By Susanne Kappler, Fort Jackson LeaderMarch 27, 2008
Almost 70 percent of Fort Jackson permanent-party Soldiers who tested for the Expert Infantry Badge last week passed, but according to the U.S. Army Infantry home page, Army-wide the average pass rate is just under 10 percent.
Of the installation's 54 noncommissioned officers who were tested, 36 received their badge in a ceremony Tuesday, and seven of them were given the "true blue" distinction for passing the tests without mistakes.
Brig. Gen. James H. Schwitters, Fort Jackson commanding general, expressed delight with the execution of the test.
"I should add my compliments to the cadre and members of the 171st (Infantry Brigade) for providing the expertise to run the testing and the whole program. It was a well-run, seamless and flawless administration of the test," he said.
He also emphasized the initiative shown by the NCOs who were tested.
"The fact that even while we're at war as an Army while we have many of these NCOs who have achieved combat infantryman status for them to seek the recognition that comes with the EIB is certainly important."
Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Sperling, operations NCO in charge at the Victory Support Battalion, partly attributed the success rate to the Soldiers providing the training.
"Most Soldiers said they appreciated the professionalism of the graders and lane NCOICs," Sperling said. "The candidates were provided with enough training time to ensure a high probability of success when it came to testing."
Staff Sgt. James Hawkins, a drill sergeant with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, and one of the Soldiers who received the "true blue" distinction said he agreed.
"I thought the training was outstanding," he said. "The entire cadre was there to assist in any way possible to make sure we understood the standard."
Fort Jackson conducts EIB training even though the installation is not home to an infantry division.
"It means a lot to Fort Jackson to have this competition because it continues a proud tradition of infantrymen striving for excellence," Schwitters said.
Sperling said he saw an advantage in conducting EIB testing on a "non-typical" installation.
"Most Soldiers will be hard pressed to train and test for EIB when they get to a line unit. They have their own unit's mission in addition to EIB," Sperling said. "This way, we allow the Soldiers dedicated time to fulfill the EIB testing requirements."
The EIB can be earned by Soldiers who have infantry or Special Forces military occupational specialties. In addition, candidates need to:
-- Have a score of at least 75 percent on their Army Physical Fitness Test;
-- Have an "expert" weapons qualification;
-- Have completed the day and night land navigation course;
-- And have finished a 12-mile tactical road march within three hours.
"It (the EIB) means everything," said Staff Sgt. Michael Canterbury, Company B, VSB. "This is the culmination of an infantryman's life. This is everything we are. It took a long time to train. I had six years before I actually had the chance. This is my first time. I lucked out and went 'true blue.'"
"It means a lot to me, because it's one more way to set the example for your Soldiers to follow. I believe leaders should be in front, and this is a step closer to the front," he said.
During the testing, candidates need to prove their proficiency in more than 30 infantry skills, including advanced weapons, navigational and first aid expertise.
Fort Jackson last conducted EIB training three years ago. The 100th Infantry Division Association will present a cash gift to the highest EIB scorer later in the year.
The EIB was first awarded in 1944 to noncommissioned officers of the 100th Infantry Division and remains highly coveted by infantrymen. The 100th Inf. Div., now assigned to Fort Knox, Ky., was activated at Fort Jackson in 1942.