By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Troops earn Expert Infantry Badges
EIB families
Families and well-wishers stand to recite the pledge of allegiance during the ceremony. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
For the first time in more than six years, the “best of the best” infantrymen at Fort Stewart were awarded the coveted Expert Infantry Badge (EIB) on Friday. The award ceremony was hosted by the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Cottrell Field.
This was the first time the 4th IBCT engaged in the EIB competition. The brigade, also known as Vanguard, completed its transition from a heavy infantry brigade to a light infantry brigade this year.
About 400 of the brigade’s soldiers participated in a battery of tests, which included intense physical training, land navigation, marksmanship, first aid, communication skills and problem-solving. The individual soldier skills training took about a month, culminating with last week’s test events.
A total of 104 soldiers earned the badge and four of the 104 were recognized as “true blue,” meaning they made no mistakes during the training. These four soldiers also made excellent time in the competition’s 12-mile foot march Friday morning. Infantrymen were required to carry rucksacks weighing at least 35 pounds on the march.
The brigade’s true blue infantrymen were sergeants Kenneth Oku, William Hall, Andrew Nitchman and Devin Sullivan.
“The guys were on my mind all during the competition,” Oku said. “They were cheering me on.”
“It (EIB) is mentally just a drain,” Hall said. “It’s tough physically, too, but the (task) lanes just take 20 minutes.”
The EIB competition had not been held on a regular basis at Fort Stewart in recent years due to the army’s demanding deployment schedule. The 4th IBCT is set to deploy to Iraq next summer in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Infantrymen were challenged physically and mentally with numerous tasks during the competition, especially when they were faced with making critical decisions, said Sgt. Maj. John Klein, of the 4th IBCT.
In one of the competition’s 30 tasks soldiers had to decide if they should throw a concussion grenade, which is non-lethal, or throw a fragment grenade, Klein said. If there were “civilians” present, soldiers should have decided on using the non-lethal grenade, he commented.
“Infantry operations are demanding,” said Col. Lou Lartigue, 4th IBCT commander. “That training keeps them alive on the battlefield.”
Lartigue said each lane of the competition, which was filled with tough challenges, was the best way to measure an expert infantryman’s skills.
“The respect you’ve earned comes from your subordinates, peers and commanding officers alike,” he told his soldiers. “You know what the standard is now.”
“This is a proud day for me,” said Sgt. Maj. Louis Torres of the 4th IBCT. “I’ve been here (at Fort Stewart) since 2002 and this is the first time I’ve been able to do this (EIB).”
Guest speaker Command Sgt. Maj. Earl Rice thanked the 4th Brigade’s leaders for making the EIB a priority.
“Others will look to you for guidance and inspiration,” Rice told EIB awardees. “Success breeds success.”
Rice currently serves at the army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. He earned his EIB badge more than 20 years ago.
“It meant a lot as a young soldier to step up and show I was an expert in my profession,” he said of his early years.
Lartigue and Rice agreed the individual skills training infantry soldiers receive will help them adjust to collective training on the unit level.
“They’ll be able to accomplish whatever is thrown at them,” Rice said.
Torres said planning for the EIB began when the 4th Brigade was still in Iraq last December.
“We owed it to the soldiers,” he said.
Sign up for our e-newsletters