It is the Expert Infantryman Badge. And recently, at Fort Bragg, N.C., 132 infantrymen from the 82nd Airborne Divisions 2nd Battalion, 325th Inf. Regiment, vied for the coveted badge during two days of rigorous tests in the field..
EIB testing measures an infantrymans skills, said CSM Kenneth Riley, the 325ths command sergeant major. When you see a Soldier with an EIB on his uniform, you know that Soldier knows his trade..
During the two days of EIB testing, the participants faced 33 Soldier tasks at 24 stations. Those included applying first aid; employing and recovering a claymore mine; arming and throwing a hand grenade; protecting against nuclear, biological and chemical attack; zeroing a laser aiming device; assembling and disassembling an M-240 machine gun; and loading and firing a .50- caliber machine gun..
To complete the testing successfully, each Soldier could fail no more than three events and no single event twice..
As a prerequisite for the testing, every participant had to complete a 12-mile road march with a 35-lb. rucksack in less than three hours, use accurate land navigation to find two out of three points in two hours, and qualify as an expert with an M-4 carbine..
The strict requirements narrowed the field of contenders before the first days challenges had even started.
EIB testing is very selective. Getting the badge sets you apart from your peers, because not everyone is going to get it, said SFC Johnny Miles, of the 325ths Co. D., 3rd Bn., the NCO in charge at the handgrenade station..
Even if an infantryman fails to earn his EIB, preparing for the testing gives him valuable training, said Riley..
After training for the previous EIB tests, our skill levels were high. And then when we were deployed to Iraq, the training paid off in combat, he said..
The 2nd Bn. Soldiers were determined to get more than good training out of the event, however. They wanted their badges, Riley said. Each day, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., groups of infantrymen moved from station to station and task to task. At every station, the same thing occurred; as soon as the grader said Go, each Soldier began executing a flurry o fquick, precise steps to complete the task. .
There was no room for error, Riley said. .
PFC Adam Long felt the pressure at the hand-grenade station, he said. His first task was to throw a grenade within five meters of a target that was 30 meters away. Long acquired his target by peeking over sand bags that were placed around the firing position, then he sprang to his feet and hurled his dummy grenade, ducking back behind the sand bags before he could tell whether or not he had hit his target..
Seconds passed as he waited for a report from the grader that he had successfully hit his mark. Then, when the kill was confirmed, he continued on to the next challenges, passing them both without any difficulty, he said..
What a relief! he said, when it was all over. There was one test at the hand-grenade station he hadnt been so sure hed pass. Long had already earned the Combat Infantryman Badge for his service with the 325th Inf. Regt. during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now he had a new badge to add to the one above the breast pocket of his uniform..
The CIB is a group thing. We got our CIBs for what we did as a unit, Long said. But the EIB is special because you have to earn it all on your own..