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Soldiers earn Expert Infantry Badges
CSM (ret.) Michael Etheridge speaks at the graduation. - photo by Photo by Frenchi Jones
On Friday, Feb. 6, family and friends of more than 100 3rd Infantry Division soldiers gathered at Fort Stewart for the Expert Infantry Badge pinning ceremony.
The division’s commander, Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews and commanders from the 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams were there to applaud the 149 men who earned the right to wear the baby blue insignia displaying a 1795 model Springfield Arsenal musket.
“You stood up to the challenge and I commend you for that,” 1-30th Infantry Regiment CSM Joseph Altman told the men. “There is no honorary membership into this club, you have to earn it.”
For nearly three weeks, 249 infantry men pre-tested and then tested on more than 36 obstacle courses on the recently re-designed EIB qualification course.
The lanes test the soldiers’ expertise in infantry skill sets such as first aid, individual moving techniques and weapons safety.  
To earn the award, Sgt. First Class Terry Upchurch said the men had to either go “true blue,” failing no skills tests, or pass 34 of the 36 obstacle courses.
Upchurch said 59 percent passed the test, more than exceeding his expectations.
“They actually took the training that we laid out for them and really got motivated. Even the ones that no -goed, that were out, they actually came back and told me, ‘sarge, I no-goed out this time, but I’ll be back’.”
The youngest soldier to go “true blue” was a 17-year-old Houston native with Alpha Co., 2-7 Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
Pvt. Michael Howard said he had studied for weeks to pass the test and was honored to make his unit proud.
“I am glad that I finally got a badge to wear on my chest,” Howard said.
As for bragging rights, he said he probably wouldn’t brag too much.
“I got what I did and everybody can do it,” he said. “I am just proud that I got it.”
The division’s leadership also seemed full of pride.
As the “true-blue” soldiers were pinned by their brigade commanders, Cucolo and CSM Andrews shook hands with the men, slapping their signature coins into their hands.
“You’ve made the 3rd Infantry Division very proud,” they told the soldiers one-by-one.
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