18 Deployed Soldiers receive a ‘Go’ for Expert Infantry Badge

After six days of testing, 18 U.S. and French Soldiers emerged victorious from the most recent Expert Infantry Badge process, April 1, 2016, in Djibouti.



By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti Apr 06, 2016
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After six days of testing, 18 U.S. and French Soldiers emerged victorious from the most recent Expert Infantry Badge process, April 1, 2016, in Djibouti.

The EIB signifies the most skilled infantry members, proving themselves masters of physical fitness, night and day land navigation, weapons, combat medical techniques, patrolling, a 12-mile road march, and the Objective Bull. These are tasks of an infantryman that build the core foundation of individual proficiency, preparing them to locate, close with and destroy the enemy through fire and maneuver, and repel an enemy assault through fire and close combat.

“The easiest thing was agreeing to do it,” said 1st Lt. Alexander Repp, EIB candidate. “We took diagnostic physical fitness tests to make sure that the Soldiers sent there were ready to accomplish the mission.”

Starting with 119 Soldiers, the process stayed true to its vigorous and elite standards, eliminating 85 percent of skilled infantrymen throughout the week. Even the smallest mistake could earn a “no go,” but that’s what makes the EIB so valued and respected.

“It was all hard because it was stressful and you don’t want to fail,” Sgt. 1st Class Dale Thompson, EIB candidate. “No infantryman wants to fail.”

Besides the high-stakes tests, the Soldiers endured high heat, humidity and little distinctions that separated this testing iteration from those in the U.S.

“I think it’s a little more difficult here,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Vandunk, EIB cadre. “We didn’t have all the resources that we have back in the U.S. so we had to make due, and it affects the candidates.”

However, the criteria didn’t change. Authorities from EIB testing headquarters at Fort Benning, Georgia, travelled here to make sure the course met the very high standard of every EIB test. They approved the course, cadre and curriculum for the intense week of evaluations. 

Since 1944, there haven’t been many changes to the EIB process, but this course proved different in more ways than one as several French infantrymen also participated.

“We have nothing like this,” said French Army Sgt. Michael, EIB candidate. “It’s an incredible experience because I knew nothing about the U.S. Army, and with this course, now I know your materials.”

All of the Soldiers hoped to make it through each test day, but that wasn’t always the case. As they moved through each day and each test, they received a “go” or “no go” indicating their status. Few evaluations were retestable and only specific circumstances allowed a protest. Only three allowable “no go’s” with the amount of tests left little to no room for error.

“Even though these were individual tasks, there’s no way you would make it if you did it by yourself,” Repp said. “You had to have a battle buddy.”

As they reached the end of the week the infantrymen were put to the test completing a 12-mile road march in less than three hours, followed by the Objective Bull in 20 minutes. Technical Sergeant Walter Bull earned the first EIB in 1944, and he remains honored with Objective Bull, a simulated combat casualty care situation requiring physical and psychological strength.

“The guys are exhausted. They just finished doing 12 miles, but they just have that little bit extra,” Vandunk said. “They’re completely spent but they have to get on the objective and accomplish the mission.”

As infantrymen reached the beach and completed their last tasks, high-fives, handshakes and smiles finally resurfaced after enduring the past week. It wasn’t until cadre pinned them with their well-earned blue rifle that the Soldiers began to relax.

“You train and challenge yourself with your brothers.” Thompson said. “It was one task at a time, getting through it, and here we are today. It’s kind of surreal.”

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