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Paratroopers Strive to Become Expert Infantrymen

FORT BRAGG, NC -- On the morning of Oct. 22, 2012 hundreds of paratroopers stood in formation at Pike Field to take the first steps needed to earn their Expert Infantryman Badge.

Infantrymen assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, began the weeklong EIB testing with the Army Physical Fitness Test and the daytime land navigation course. Paratroopers from 1st BCT also participated.

The paratroopers were put through a number of different events that tested their skills as infantrymen. Along with the AFPT, on which they had to score at least 75 percent in each event, they were put through three combat-oriented lanes and graded on 10 different tasks on each lane.

Master Sgt. Christian Requejo, the noncommissioned officer in charge of EIB testing said, "It was designed years ago as a test to refine the infantry skills of individuals, and those who went through and passed every event were awarded the expert infantryman badge."

As the they maneuvered through each lane, Paratroopers had to use basic infantry skills ranging from identifying terrain features, moving under direct fire, loading and unloading, and correcting malfunctions on various weapons systems, performing first aid on various wounds, calling for a medical evacuation, calling for and adjusting indirect fire support, and sending situation reports to a headquarters element.

Even though earning the EIB isn't a requirement, it is highly recommended that young Troopers attain this badge. For those who earn it, it is a point of pride, and a display to leaders, peers, and subordinates that this infantryman is fully capable of carrying out the infantry mission.

Staff Sgt. Patrick Granger, a grader at the traffic control point lanes, explained, "The Expert Infantryman Badge means to me that I am a master of my craft and I can complete all the tasks required to defend America."

The TCP lane, designed to replicate combat conditions of forward operating base defense, Granger said. "What they're going to face is this lane is a fair amount of time management skills on everything from turning on a [Blue Force Tracker], identifying combatants on a battlefield, identify noncombatants, prepare a range card for an M240B, use the weapon system to engage the enemy, find the location of the enemy when they move forward to get a [battle damage assessment], send up reports, put a radio into operation, and communicate on the BFT," he continued.

"Normally the attrition occurs at the PT test and land navigation, but these guys have done really well," said Requejo. "I went through in Korea in 2000, when I received mine it felt really great because I was the only one in my company who actually got it."

"The attrition rate was higher there than here," Requejo explained. "Here in the 82nd, we have a lot more guys that are physically fit."

On the final day of the EIB testing, the soldiers began their final event - the 12-mile foot march. The foot march, which had to be completed within three hours with their prescribed packing list, challenged the soldiers to display their determination and toughness.

Out of the 544 Infantrymen that began, 252 were awarded the EIB, and 42 were classified as "true blue" EIBs. The reference "true blue" describes infantrymen who earned their badges with a first-time pass in every event.

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