Soldiers with 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) recently underwent five days of continuous testing for the chance to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.

Two-hundred and sixty-nine Old Guard infantrymen arrived to the testing site days before the start to train and prepare for the strenuous route ahead.

"Most of the guys are doing well," Staff Sgt. Tanner Welch, EIB grader from Delta Company, 3rd U.S. Inf. Reg. said three days into the testing. "They came out here and trained for a few days beforehand so I think a lot of them got a lot of good hands on to help them out."

In addition to preparation training, the 269 candidates were required to qualify expert on their rifle, successfully engaging 36 out of 40 targets, before joining their peers in the EIB testing cycle.

Some of the testing events included an Army physical fitness test, day and night land navigation, simulated training lanes within an urban environment, a patrol scenario and a traffic control point.

"I was worried about the lanes just because little mistakes were getting guys safety violations. I just took it one day at a time." Sgt. Patrick Shippert, Caisson Platoon, 3rd U.S. Inf. Reg. said.

The EIB testing lanes were setup up to closely simulate a combat environment and safety was a key factor in the successful completion of each individual task.

"It's important to earn that badge as an infantryman because it shows that you're able to orient on the details. Anybody can just fire a SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) you may or may not do it safe, but if you focus on the details and you can do it right, then you're doing it safe," Welch said. "When these guys show that they can perform all the tasks to the standard the right way it shows that they're more than capable."

The final test of endurance was the completion of the 12-mile road march. Infantrymen who crossed the finish line within 3 hours were awarded the EIB. Eighty-nine Old Guard Soldiers began the march and each one reached the end in the required time.

"When I first came out here I had a lot of doubts and now that I'm here and I finished it's just good, it's really good," Pfc. Kyle Cronkrite, Alpha Company, 3rd U.S. Inf. Reg. said, shortly following the road march.

"I just took it one day at a time. Pass the pushups, pass the sit-ups, pass the run, and pass the day and night land nav. Just get through every day on the lanes," Shippert said. "I really wasn't worried about the ruck march just because when you get that far the rest was just determination."

The Old Guard completed the EIB testing with a 33 percent pass rate, beating out the Army's past annual averages of roughly 15-25 percent.

The infantrymen not awarded the EIB this year left the testing grounds more proficient in their infantrymen skills and will have the chance to apply lessons learned in next year's training cycle.

"Nine out of 10 Soldiers out here are better trained than before they came out here and that's more important than actually getting the badge," Welch said. "It's receiving the training and understanding 'all right this is what I'm going to have to do in a real situation verses just alright I'm doing this to get a badge.'"