Nearly 500 Infantrymen lined up to take the Army Physical Fitness Test at Fort Benning’s Todd Field Feb. 14.It was the first step in seeing which man had the skills and competence to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge.
“The Expert Infantryman Badge, often referred to as the “EIB” is unique among skill qualification badges,” said Capt. Jason Horton, the assistant adjutant of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. “The distinctive award, a silver Infantry musket on a rectangular blue background with a silver border, is among the most highly prized peacetime decorations.”
In order to earn the award, the candidates spent a week of testing designed to demonstrate the candidates’ knowledge of Infantry tasks and skills, physical fitness and ability to employ those skills under stress.
After four days of testing, only 69 candidates were still eligible to receive their EIB.
“The mental intensity is tough,” said 2nd Lt. Travis Milroy, a platoon leader assigned to A Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. “The weeding-out processes speak for itself. When I earn this, it will mean a lot. Across the Army, the EIB is viewed as an indicator that you are qualified at your job.”
After passing the fitness test, the remaining candidates were required to find points during a day and night land navigation course.
“The land navigation course hung a lot of guys up,” said Pvt. Michael Hayes, assigned to B Company, 1st Bn., 15th Inf. Regt. “Beginning in January, our NCOs made sure we were constantly training and going over it, but it was still tough.”As the testing continued, Infantrymen were required to go through three separate skills lanes in three days. The lanes focused on urban operations, operating a traffic control point and conducting a combat patrol.
“All of the lanes tested me on skills that are very applicable on what we are doing on a daily basis in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Milroy. “When you earn your EIB, guys look at that and know you have a firm grasp of the fundamentals. As a leader, it is really important that your Soldiers know that you are proficient at your job.”
After the three days of lanes testing, the candidates were required to pass a 12-mile ruck march with a 35-pound pack, a rifle and their helmet.
“It was the hardest part for me,” said Spc. Joseph Casanova, with B Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. “I really had to turn my mind off to how bad I was feeling and push through. My feet were yelling at me, my shoulders were sore, but I had come too far to quit.”
“Unfortunately we lost two Soldiers on the road march, but for the 67 Soldiers that made it this is a great day,” said Lt. Col. Nelson Kraft, the commander of 1st Bn., 15th Inf. Regt. “It is absolutely one of the toughest badges to earn in the Army. Most Infantrymen do not get it their first time through.”
Of the 67 Soldiers who earned the EIB, five finished without failing a single task.
These “true blue” qualifiers had their EIBs pinned on them by Col. Terry L. Sellers, the chief of staff of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, and Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Hardy, Fort Benning’s and the Maneuver Center of Excellence command sergeant major.
The other 62 Infantrymen were allowed to have family members, supervisors or peers pin their badges on them.