It’s less than half an inch high and 3 inches long. It has a raised, silver infantry musket on an infantry blue background surrounded by a silver border.
The Expert Infantryman Badge doesn’t look like much, but it is one of the most coveted awards for the American infantryman.
Maj. Matt Fontaine, public-affairs officer for the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, said the EIB’s purpose is to recognize infantrymen who’ve mastered critical skills that enable them to do the job of an infantryman — locate, close with and destroy the enemy through fire and maneuver and be able to repel an enemy assault through fire and close combat.
Fontaine said the Vanguard Brigade will be conducting EIB testing through Thursday at Fort Stewart’s Camp Oliver.
“We started with about 900 soldiers,” Fontaine said. “Of course, they first had to fire expert with the M4 before they could come out to EIB. Historically, only 5-10 percent will earn the badge.”
In addition to 3rd ID infantrymen, Fontaine said Army Reserve infantrymen with the 188th Infantry Brigade, First Army and Army National Guard infantrymen with the 48th Infantry Brigade, Georgia Army National Guard are competing in this year’s EIB challenge.
On Tuesday, Fontaine escorted media members through the EIB lanes at Camp Oliver, where soldiers were beginning their second day of testing. First Sgt. Lloyd Pegues, Company B, 3/15th Infantry Regiment and noncommissioned officer in charge of the patrol lanes, said some of the soldiers were competing for the EIB for the first time, even though they had been in the Army for several years. He said the deployment cycle has prevented soldiers from private to major from vying for the EIB.
“We actually started with over 1,300 soldiers,” Pegues said. “After the weapons qualification, we had 892 candidates. Then after yesterday’s (Army physical fitness test), we were down to 146.”
Pegues, who’s completed multiple deployments as well as overseas assignments, said he earned his EIB in 1996. He also has been awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, but he said his EIB is extra-special.
Pegues said that when he got his first CIB, it was awarded in a company formation. When your unit has been in a combat zone for a certain period of time, you’re qualified for the CIB as a member of that unit, he said.
Pegues told gathered media that the EIB candidate is not allowed a retest for the weapons qualification, which is not officially part of the EIB testing but is a prerequisite to be allowed to compete. The candidate also is not allowed a retest for the APRT, land navigation or the 12-mile road, which must be completed in less than three hours wearing a 35-pound (dry weight) rucksack and other combat gear.
He said the master skills test and individual tactical tests separately consists of 30 to 50 tasks, which must be performed by the book. The soldier is allowed two no-gos, he said, but he must pass these task on the retest, or “he gets a free ride home.”
Pegues said EIB candidates came to Camp Oliver a week before the test began. If an individual makes more than two no-gos or fails on the retest, at the end of the day, he boards a bus that takes him back to his brigade area.
“It’s not the physical requirements that make the EIB so hard,” said Sgt. Dorian Worrell, a member of the EIB committee who demonstrated two stations that consisted of multiple tasks. “You have to pay attention to details.”
Worrell demonstrated the disassembly and assembly of the M9 pistol then clearing, loading and firing the M240B machine gun. Prior to performing each task, Staff Sgt. Chad Myers read the standards required, and then asked Worrell if he had any questions.
Farther down the lane, Staff Sgt. Jamie Tillman briefed Worrell about the many tasks required for the patrol lane. Some of these tasks included determining a grid azimuth using a protractor, operating a night-vision device, reacting to enemy fire, moving under direct fire, throwing hand grenades, performing first aid on a bleeding/severed extremity and adjusting indirect fire.