Red Bulls: Beyond proficient
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - Around 80 soldiers from the West St. Paul, Minn.,-based Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment, are getting ready to earn the Expert Infantry Badge.
The EIB has been a trial for soldiers since it was created in 1943. Historically, only ten to fifteen percent of soldiers who start the EIB qualification test emerge with the EIB at the end of the multiday evaluation.
The 85-90% failure rate doesn’t even fully demonstrate how hard it is to earn the EIB. Soldiers in an Infantry MOS must get a letter of recommendation from their company commander vouching for their competence because they will be looked upon as role models if they earn the EIB. Company commanders are charged with weeding out soldiers who may be able to demonstrate the skills but whose character and performance would diminish its honor.
They also have to earn a minimum of 75 points out of 100 per event in the Army Physical Fitness Test and qualify as an expert with their assigned weapon before being allowed to attempt the EIB qualification.
Alpha Company is training to do better than the historically high failure rate. Platoons have spent the past few weeks focused on tasks that the average National Guard soldier doesn’t get to train on a lot. Examples of this are practicing arming and disarming anti-armor weapons and having every soldier do refresher training on the automatic weapons an infantry company would possess.
The EIB isn’t only a challenge for the soldiers who are taking it. First Lt. Michael Rose, an assistant operations officer in the battalion headquarters, noted that it has taken around three months of planning and coordination to set up the evaluation.
The work to set up an approved test is being done by all of the organizations in the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division — the 2-135 IN RGMT’s parent organization. Another challenge is that the testing itself has changed from a station-based format to a lanes-based one. This focuses less on the order of steps and more on accomplishing the outcome.
“One of our goals from the EIB test is to get enough soldiers qualified in it in order to sustain it at a battalion level in the future,” Rose added.
An EIB qualification can only be conducted by soldiers who have previously earned the EIB, so a battalion must have a large number of soldiers earn it before they can sustain the testing internally.
Staff Sgt. Jade Caponi, a squad leader from Lonsdale, Minn., wanted to motivate his squad to perform well by reminding them of what an opportunity it is to earn the EIB.
“In my eight years in the Army, this is the first time I’ve seen the company offered a chance to earn the EIB,” Caponi commented.
His squad, and the other soldiers in Alpha Company, understand its importance.
Spc. Daniel Sarvi of Watertown, Minn., said it best., “Earning an EIB would be a great honor because it is so hard to get. An award of this level of prestige should be what every infantryman pushes himself to earn.”