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More than 150 Arrowhead soldiers earn Expert Infantryman Badges

Six soldiers were classified as "true blue"

Spc. Jacob Williams, an Expert Infantryman Badge candidate, from A Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, explains the steps of arming and firing an 84-mm AT4, single-shot weapon. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Christopher McCullough

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The Expert Infantryman Badge was awarded to 159 infantrymen from the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, for successfully completing the brigade's week-long EIB testing, during a ceremony April 26, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"It's for infantry and special operators. It trains and tests the individual candidates on infantry tasks and skills," said Command Sgt. Maj. Peter L. Smith, the Arrowhead Brigade's command sergeant major. "You only have to earn it once in your military career. It's done, preferably, once a year but, because of the constant deployments, we haven't done it in four years."

Of the 159 Infantrymen awarded the EIB, only six were classified as "true blue," a reference to those infantrymen who earned their badge with all "GOs."

Essentially, perfection.

"True blue is pretty much going all the way through your lane without messing anything up; doing all the minor and big tasks to standard," explained Sgt. Richard Madrid, an EIB candidate from Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3-2 SBCT, who was one of only six "true blue" graduates this time around.

Sgt. 1st Class James Harris, the acting operations command sergeant major for 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, instructs this group of Expert Infantryman Badge candidates on the requirements for the lane testing they are about to begin. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Christopher McCullough

The week-long event began with 805 participants from across JBLM. However, before any training was conducted, each soldier was required to qualify expert - shooting 36 to 40 accurate shots during weapons qualification - with either the M16 or M4 rifle. If they were successful, their next stage was the Army Physical Fitness Test, which is the first event in the weeklong pursuit of excellence.

"Day One is (the APFT) and they have to score 75 percent in each event in their age group," said Smith. "Day and night land navigation is also on Day one."

Land navigation testing required candidates to plot and find specific locations during timed day and night iterations, a feat which usually cuts the number of qualified candidates in half by day two.

"That's usually the big killer," said Smith.

The EIB candidates who pass day one, move onto lane training. Lane training utilized 30 stations, over three days, to test Soldiers on various infantry-related tasks, and are broken down into three areas: patrol lane, urban lane and traffic control point lane. Each lane contains 10 tasks that must be completed in 20 minutes or less; if averaged, the soldiers had complete each task in two minutes to pass. The lanes are set up to simulate combat that Soldiers might expect to encounter in both an urban and rural settings, like Afghanistan.

"This tests the basic soldiering skills of any given Soldier; the lowest level tasks that they're expected to know," said Sgt. 1st Class James Harris, the acting Operations Command Sergeant Major for 5-20 Inf. "This new EIB is expected to simulate a combat environment, if you will, with forcing functions and decision making tasks that need to be incorporated to ensure the stress level is higher but they can still execute and accomplish the task."

The new EIB testing Harris referenced is the standard that was introduced in 2010. Previously, the EIB was station-to-station, allowing soldiers plenty of time to think about the test before they completed it, Harris explained.

"The (new) method is task-after-task-after-task, with minimal time to think ... to simulate more of a combat environment where Soldiers will come across multiple tests they have to accomplish at one time or in sequence in order to accomplish their mission," Harris said.

Each lane covers different basic infantry skills including loading and unloading different weapon systems; correcting any deficiencies on weapons; calling for and adjusting indirect artillery fire; using a mine detecting device; engaging an enemy with grenades; identifying terrain features; moving under direct fire; performing basic medical skills on a variety of wounds; and sending situation reports. It is all difficult stuff, but not impossible.

"It's all in the nerves. People get nervous and mess simple things up. Once you get to your test, think about it then execute," said Madrid when asked how he passed every station with a ‘GO.'"

Finally, on the fifth and final day of testing, there was a 12-mile forced road march.

"You have to finish the 12-mile road march in three hours. You're in full kit and you have to carry a rucksack that weighs 35 lbs," Smith said.

As arduous as the road march can be, it is often the most looked forward to event as it marks the culmination of the candidates testing. The march, like the EIB itself, is clear representation of personal triumph. There's nothing to study. It is all about spirit; how badly the candidate wishes to succeed.

"It's simple actually," Madrid said. "You gotta want it."

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