Benning are taking aim at the Expert Infantryman Badge this week.
A total of 567 candidates began the hunt, but Monday's Army physical fitness test and day and night land-navigation courses were expected to cut into the pool. Graders were to evaluate the remaining Soldiers in 30 tests spread over Tuesday, today and Thursday on three distinct lanes: urban, patrol and traffic-control point. Those who pass face a 12-mile foot march early Friday.
The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team is hosting this year's test session at the Selby Hill Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, with 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, taking the organizational lead.
The badge is a measure of individual Soldiering skills and considered the hallmark of an Infantryman's career, said 1st Lt. Paul Lively, officer in charge of EIB testing. It's only awarded to Infantry and Special Forces personnel.
"Shoot, move, communicate, medicate - these are the four things every Infantryman needs to be an expert in," he said Wednesday. "We definitely try to stick to those four tenets any time we have a training event. Realizing that, there are different weapons systems on all three lanes and medical scenarios on all three lanes."
Tasks include engaging targets with hand grenades, conducting patrols involving ambush scenarios, identifying and clearing foreign weapons, spotting terrain features on a map, properly entering and clearing buildings, and staging medevacs.
Candidates get 20 minutes to complete 10 missions within each lane, one of which is a "decision task," Lively said. A failing mark is handed out if they receive more than two "no gos" per phase.
EIB administrators said the test emphasizes precision, speed and decision-making - and focus is essential.
"Soldiers just need to communicate, take their time, go through each one of the tasks in their head and think things through," said Sgt. 1st Class Raul Esteras, NCOIC of the urban lane. "If they do that, they should have no problem accomplishing the tasks. If they start rushing, they'll get desperate and more likely to make a mistake."
Rehearsal for EIB testing took place last week as candidates got hands-on training with all 30 tasks in three mock lanes at Selby Hill. Lively said they spent two days on each lane during practice week.
"We're mimicking what they'll encounter during test week," Esteras said, "but they don't know the order of the tasks and we keep the decision points a secret."
Just to be eligible for the EIB test, Soldiers must first qualify as expert on the M4 or M16 rifle. Lively said Fort Benning's initial candidate list numbered 771, but that was reduced in large part by the weapons benchmark. Others dropped out because of injuries or last-minute emergencies.
The EIB awards ceremony is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday on Todd Field.
WHAT WILL IT MEAN TO EARN THE EIB'
"You'll be able to instruct younger Soldiers more in these skills. The badge defines the strong Soldier and smart Soldier all in one."
Sgt. Ransom Smith
2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment
"It's a rite of passage into the world of Infantry. I'm just starting my career in the Infantry branch - the EIB is one of those standards you need to meet."
2nd Lt. James Mork
Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course
"I've been in the military eight years, but this is my first opportunity to go out for the badge because of our real-world ops tempo. ... It's almost like getting the monkey off my back. This is the pinnacle. I'm reaching that last little point of being an Infantryman. I'm glad to have the opportunity."
Staff Sgt. James Slevin
Stryker Bradley Instructional Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment