JOINT BASE CAPE COD, Ma. - National Guard Soldiers from numerous Northeast states, plus nine in attendance from Bosnia, participated in a series of events to earn their Expert Infantryman Badge here, June 7 through June 18.
“EIB, in general terms, is a test of infantry basic skills,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Edwin Diaz, assistant operations noncommissioned officer in charge, C Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Special Forces, Massachusetts National Guard. “There is a series of tasks. Some tasks are done in sequence and graded in sequence. Other tasks are timed … they run the gamut from basic weapons maintenance and loading to land navigation … and call for fire. These are things that every junior infantryman should be able to do to perform his duties proficiently.”
Despite the frequent training events that take place at JBCC, this particular event is a rare occurrence here, there has not been one here in about five or six years, said Diaz. An additional element that made the EIB event unique to others was the presence of Bosnian soldiers.
“These are soldiers from Bosnia, and they are with the state partnership program,” said Army 1st Lt. Michael Pierce, C Company, 1st Squadron, 158th Cavalry Regiment, 58th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, Maryland National Guard. “They paired up with the Maryland National Guard … and so they get to come here and participate. We have nine soldiers here, seven are participating in EIB training and two are not participating but observing. Their end goal is to get some soldiers, preferably get all their soldiers, qualified in EIB, and then take it back to their country and implement a similar program that their soldiers can participate in.”
Though it is with relative ease that a Soldier can participate in this event, it is an accomplishment to complete all the requirements to earn the privilege to wear the EIB, which is a blue, horizontal pin with a silver rifle on it.
“There will be a 2% success rate. Of all these Soldiers, about, if we are lucky, about 5 are going home with an EIB,” prognosticated Army Pfc. Devin Cave, A Company, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, Massachusetts National Guard, on June 11, three days before the evaluation portion begins.
Cave, who has been in the National Guard for a little over a year, said, “We’ve been preparing for this since I got into the unit, which was about five or six months ago, and it’s just been in depth, in depth, in depth. I’ve used every single weapon at least 30 times.”
Even with the months of preparation, all of the 190 participants have a week to prepare.
“It is one week of preparation,” said Cave. “We go through every lane thoroughly along with every weapons system needed to achieve the Expert Infantryman Badge. Today we are studying land nav[igation], and then we get two days to brush up on our skills individually and then starts the testing.”
With a week of preparation at JBCC, Sunday, June 14 is the day that the EIB hopefuls have their eyes on.
“Sunday starts chaos. We wake up at 5, and then we do PT,” said Cave.
“The Army Physical Fitness Test is followed by land navigation. The three days that follow are filled with Individual Tactical Test Lanes and Master Skills Testing, which will challenge the participants’ preparedness and familiarity of the different demands.
The final day has a 12-mile forced march paired with a weapons proficiency test. The 12-mile march must be completed in less than three hours.
There’s a lot going on,” said Cave of the events. “You have to memorize everything down to a T. There are 40 tasks and if you fail three … if you don’t do three perfectly - you are out.”
Yet, the incentive is great. If successful, you will be recognized amongst your peers for your high proficiency and, “once you get the EIB, you get this,” said Diaz, as he pointed to his blue EIB, pinned high on his green Army Combat Uniform.
When the testing was complete, only six Soldiers of the 190 participants earned the right to wear the Expert Infantryman Badge.
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