By Vince LittleAugust 8, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Aug. 8, 2012) -- Senior enlisted and civilian leaders from Army installations worldwide gathered here last week for a two-day Expert Infantryman Badge symposium.
Subject matter experts within the Infantry community came to give their insight and feedback on maintaining rigorous, mission-focused and standards-based testing for Expert Infantryman Badge, or EIB, tasks across the force, Maneuver Center of Excellence officials said. The session took place Aug. 2-3, in the Doughboy Room at McGinnis-Wickam Hall.
"The intent behind this was to bring in elements from the operational force to ensure we are training on the most relevant tasks in today's operating environment," said Command Sgt. Maj. Steven McClaflin, the Infantry School's command sergeant major. "It also gives them the ability to tailor the EIB to train on the tasks that are most relevant to the operational environment they're going to be in."
The badge is a measure of individual Soldiering skills and considered by many to be the hallmark of an Infantryman's career, officials said. It's only awarded to Infantry and Special Forces personnel.
Tasks, requirements and procedures are outlined in USAIC Pamphlet 350-6, distributed Armywide in February 2007. They can vary among units and from post to post. However, the test generally includes the Army physical fitness test, day and night land navigation, a 12-mile foot march, and missions along urban, patrol and traffic-control point lanes a Soldier might typically face in combat.
"One of the challenges a lot of units are having is understanding what is really meant by outcomes-based training," said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Ulibarri, a former post command sergeant major now working as the Asymmetric Warfare Group's liaison officer at Fort Benning. "There are a lot of misconceptions out there. We need to build that understanding so those principles are applied properly to the Expert Infantryman Badge test.
"We have some good collaboration and sharing of ideas going. You have to find a way to modify your training so you develop that confident, adaptive Soldier in the process of your training, not something that's distinct. It's the fusing of (Soldier development and training) that's really important."
Sgt. Maj. Terry Easter, operations sergeant major for the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), at Fort Campbell, Ky., called the Expert Infantryman Badge a "covenant award" that Infantry Soldiers have always used to mark their excellence.
"It is our job as senior leaders to ensure it's competitive, it shows true competency and it is an award of a true expert," he said. "With the integration of new equipment, we've got to ensure our testing and training standards are evolving as fast as the new equipment is arriving. That is the only way to truly measure an expert Infantry Soldier."
Changes aren't necessarily forthcoming or imminent to any EIB procedures, said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Zavodsky of the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command in Grafenwoehr, Germany. Units there are headed into a third iteration of the outcomes-based model.
"Each time, we get a little better. That's why I don't know if we necessarily want to throw the baby out with the bath water and say it doesn't work," he said. "You look at our young leaders today, and there are some increased capabilities. Our Soldiers have 10 years of combat experience, they're smarter (and) they're better educated. How do we leverage the skills that are inherently present in all our Soldiers to get the most out of training, and still recognize experts?"
"Outcomes-based training, in a lot of people's interpretation, would be, 'It doesn't matter how you got there; it just matters what the results were.' That's why we're here in this room, because we're not sure that's what the EIB is all about. We do care how you got there. Somehow, we have to balance that."
McClaflin, who's set to relinquish his position at a change-of-responsibility ceremony Friday, said he doesn't anticipate major changes to EIB testing.
"I don't think you'll see a huge difference in how it's being conducted right now," he said. "What this forum has actually allowed us to do is lay out a more defined process, answer some questions the field had that maybe weren't answered in the current EIB 350-6 and share some best practices."
His replacement, Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Guden, said he hopes the MCoE and Infantry School remain the "model for EIB testing" in the Army.
"For units that haven't done EIB in a while, or if they've got a big changeover with leadership and new people, they could have something to revert back to," he said. "They got an idea for what a baseline model looks like."