FORT SILL, Okla. (May 28, 2015) — After a week of mental and physical tests, something as simple as missing a sock out of a packing list could disqualify a Soldier from earning the Expert Infantryman Badge.
“It’s all about that attention to detail, and that’s what these guys have been striving for,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Mclauchlin, EIB board member.
Forty-one staff sergeants began the test May 18. Detail after detail quickly whittled the group to only six 11 Bravos (infantrymen) going into the final day.
“Three strikes and you’re out is basically the concept,” said Mclauchlin.
However, four events must be passed on the first try to move on. They included a physical training test, day and night land navigation and a 12-mile road march carrying 35 pounds of dry weight in under three hours.
“It’s some of the best individual training that any one in the Army will ever get. It’s all Skill Level 1 basic tasks that any Soldier, not just 11 Bravos/infantrymen should know. Those are the tasks that are associated with earning the badge,” said Mclauchlin.
To make it to the final road march, the six Soldiers passed 43 Individual Tactical Tests on different lanes covering weapon systems, IEDs and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protection.
“You’re sweating bullets before you hit the lane. There’s very little room for messing up anything. If you double no-go anything you’re out. If you have two no-gos you’re blade running. You can still execute the lanes, but if you get another no-go you’re gone. You’re balancing on a very thin line,” said Staff Sgt. Lucas Orlando, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery.
Mclauchlin said most infantrymen test for their badge in the early stages of their career, but because of constant deployments, most of the Soldiers at Fort Sill were only just going for their first or second try at the badge at the E-6 level.
“Normally with EIB, you have everybody in a brigade or battalion testing. So you have a lot of privates all the way up to E-7s, versus we’re all E6s out here and we have a plethora of combat experience. To come here with our peers and still be the last six standing is kind of a cool thing,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Grimm, Headquarters and Headquarters Support, 434th Field Artillery Brigade. “It’s good to play infantry again on a noninfantry base. It’s nice to get back to what we do.”
Resourcing the test alone was extremely difficult. All the graders are EIB holders themselves and the EIB committee is responsible for gathering weapons, ammunition, training aids, picking the land and arranging all the testing so it followed Fort Benning’s EIB test manager’s standards. To be able to even hold the test deserved recognition.
“They did a great job here. This is meant for dozens and dozens of EIB graders, so they did a job without that and they did it to standard,” said Orlando.
The group of six infantrymen almost became five after the road march when Staff Sgt. Carlos Castillo, E Battery, 1st Battalion, 31st Field Artillery, almost missed a minute detail during weapon dissassembly.
“I had 10 seconds left and I still had to take one part out of the lower receiver: it was the buffer and buffer spring. I thought I had disassembled the weapon system and I was sitting there for 30-35 seconds and everyone is looking at me and it’s getting really intense and I finally saw the lower receiver and saw the buffer and buffer spring and got it out. So if I would’ve busted time I wouldn’t have gotten the EIB badge,” he said.
“It just feels awesome graduating and now we’re part of a brotherhood. Can’t wait to do this again. That’s probably the best feeling because now we get to be cadre.”
The Soldiers said they wanted the badge because it set them apart from their peers, but they added the badge means they are a master of their skills as an infantryman “that make you ready and make you dangerous in combat,” said Orlando.
The following earned the Expert Infantry Badge May 22:
Staff Sgt. Carlos Castillo, E/1-31st FA
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Dinkins, D/1-19th FA
Staff Sgt. Aaron Eller, HHS 434th FA
Staff Sgt. Justin Grimm, HHS 434th FA
Staff Sgt. Stephen Lipps, B/1-79th FA
Staff Sgt. Lucus Orlando, D/1-79th FA.
“There’s not many courses out there that have an attrition rate that high. This is the one award, to me personally, that means more than just about any other award out there. Because it symbolizes what the Army expects out of a professional infantryman. Every Soldier before they’re’ anything else, better be an infantryman. For our 11 Bravos they have to show they can meet the Army standard on that. They have proven their mettle. No one across the Army can ever question that,” said Col. José Thompson, 434th FA Brigade commander.
Photo Credit: Six Soldiers trek 12 miles in the rain May 22, 2015, before taking their final test to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge (U.S. Army photo by Marie Berberea).