This year’s Expert Infantryman’s Badge training and testing started last weekend with 958 infantrymen from all four 3rdInfantry Division brigades as well as soldiers with the 188th Infantry Brigade and at least one U.S. Special Operations Command soldier from Joint Base MacDill in Tampa, Florida.
Early Thursday morning, only 96 of those soldiers received the EIB, the most-coveted award for an infantryman.
Amid blank cannon rounds and machine-gun fire, this year’s EIB recipients marched across Cottrell Field amid cheers and whistles from family members and fellow soldiers. They were greeted by the division commander, Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, who is an EIB recipient.
Murray congratulated the almost company-size group of infantry experts standing at parade rest. He talked about the importance of the EIB over all other infantry awards, including the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
“If you’re a CIB holder but don’t have the EIB, next year you should try for it,” Murray said. “The EIB is the badge you want.”
Before concluding his remarks, Murray invited any spouses whose husbands were being awarded to come onto the field to pin on their husbands’ EIBs.
“I had a little break in training and deployments,” Special Forces soldier Staff Sgt. James Shultz said after receiving his EIB. “The opportunity for it was brought to my attention, so I decided to come to Fort Stewart. It was good training overall for me.”
Shultz, who earned his EIB in his first opportunity for it in his nine-year military career, also had the fastest time for this year’s 12-mile road march.
After awarding the special graduates and those called “true blue” graduates for having gone through the testing without a single no-go, Murray allowed spouses and members of that soldier’s chain of command to pin on their badges.
Afterward, Pfc. Clinton Staver, this year’s youngest EIB recipient at age 19, grinned when he was asked how he feels to have earned his EIB.
“I’m sore,” he chuckled. “I’m pretty sore — my feet, my shoulders, my arms, my back. It’s awesome to get it (my first try and be the youngest EIB recipient). I’m hoping to get a waiver for (promotion to) specialist as soon as I can. (Getting the EIB) shows that I know what I’m doing and that I’m an infantryman.”
Staver credited his platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Edwinli Figueroa, for mentoring and motivating him. He admitted that he thought about giving up, but Figueroa, who Thursday pinned on Staver’s EIB, kept pushing him to stick with it. Staver said the day and night land navigation courses were the toughest for him, especially the swamp he had to cross.
This year’s EIB committee president, Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Galindo, said he was proud of the soldiers who’d earned the EIB this year.
“They (now) know how it feels to receive it,” Galindo said. “I know how it felt when I received it … It’s an overwhelming feeling … Their test had 39 tasks. When I went through it, there were 48 tasks. It’s changed a little bit, but it’s more stressful. Now it’s scenario-based; plus, there’s the time requirement.”
When asked, Galindo couldn’t or wouldn’t say when he received his EIB, except to say that he only had six months in the Army, that he was the youngest EIB recipient and had the fastest times in the 2-mile run and the road march.
“Like every profession, there are things that (show) you’re a professional,” he said. “If you’re in the Army, and you’re an infantryman, it’s an EIB.”