Army's New Expert Soldier Badge Will Demand Mastery of Warrior Skills

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The Army released a graphic showing its new Expert Soldier Badge. Courtesy of the Army
The Army released a graphic showing its new Expert Soldier Badge. Courtesy of the Army

The U.S. Army on Friday unveiled the Expert Soldier Badge, a new skill badge designed to recognize soldiers who demonstrate a mastery of physical fitness, marksmanship and critical skills necessary for combat.

Beginning in fiscal 2020, soldiers from occupational specialties other than infantry, medical and Special Forces will have the chance to take Expert Soldier Badge (ESB) testing, a challenging battery of tasks that is equivalent to testing for the prestigious Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) and the Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB), according to a June 14 Army news release.

Soldiers in the infantry and Special Forces career fields will continue to take the EIB, and those in the medical field will continue to take the EFMB, the release states.

"Like the EIB and EFMB, the ESB test will be a superb venue for individual training in units, and the badge will recognize a soldier's mastery," Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, said in the release. "And it will be just as tough to earn as the EIB and EFMB because the soldier will have to demonstrate fitness, weapons proficiency, navigation and warrior task skill at the expert level."

The standards for the new ESB should be finalized by this September, according to the release. It added that the test will focus on physical fitness, marksmanship, land navigation and other critical soldier skills.

Standards for the ESB will not be adjusted for age, gender or any other criteria, the release states.

"We worked tirelessly on the ESB to ensure we got it right," Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, with the Center for Initial Military Training Command, said in the release. "We wanted to provide commanders the opportunity to recognize their top soldiers who have met the highest standard of performance in physical fitness, warfighting tasks and readiness."

To qualify to take the ESB test, troops must pass the new Army Combat Fitness (ACFT), which is slated to be mandatory for every soldier in October 2020, according to the release. Soldiers also must qualify as Expert on the M16/M4 and must be recommended by their chain of command, it adds.

The test will require soldiers to complete another ACFT, day and night land navigation courses, individual testing stations and a 12-mile foot march, the release states.

ESB test stations include warrior tasks that will be laid out in the ESB regulation and may also include five additional tasks selected by the brigade commander from the unit's mission essential task list, according to the release.

Some examples of the additional tasks include:

  • React to an improvised explosive device attack
  • Construct individual fighting positions
  • Search for an individual in a tactical environment
  • Mark chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear contaminated areas

"This is not a badge to award so that the entire Army now has an 'expert' badge to wear," TRADOC Command Sgt. Major. Timothy Guden said in the release.

"As it is now, not every infantryman or Special Forces soldier earns the EIB and not every medic earns the EFMB," he said. "Keeping with the same mindset, this is a badge to award to those who truly deserve recognition as an expert in their career field; for those who have achieved a high level of competence and excellence in their profession."

Each ESB task will be evaluated on a "go" or "no-go" basis. Pass rates during the ESB pilot testing were similar for the EIB and EFMB, the release states.

The ESB test will share about 80 percent of the same warrior tasks as EIB and EFMB testing, according to the release. Brigade commanders will decide if and when to schedule the test, so it best fits their training schedules.

"The ESB will be an important component of increasing soldier lethality and overall readiness to help achieve the vision for the Army of 2028," Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey said in the release. "The EIB and EFMB have supported the infantry and medical fields with distinction, ensuring their soldiers maintain critical skills, while recognizing the very best among them. The ESB will achieve the same for the rest of the Army."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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