Of 753 soldiers, just 26 earned the prestigious Expert Infantryman Badge on Friday following five days of intense testing.
Units participating included 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division and 504th Battle Surveillance Brigade. Twenty-five troopers who earned their EIB came from 3rd Cavalry Regiment and one from the 504th’s 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment.
At an urban training site Sept. 11, soldiers participated in the urban assault lane. Among multi-colored brick buildings decorated with graffiti designed to add a real-world element to soldiers’ training, EIB candidates reviewed skills training under tents and waited for their turns to run the lane.
First Sgt. Karl Goehlich, of 3rd Cavalry’s 3rd Squadron, oversaw the master skills test, which began each lane. Soldiers had to disassemble, reassemble and perform a functions check on weapons specific to their military occupational specialty in three minutes.
“If they mess up a skill, they receive a no go and have one hour to go to a hold area, work through what they did wrong and retest again,” Goehlich said. “If they receive a second no go, they’re out.”
If a soldier performs a single catastrophic no go, meaning an extreme safety breach, they are out.
This year’s tougher standards hearken back to those Goehlich experienced when he earned his EIB in Germany in 1989.
“The EIB is something every infantryman should aspire to achieve,” he said. “You have to earn the EIB, it is not given.”
After passing the master skills test, Spc. Michael Chavez, First “Tiger” Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, was out following a mistake on the outcome-based portion of the test.
He completed the given mission, treating a dummy for an injury and firing an M-98 rocket launcher in the midst of mock gunfire, but he mixed up the coordinates he was radioing in to the test trainers.
“If I could do it again, I wouldn’t rush to complete the tasks and pay more attention to detail,” Chavez said.
He wasn’t alone.
Following the first event, a fitness test, they were down to 414 candidates, said Sgt. Cody Reeves, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the testing.
Immediately following the fitness test, remaining soldiers went into day land navigation and then night land navigation. By the second day, only 145 soldiers were left in the running.
The attrition level for these events is normal, said Capt. James Teeter, officer-in-charge of testing. This year the hardest characteristics of previous EIBs were combined, he said. The most challenging aspect of the test, the lanes, were done on the second, third and fourth days.
Teeter predicted the greater levels of attrition with the updated standards on the lanes, but stressed the benefit to the regiment as a whole, having all soldiers complete intense week-long training prior to beginning testing.
“People that finish this training are pretty impressive,” he said.
The final event took place on Friday at Veteran’s Field. Soldiers completed a 12-mile foot march in less than three hours while wearing 35 pounds of gear, in addition to their water supply.
In recent years, the Army averaged a 20 percent pass rate for the EIB, Reeves said. The stricter standards during this testing session led to less than 5 percent of soldiers earning their EIB.
“This is definitely one of my prouder military moments,” said 1st Lt. Demetriou Steven, Tiger Squadron, who earned his EIB after completing the foot march in two hours, 31 minutes.
Four troopers from 3rd Cavalry Regiment earned “true blue” status, meaning they passed every test throughout the EIB testing, without a single no go.