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Earning the EIB: "EIB testing measures an infantryman's skill. When you see a Soldier with an EIB on his uniform, you know that Soldier knows his trade.".

It's just two-by-three inches of olive-drab-colored cloth that costs $1.50 at military clothing sales stores. But some infantry Soldiers are willing to shed blood, sweat and tears to get it.

It is the Expert Infantryman Badge. And recently, at Fort Bragg, N.C., 132 infantrymen from the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Battalion, 325th Inf. Regiment, vied for the coveted badge during two days of rigorous tests in the field.

"EIB testing measures an infantryman's skills," said CSM Kenneth Riley, the 325th's command sergeant major. "When you see a Soldier with an EIB on his uniform, you know that Soldier knows his trade."

During the two days of EIB testing, the participants faced 33 Soldier tasks at 24 stations. Those included applying first aid; employing and recovering a claymore mine; arming and throwing a hand grenade; protecting against nuclear, biological and chemical attack; zeroing a laser-aiming device; assembling and disassembling an M-240 machine gun; and loading and firing a .50- caliber machine gun.

To complete the testing successfully, each Soldier could fail no more than three events and no single event twice.

As a prerequisite for the testing, every participant had to complete a 12-mile road march with a 35-lb. rucksack in less than three hours, use accurate land navigation to find two out of three points in two hours, and qualify as an expert with an M-4 carbine.

The strict requirements narrowed the field of contenders before the first day's challenges had even started.

"EIB testing is very selective. Getting the badge sets you apart from your peers, because not everyone is going to get it," said SFC Johnny Miles, of the 325th's Co. D., 3rd Bn., the NCO in charge at the hand-grenade station.

Even if an infantryman fails to earn his EIB, preparing for the testing gives him valuable training, said Riley.

"After training for the previous EIB tests, our skill levels were high. And then when we were deployed to Iraq, the training paid off in combat." he said.

The 2nd Bn. Soldiers were determined to get more than good training out of the event, however. They wanted their badges. Riley said.

Each day, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., groups of infantrymen moved from station to station and task to task. At every station, the same thing occurred: as soon as the grader said 'Go.' each Soldier began executing a flurry of quick, precise steps to complete the task. There was no room for error, Riley said.

PFC Adam Long felt the pressure at the hand-grenade station, he said. His first task was to throw a grenade within five meters of a target that was 30 meters away.

Long acquired his target by peeking over sand bags that were placed around the firing position, then he sprang to his feet and hurled his dummy grenade, ducking back behind the sand bags before he could tell whether or not he had hit his target.

Seconds passed as he waited for a report from the grader that he had successfully hit his mark. Then, when the "kill" was confirmed, he continued on to the next challenges, passing them both without any difficulty, he said.

"What a relief!" he said, when it was all over. There was one test at the hand-grenade station he hadn't been so sure he'd pass.

Long had already earned the Combat Infantryman Badge for his service with the 325th Inf. Regt. during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now he had a new badge to add to the one above the breast pocket of his uniform.

"The CIB is a group thing. We got our CIBs for what we did as a unit," Long said. "But the EIB is special because you have to earn it all on your own."

On the other side of the testing site, Soldiers from Co. C sat in the claymore-mine station's holding tent, waiting for the rest of their group to complete the testing,

"Everything's pretty simple, but it's still stressful," said PV2 Jason Green. "Messing up the smallest detail can make you fail."

"Yeah, but this is only stressful for two days," SPC Tom Coffman interjected. "Iraq was stressful for a whole year."

"To me, earning the EIB signifies advancing in the Army and in the unit," said PV2 Leonardo Beltran, who had just received a passing grade at the claymore-mine station. "But it's also about personal pride."

SFC Lloyd Broom, the NCO in charge at that station, said the testing was about more than giving young infantrymen a boost of confidence. It was about giving them a great opportunity to soldier and to demonstrate their ability to soldier, he said.

"These guys aren't going to have their leaders with them all the time. They have to know what to do without anyone telling them," Broom said.

"If everyone has an EIB, you know you can rely on the man on your left and the man on your right," Broom added.

When the testing was over, 74 infantrymen from the 2nd Bn. had earned the right to wear the prized EIB.
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Title Annotation:Expert Infantryman Badge
Author:Pryor, Michael
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Words:844
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