After successfully completing 35 hands-on tasks, 112 soldiers earned Expert Infantryman Badges on Friday.
The culminating event for the five-day EIB testing was the 12-mile road march, which the soldiers had to complete within three hours while carrying their weapon and wearing a 35-pound rucksack, advanced combat helmet and other load-bearing equipment.
Sgt. Nhial Mayar of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, was the first to cross the finish line with a time of 2 hours, 10 minutes and 37 seconds.
“There is a ton of work that goes into making an EIB competition to standard,” explained Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams, commander of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield and the 3rd ID. Abrams was a guest speaker for the EIB award ceremony at the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s Vanguard Parade Field.
“Being a non-infantryman, I’ve never had the opportunity to speak at an EIB ceremony before. But as a non-infantryman, I can tell you that when I see a soldier wearing an EIB, I know he’s an expert,” Abrams continued.
“For those of you who don’t know it, earning an EIB is not a gimme. He has to be able to do it to standard while under pressure — first time through. The EIB is a mark of distinction.”
Abrams congratulated the soldiers who earned the EIB, and he thanked the spouses and family members for supporting their soldiers.
Following his remarks, Abrams, 3rd ID Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson, 4th IBCT Commander Col. Kimo Gallahue and 4th IBCT Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Barnes awarded the EIB to the senior EIB candidate, Capt. Daniel Evans of the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, and eight “True Blue” candidates who completed all tasks with first-time goes.
Following the ceremony, commanders and family members were invited to pin EIBs on their soldiers.
The soldiers who earned the EIB varied in rank, age and military experience.
Staff Sgt. Shane Grinder was proud that three soldiers from his scout squad earned the distinction of being expert infantrymen, including Spc. Jimmy Lopez, Spc. Charles Hector and Pfc. Matthew Sullivan.
Sullivan, a 20-year-old from Coventry, R.I., joined the Army in October 2010. Two weeks after he arrived at Fort Stewart, he was deployed to Iraq.
This was Sullivan’s first attempt at earning the EIB. His squad leader said to expect him to be promoted to E-4 soon, before he goes to Ranger School this spring.
Lopez already is heading to Airborne School, prior to his reassignment to Fort Bragg, N.C.
Two soldiers had the distinction of being the youngest and lowest-ranking soldiers to earn the EIB. Pvt. Kevin McGrew, 19, and Pvt. Alex Daw, 18, have not yet been in the Army for a year, both having entered last May.
Sgt. Maj. Jovito Casanova, the EIB Committee noncommissioned officer in charge, said his committee consisted of seven NCOs who all are EIB-qualified. He said the committee began its train-up for the competition Jan. 23 but that EIB training at the squad level began in December.