For U.S. Army infantrymen, earning the Expert Infantryman Badge is a critical step in their profession of arms. With it, they demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of their tools and the skills necessary to apply them.
After 10 days of preparation and testing, 10 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, and three marines from the French 5th Combined Overseas Marines Battalion, earned the badge April 24, 2015.
“Infantry go through these tests to prove and to demonstrate a high level of proficiency, strength and endurance,” said Sgt. 1st Class Paul Dorris, 1/77 AR Rgt. NCO in charge of operations “The testing is physically and mentally challenging and proves you have the fortitude and ability to perform critical skill level tasks in your profession.”
Achieving this milestone is a major factor in promotions and the earlier an infantry soldier can complete the course the better.
“The EIB is a career starter. It lets you know they are an expert in their field,” said Capt. Charles Hoke, 1/77 AR Rgt., Headquarters Company commander. “Earning it shows you’re a professional and that you are the standard bearer others can look to.”
Joining the 1/77 AR Rgt. infantryman on this iteration of the assessment were members of the French 5th Marine, who underwent the course with their American counterparts as part of a continuing legacy of sharing best practices.
“Joint training like this builds esprit de corps amongst the parties,” said Hoke. “By better cooperating we build stronger regional partners, which in turn, enables better security.”
In this case, the EIB assessment allowed an allied nation to test their proficiency on the skills U.S. Army infantryman are expected to fully master in the increasingly multinational environment that is East Africa.
Both the French and American participants officially began the assessment April 20 after five days of dry runs and briefings. To start, candidates took a fitness assessment testing both their strength and cardio endurance.
Those that successfully completed the fitness test began the land navigation portion of the course, which required candidates to successfully map three of four navigation points during both the day and night assessments.
Upon successfully completing the land navigation portion, candidates next faced three Individual Training (ITT) Lanes across three days requiring them to successfully complete 11 tasks on each one.
The first task on each lane, called the Master Skills Task, focused on weapons systems, and the remaining 10 lane tasks combined to form a mini field training exercise for each soldier. Tasks included things such as weapons knowledge and operation, first aid and personal decontamination procedures.
“In short, the MSTs are performance based, can you do these things in sequence, in time and to the letter,” said Dorris. “The ITT lanes are more outcome based rather than performance.”
The final event of the course consisted of a 12-mile foot march through uneven and unfamiliar terrain. The candidates were given three hours to complete the march; even a minute over the time limit, the candidate would fail.
Those that completed all the tasks and the march were awarded the EIB badge. With an average failure rate of 50 percent, it’s easy to see why the badge is so coveted a trophy.
“It’s definitely a good training process, even if you don’t get it you definitely learn a lot of skills that you don’t really focus on in day to day work,” said Sgt. Jeffery Strube, 1/77 AR Rgt. Bravo Company team leader and an EIB awardee. “It’s a good opportunity for anybody to give it a try. Whether your infantry or not, its good training and I’m glad to make it through.”