Story and photo by Sgt. Khori Johnson
3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
As the school year began in Colorado Springs, class was already in session for the infantrymen of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, as they tackled the daunting task of earning the Expert Infantryman Badge.
Forty-seven of the 279 “Iron Brigade” infantrymen who attempted to earn the badge were awarded their EIBs Aug. 17 at the Resiliency Campus.
“This is the top 10 percent of infantrymen in our brigade,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas Maddi, senior enlisted leader, 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., addressing the EIB recipients at the ceremony. “With that EIB, comes expectations. From now on, people are going to look to you to be an expert in your field, which is what you’ve proven this past week.”
The Expert Infantryman Badge, one of the highest marks of distinction in the U.S. Army infantry, was established in 1943 to recognize Soldiers who display a mastery of infantry skills.
“(The EIB) is a huge mark of distinction,” said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Weathers, senior enlisted leader, Company B, 1st Battalion, 8th Inf. Regiment. “That’s why it is referred to as the badge of excellence.”
To earn their badges, the 47 infantrymen had to first qualify by proving themselves to be proficient in physical fitness, weapons marksmanship and finally, land navigation, before moving on to the actual EIB evaluation.
The testing site was comprised of three lanes: urban, patrol and traffic control point. Each encompassed a series of tasks that had to be completed in succession. The tasks included infantry-related skills, such as calling for artillery fire, grenade use and applying first aid. Also, to add another element of difficulty, Soldiers had to complete each lane within 20 minutes.
“That’s the way it is downrange,” said Sgt. 1st Class Atanasio Viera, senior enlisted leader, Company A, 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg. “It’s about handling stress; ‘Can I still think in a logical sequence when my heart is pumping and my vision is tunneling? Can I calm down and execute?’”
Sgt. 1st Class Edward Whitaker, platoon leader, Company A, 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., who was in charge of the patrol lane, said his lane simulated a scenario where a Soldier at an observation point, with enemy forces approaching, needs assistance. During testing, each Soldier was evaluated on how he approached the scenario and how efficiently he executed his decisions.
While the 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., “Fighting Eagles,” who built the lanes, were still making minor tweaks and changes to the site, they were able to watch Soldiers use the training area every day, some even staying after the end of the duty day, to sharpen their skills weeks prior to the EIB testing.
“Our guys did a remarkable job,” said Weathers. “(They) put a lot of ingenuity in this along with a lot of their personal time. They stayed out here in the hot, scorching sun all day long; not to just build these lanes, but to build them expertly. This area was built so that Soldiers could receive good training and be tested in a rigorous fashion.”
Throughout the construction of the training site and EIB testing, the Fighting Eagles received positive feedback from the 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson commanding general, Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson, and deputy commanding general for support, Brig. Gen. Darsie Rogers.
“I wanted to come out and see how our Soldiers are being trained and look at the fine work that the 3rd Brigade Combat Team has done in putting these lanes together,” said Anderson. “It’s a really challenging course.”