FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- A group of Fort Riley soldiers are vying for a prestigious honor this week, going through a series of demanding tests.
Members of the 1st Infantry Division’s "Dagger" Brigade are testing their skills in an effort to earn the coveted Expert Infantryman Badge.
"For the soldier who completes all of these tasks and gets their EIB, it’s a great accomplishment. It shows the mark of a professional soldier and a professional infantryman," said Lieutenant Colonel John Cross, Battalion Commander of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, assigned to the "Dagger" Brigade.
The soldiers were in their fourth day of testing Thursday, as WIBW filmed the different challenges they faced in simulated combat situations. They started out with 300 troops on Monday and were down to less than 100 soldiers Thursday afternoon.
Earlier in the week, they completed an Army physical fitness test, weapons qualification and day/night land navigation and on Thursday, they worked their way through three specially designed lanes. In each lane, they had to do 10 tasks under the watchful eyes of graders. The "lanes" included tasks involving Land Navigation, Urban Operations, and Traffic Control Point Operations. Soldiers were captured by our cameras loading and firing machine guns and anti-tank missiles, providing aid to wounded soldiers and calling in air support to target enemy locations.
"These are the skills that are going to keep them alive and enable them to survive in a combat environment. These are the individual tasks that they need to perform their daily duties. It’s meant to be hard. It’s not meant to be easy. It’s designed to really challenge them. Not everyone is going to be an expert in the infantry field and get their EIB. The fact that it is so challenging, gives soldiers a sense of accomplishment at the end if they do get awarded the badge," said 1st Sergeant Gary Stout, who was overseeing the Traffic Control Point lane.
Sergeant Kevin Erickson, a candidate who passed all of the tests, told WIBW: "Physically, you have to be ready and there’s so many different weapons systems and tasks. It’s physically exhausting and it’s mentally challenging as well."
"They’re hit one right after the other with each one of these 10 tasks on each of these lanes so it’s very realistic, very true to life and it really stresses the soldier out but the soldiers are performing very well and they’re doing a great job," Lieutenant Cross added.
There’s a 12 mile road march Friday morning that soldiers must complete in three hours while carrying 100 pounds of gear.
A culminating awards ceremony for those soldiers who earn the EIB is set for Friday morning.