Staff Sgt. Paul Scarlett first tried to earn his [EIB] Expert Infantryman Badge in 2006, and fell short of his goal. Six years and two deployments later, Scarlett almost has the coveted badge within his grasp."I didn't have the chance to go back to earn my badge because of deployments," said Scarlett, infantryman, Honor Guard Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). "This was my first chance to redeem myself since I was a private. That's why I am so pumped and excited."Scarlett joined more than 300 Soldiers who competed in The Old Guard's EIB course, March 19-23, at Fort A.P. Hill, Va."From the time I stepped foot off the bus and downloaded my stuff, I felt confident and ready for whatever EIB was going to throw at me," said Scarlett. "Even though I was confident about EIB because of my time as leader and my time deployed, I didn't want to be over confident and make simple mistakes. There will be a lot of people who don't make it for that and other reasons."During the course, participants were tested on basic infantryman skills which challenged their physical and mental abilities. Prior to testing, Soldiers had to first pass a physical fitness test and shoot expert with a rifle. Candidates were then timed and graded through specific tasks to include day and night land navigation, a patrol lane, managing a traffic control point, and an urban lane that simulated movements through a small village."The urban lane was really challenging, so passing it was a great feeling," said Scarlett. "My heart was really pumping fast, so I had to calm myself down because I didn't want to make minor mistakes. I just put myself in the mindset that these were real life situations and not just a lane for training."Even though the urban lane proved to be difficult, Scarlett admitted it was just as fun.
"At one point I had to run and slide to cover and throw a simulated hand-grenade to take out the enemy," Scarlett said enthusiastically. "If I were to compare it to anything, it was like a recent action movie I saw."However, the same could not be said for other competitors. By day two and three, it was clear by the amount of Soldiers left in the living areas how hard the EIB course truly was."It's tough to see guys get kicked out, but I have been in their shoes before. I know how it feels, but I used that to push me that much harder this time," Scarlett said. "All I want to be is an example to the young guys of how to push yourself when you're tired and you think you have nothing left. If you fail, this course will also test how or if you can bounce back from failure."In accordance with a recent survey, L.C. Jackson, Maneuver Center of Excellence public affairs media relations chief, Fort Benning, Ga., said it is very common for Soldiers to fail EIB. Less than half of the Soldiers that participate in this event make it through to the final day.On his final day, only the last event, a 12-mile foot march, stood in Scarlett's way of earning the coveted badge. During the event, Soldiers traveled over paved and unpaved roads carrying more than 75 lbs of equipment."I am going to really hustle during the march. My plan is to finish and then get back to cheer on the rest of the guys," said Scarlett. "I know that it is going to be humid in the morning, but that is why we are constantly hydrating. The last thing you want to do is get injured on the last day."
Pushing aside pain and fatigue, Scarlett crossed the finish line and was greeted by cheerers and supporters."It was really crowded at the finish-line with people yelling at you to run faster," said Scarlett. "I felt so relieved when I finished. All I could think about was how sore and tired I was. I wanted to just sit in some shade for a minute, but I wanted to see if my guys made it. After I saw that they made it, I was really proud of what they accomplished."Exhausted from the 12-mile foot march, Scarlett and other Soldiers were awarded the EIB during a pinning ceremony. As Scarlett was pinned, only one thing came to mind.
"All the preparation and sweat really paid off," said Scarlett. "I failed it the first time, but I knew that I would get my chance no matter how long it took. I am just very proud to be standing here enjoying this moment with my guys."