Kentucky’s Mountain Warriors add experts to their ranks

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Harold Broughton, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry

EIB 1

(L-R) Capt Ryan Hubbs, Capt. Jason Partin, Spc. Christopher Jones and Staff Sgt. Nicholas Combs display their earned Expert Infantryman Badge certificates at Camp Atterbury, Ind. The Soldiers were the final four of more than 40 who competed for the award. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class Harold Broughton)

CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. — On June 20, 20 warriors from the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Battalion arrived at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center to begin training for testing of the coveted Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB). The EIB is a distinction that displays a skill set the infantryman must possess in order to earn the difficult sought after award. Those that earn the EIB wear it with a sense of pride and accomplishment for good reason.

After a rough five days of training, Spc. Christopher Jones, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Combs, Capt. Jason Partin and Capt. Ryan Hubbs from were the newest Kentucky Guardsmen to wear the EIB.

“Having a regional EIB testing hosted by the 205th Infantry Brigade from Camp Atterbury is a great benefit for us, surrounding Army Reserve units and Active components the same,” said Sgt. Maj. Chris Jackson, operations sergeant major for the 1/149th. “Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and the 101st Airborne Division from Ft. Campbell, KY sent candidates to participate in this event that had a starting number of 115 soldiers to enter testing.”

In 1944 Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall began the development of an award to honor the U.S. Army Infantryman. The intentions were to create something that represented the Infantry’s tough role in hard-hitting combat and display the proficiency in the Infantry arts. Once the course was completed, 100 NCO’s from the 100th Infantry Division set out for the first EIB to be awarded. Once the three days of testing was completed only ten Soldiers were left standing in which they attended the last part of the testing of being interviewed. In the end, Technical Sgt. Walter Bull was the last man standing and earning his prestigious title of expert infantryman.

Although things have changed since 1944 and the testing has been revamped, the numbers have not shown the testing to become any easier as an Army success rate of only eight percent of the starting class earn the badge.

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Staff Sgt. Nicholas Combs from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry celebrates as he nears the finish line of the ruck march completing his expert infantryman assessment at Camp Atterbury, Ind. The ruck march was the final event after five days of rigorous training to earn the expert infantryman badge. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class Harold Broughton)

The 20 Soldiers from 1/149th  began their road to the EIB in March by being pre-tested to meet all prerequisites, three months before arriving at Camp Atterbury. Beginning with more than 40 Soldiers, they began assessing the individuals to ensure they were capable of qualifying expert with their assigned M4, achieve the minimum requirements for the Army Physical Fitness Test and prepared to endure the 12 mile road march in less than the required three hours. Upon completion, more than 50% were not going to have their shot at earning their EIB, leaving the remaining 20 Soldiers to test their skills and knowledge to become an expert infantryman.

The course consisted of five days of training with a variety of phases for the candidates. Each of the training lanes consisted of three Master Skills Testing and an Individual Tactical Test lane that included 10 tasks that must be completed in 20 minutes or less. If a candidate received back-to-back No-Go’s or a total of three in the entirety of the testing they would be terminated. The three main lanes are designated as Patrol, Traffic Control Point, and Urban lanes. The master skill tests were designed  to display the skill needed to properly function, clear, and fire each weapon system an infantryman may encounter from a 9MM to a M2 .50-caliber machine gun. The culminating task involved with the individual tactical tests (ITT) included events that a Infantryman may encounter in a combat situation to include basic movement tactics, call for fire, request a MEDEVAC and employ hand grenades to name a few of the tasks.

Entering day one, the 115 candidates performed the APFT where they are required to achieve 75% in each event before moving on. Next up was the day and night land navigation which proved that day one would send many candidates back home without their EIB. More than half of the candidates were not able to successfully achieve the standards these events, terminating them from the course. Over the next three days the candidates would perform one lane testing per day and hope to move on for the fifth and final day that included the 12-mile ruck march that must be completed in less than three hours.

EIB APFT

Capt. Jason Partin with Charlie Compnay, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry does push-ups as part of the expert infantryman testing at Camp Atterbury, Ind. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class Harold Broughton)

Only 23 Soldiers of the original 115 remained on the final day to begin the ruck march on the final day of testing. The four Kentuckians separated themselves by proving they had what it took passing the first four days of testing. The only thing standing between them and earning the EIB was the long physical demand of rucking 12 miles with 35lbs of gear. All four candidates began the day with the same goal and accomplished it within the required three-hour time limit earning their coveted Expert Infantryman Badge.

In all, 22 candidates received their EIB and only six were able to complete as “True Blue” candidates including Hubbs. By being considered True Blue the candidate must complete all task without a single no go, a daunting task on top of the already demanding course.

“When they get back to their units, these four individuals will be looked upon as a part of the most knowledgeable Infantryman the U.S. Army has to offer,” said Jackson.  “And our Infantry Battalion is full of pride in their accomplishment.”

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