FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- It started with 420 soldiers from across Fort Riley and after five days of competition, only 63 were left standing to receive the coveted Expert Infantryman Badge.
"The Expert Infantry Badge or EIB sets soldiers apart from their peers. It shows them that they’re an expert in their profession. It’s something like guys in college going for the Heisman Trophy- that really sets them apart. That’s kind of like what the EIB is to an infantryman," said
First Sergeant Brandon McGuire. with the 4th Brigade.
The competition was hosted by the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat who recently completed a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Soldiers had to successfully complete more than100 tasks over the course of five brutal days.
It started with a physical fitness test, weapons qualifications, and day and night land navigation.
Then they worked their way through three specially designed lanes. In each lane, realistic combat scenarios are simulated. Soldiers were loading and firing machine guns from moving vehicles, throwing hand grenades, entering and clearing a room, providing aid to wounded soldiers and calling in air support to target enemy locations.
"It deems me an expert at my job. My job is an infantryman- that’s what I do for a living. I consider myself an expert and this just solidifies that. It’s just good to know that you’re good at your job, you’re doing things right. That’s what we want to see for all of our soldiers as well," said Lt. Charlie Fulton, competed to earn his EIB.
"A lot of time lieutenants are stuck behind the desk but it’s a great time to get out and train with your soldiers at our craft that is being an infantryman so at the end of this week is when you’ll be deemed or not deemed an expert at your job. It’s a great chance to get everybody out here- the new soldiers that just came in and the old soldiers that were on this last deployment to Afghanistan included in that," he added.
"It challenges them physically, mentally and it’s pretty exhausting. Across the Army, only 10-20% of the soldiers get it each year," First Sergeant McGuire.
The competition ended Friday with 12 mile road march that soldiers had to complete in three hours while carrying 35 pounds of gear. It’s then that those remaining could call themselves the cream of the crop in the Army’s infantry and received their expert badges during a brief ceremony.
It was a demanding week in the heat for the troops and as they received their EIBs, their uniforms and boats were still soaking wet with sweat from the foot march. The soldiers said they were tired and sore but they were happy to have finished the competition and proved to themselves and others what they are capable of in different battlefield situations.
"My hat’s off to them. I salute every one of these soldiers. I couldn’t be more proud as their brigade commander as today It sets them apart from all of their fellow infantrymen. It’s a cut above that show them how well they’ve earned the title of expert and this badge for expert infantrymen. They have made it through this gauntlet," Colonel Joe Wawro, Commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
"It’s a good opportunity to showcase your skills and then everyone else can say you’re an expert at what you do and they’re willing to follow you because they know you’re an expert," said First Lieutenant Chris Siok who earned his EIB.