Story and photos by
Sgt. Giancarlo Casem
11th ACR Public Affairs

FORT IRWIN, Calif.-With temperatures easily surpassing triple digits, infantrymen from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment underwent a five-day test at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., to earn the infantryman’s coveted Expert Infantry Badge, Aug. 6-10.

“This is a proud day for the infantry warriors standing before,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Phillip Simpao, the command sergeant major of 2nd Squadron, 11th ACR, to the families and friends of the 81 Soldiers who earned their EIB during a badge-pinning ceremony. He added that their accomplishment, “speaks volumes about them and also their families, friends and leaders.”

Preparation for the EIB began in July. Candidates were given the opportunity to train for the events to the EIB test’s exact standards. Candidates refamiliarized themselves with the 34 infantry tasks they would be evaluated on. More than 230 Soldiers entered the training phase, which itself presented mental and physical challenges. By the end of the training phase, that number had dwindled down to 199.

“Starting with the first road march, it was hard,” said Sgt. Samuel Worth, Fury Troop, 2nd Sqdn., 11th ACR. “The train up was really tough, but it’s worth it all.”

Worth, a native of Victorville, Calif., said the training period helped the candidates prepare themselves mentally and physically.

“It made the testing a little easier,” he said. Worth added that one of the most important lessons he learned was to push himself. “When things get really tough, you just have to keep your head up and drive on. It pays off.”

The first day of the EIB testing started on Aug. 6 with an Army Physical Fitness Test. To earn a “go,” the candidates must score at least 75 percent on the push-up, sit-up and two-mile run events. From there, the candidates went directly to the day and land navigation course. The infantrymen plotted their course and navigated their way through the Mojave Desert with temperatures reaching as high 110 degrees. By the end of the first day, only 92 candidates remained.

The next three days of EIB testing focused on the Soldiers’ individual combat tasks. The three lanes; Traffic Control Point, Urban, and Patrol lanes, each consisted of 10 tasks. These tasks included operating different small-arms weapons systems, machine guns, employing hand grenades, calling for artillery or air support and providing first aid. All Soldiers had to complete the tasks within a lane in the prescribed time.

At the conclusion of the individual tasks testing, the number of candidates had dwindled down to 82. By the fifth day, only one obstacle stood in front of the candidates, a 12-mile road march. The candidates started their final endeavor at 3 a.m., Aug. 10, near the Fort Irwin front gate. The Soldiers had to complete the 12-mile trek to Fritz Field in under three hours, while carrying at least a 35 lbs. ruck . The early morning start only provided a short respite from the Mojave Desert heat. As the Soldiers trod closer to the end of the route, the desert sun slowly crept up behind Tiefort Mountain.

As candidates neared the finish line, they were met and cheered on by their fellow Soldiers and the 11th ACR command team. Command Sgt. Maj. Nathan Buckner, Fort Irwin and NTC command sergeant major, congratulated each Soldier personally as they crossed the finish line.

During the badge-pinning ceremony, 81 Soldiers proudly stood in formation. Of those Soldiers, 11 of them received an Army Achievement Medal for earning a “True Blue” EIB. To be considered a true blue EIB holder, a Soldier must receive a “go” in all 34 tasks.

For the Soldiers who earned their EIB, the training provided them with important Soldiering and life lessons.

“I now know what to do, when I need to do it,” said Spc. Luis Veliz of the New Mexico National Guard. “Now I know I can do it with more confidence.”

Veliz, a native of San Jose, Calif., volunteered for a chance to earn his EIB. Veliz was the only Soldier not from the 11th ACR to earn his badge.

“I feel great and proud to have been able to represent New Mexico,” he said.

As the 81 Soldiers walk away from the EIB test, each of them will be able to bring something back to their unit as proven expert infantrymen.
“It’s good to have that training; that high level of standard,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Cowsert, Kilo Troop, 2nd Sqdn., 11th ACR, and a native of Summerton, S.C. “I learned that whatever is thrown at me, I know how to handle it; I’m more confident in combat situations.”