Back to News Front

2nd Brigade holds Expert Infantryman Badge testing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

The sweet taste of an EIB

Sgt. Andrew Protacio, 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, holds an Expert Infantryman Badge with his lips near the finish of a 12-mile road march at JBLM. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson.

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Sgt. Andrew Portacio could taste his Expert Infantryman Badge.

Kneeling on the side of a wet and worm strewn two-lane road last Friday morning just outside Scouts Out Gate and a few yards from the finish of a 12-mile road march, he held an EIB in his lips.

His ruck weighed 45 pounds; he carried a M4; he wore a Kevlar helmet; the 12-miles he marched had featured darkness, rain, paved and gravel roads and a fairly good-sized hill.

To make the three-hour time limit for the march, he had had to run - more like shuffle along - in order to make the deadline.

>>> One of the 87 soldiers to complete the 12-mile road march nears the finish during Expert Infantryman Badge testing.Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Tired and wet, Portacio, who is assigned to 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, carefully checked over his weapon and then crossed the finish line with time to spare.

As to the EIB he had held in his lips, he had received it halfway through the march with the warning, "If you don't have this with you at the end of the march, you will not receive your badge."

In other words, the EIB Portacio had lip wrestled was an admission ticket to the last event to determine his worthiness to wear the badge.

He was one of 89 soldiers of the 912 soldiers who began testing for the EIB earlier last week to make it to the final challenge.

The final test involved the disassembly and reassembly of an M4 in a given amount of time.

>>> Of the 912 soldiers who tested for the Expert Infantryman Badge, only 89 remained to start the 12-mile foot march in 3 hours or less.  87 soldiers finished the march. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

This basic test of an infantryman's skill was not as easy as it sounded.

Fatigue from the march can fog thinking, and cold and wet fingers don't always do what the mind tells them to do.

And the stopwatch ticks relentless.

If Portacio successfully completed the final task, an EIB was his.  If he failed, his hope of wearing the badge would end.

Last week, Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division hosted the weeklong test to allow its soldiers the opportunity to earn the coveted badge.

A handful of Canadian soldiers, Special Forces operators and soldiers from other JBLM units also participated.

A unique history surrounds the badge.

In 1944, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall initiated the creation of an award to honor those who serve in the Infantry.

The Office of Heraldic Activity of the Quartermaster General designed the badge to represent the infantry's role in combat and to symbolize its proficiency in combat arms.

A simple badge, it consists of a 1795 Springfield musket on a light blue bar with a silver border.

The cost to purchase an EIB at a base exchange is negligible; however, earning and wearing of it is priceless.

>>> 1st Lt. Shrestha Saral, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, is all smiles after completing his Expert Infantryman Badge test. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The weeklong gauntlet of challenges that led to the earning of the badge consisted of weapons qualification, the Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation and a long convoy of 30 various infantry-related tasks designed to simulate combat.

On average, about 11 percent of those who attempt to earn the badge actually pass.

"It's great to earn this," said a very happy Portacio moments after successfully reassembling a M4.

"The test for the EIB is all about the pursuit of excellence."

And sweet is the taste of excellence.

comments powered by Disqus