July 1, 2008

Two Soldiers earn prestigious Expert Infantry Badge

By Sgt. John Slosser
116th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs

Pfc. William Garman fires a 50-caliber machine gun for an Expert Infantry Badge test during his annual training with C Co., 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team June 24 at Fort Pickett, Va. (Photo by Sgt. John Slosser, 116th BCT Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Spc. Stephen Macurdy and Pfc. William Garman were the only two Virginia National Guard Soldiers out of 150 eligible to try that proudly wore the Expert Infantryman Badge at the end of the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team’s annual training June 28.

It’s a simple decoration, a rifle against a field of ‘Infantry Blue.’ While it denotes a certain level of expertise, it also invokes the blood sweat and tears usually involved in earning it. It is widely recognized as one of the most prestigious awards in the United States Army.

“I’ve been studying and practicing for a while now. It hasn’t really hit me yet,” said Garman. “It was a lot more attention to detail than I expected it would be.”

“I was one of those people who didn’t feel like I had to have it,” said Macurdy. “I wanted it. I wanted to see if I could do it, but I didn’t want to do it to prove it to other people.”

Spc. Stephen Macurdy, an Expert Infantryman Badge candidate with B. Co, 1st Bn., 116th BCT, succesfully completes his final skills test during annual training at Fort Pickett, Va. (Photo by Sgt. John Slosser, 116th BCT Public Affairs)

One other Soldier met the standards for the test, but because he is an ROTC cadet, he is not eligible to wear the badge.

“I’ll have to do it all again someday, but that’s okay because it’s good training and now I know I can do it,” said Cadet Spencer Diamond, a student at James Madison University. “I’ll definitely do it again when I’m eligible.”

The course was part of an annual training period for the battalion that focused on individual Soldier skills.

“It takes a lot of resources and time to put on this course. We have 200 Soldiers currently deployed and another 200 who are unable to attend AT,” said Maj. Scott Smith, 1st Battalion commander. “But this year’s training is supposed to be focused on individual skills. So this is the perfect year to run an EIB course.”

The course, which must be sanctioned by the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga., consists of 37 skills tests. Thirty of these skills are also Army Warrior Tasks but the EIB standards may be higher. For their first half of AT, the unit completed several prerequisites for the testing: a 12-mile road march with a 35-lb. rucksack in less than three hours, a physical fitness test with at least 75 points in every category, use accurate land navigation skills in day and night conditions, and qualify as an expert with their individual weapon.

“We came to AT with about 200 Soldiers, 150 were eligible to try,” said Smith. “After we finished all the prerequisites, we only had nine Soldiers left in the running.”

The commander also noted that even if an infantryman fails the EIB prerequisites, preparing for the testing and going through all the stations gives them valuable training.

The tasks and tests were broken down over three days. Day one saw two officers, six enlisted men and one Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet enter into the gauntlet. One of the sources of pride in earning the EIB is that pass rates for the course usually average at less than 10 percent.

“My first company commander said, ‘I have a CIB (Combat Infantry Badge) and an EIB, but I wear my EIB because I really had to work hard for that one,’ said Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Whaley, an EIB board member. “This sort of thing takes a lot of command emphasis. It is perfect for our unit’s reset.”

Spc. Don Utley, an Expert Infantryman Badge candidate with C. Co., 1st Bn., 116th BCT, tests his camouflaging skills during annual training at Fort Pickett, Va. (Photo by Sgt. John Slosser, 116th BCT Public Affairs)

During the three days of EIB testing, the participants faced myriad of stations. Those included applying first aid; using a Global Positioning System; arming and throwing a hand grenade; protecting against nuclear, biological and chemical attack; range finding; assembling and disassembling an M-240 machine gun; and loading and firing a .50- caliber machine gun.

Every station is graded by infantry Soldier who have already earned their EIB. Situations often occur where an EIB holding private 1st class must give an EIB candidate a no-go regardless of his rank or position in the unit.

“This is all about how good we are as individuals. When you are being tested you have so many eyes on you,” said Pfc. Robert Hamilton, a current EIB holder. “I believe that Soldiers who may not have been motivated to get it before, are now because they know the standards and what has to be done. They see other Soldiers getting through the stations that they may have failed.”

Click HERE to return to the top of the page ~ Click HERE to return to the news directory