The U.S. Army recently recognized 11 soldiers for helping create the Expert Soldier Badge, or ESB, test program by awarding them the service's newest skill badge.
The soldiers who received the new badge were part of an initial group of 56 who participated in a 2017 pilot test, designed to be equivalent to the Army's prestigious Expert Infantry Badge and Expert Field Medical Badge tests.
Only 12 of the 56 passed the test; one was unable to attend the award ceremony Tuesday at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
"Now that we have actually implemented the badge across the Army, we are awarding that badge to the soldiers that did it two years ago," Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Army's Center for Initial Military Training, told reporters Tuesday at AUSA.
In late October, the 2nd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, will hold the first Expert Soldier Badge training and testing while it runs its Expert Infantry Badge testing, Hibbard said.
"They are doing EIB simultaneously ... because there is so much commonality; it was designed that way," he said, adding that the test events share 80 percent of the soldier tasks. "There are only five events for soldiers that are not infantrymen will have to do that are different than the EIB."
It's up to commanders to select the alternative events, but they could include tasks such as how to react to an improvised explosive device attack or how to mark chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear-contaminated areas.
"We will run the second one at Fort Eustis this November for a non-infantry brigade unit for those soldiers to earn it and, just like an EIB or an [Expert Field Medical Badge], brigades or divisions or posts will schedule that and provide the graders to go out there and assist with that," Hibbard said.
There is no time requirement for units to schedule what is typically a three-week training period for the Expert Soldier Badge, he added.
"Just like the EIB and EFMB, it's based on the commanders' training schedule," Hibbard said. "So if I am in [1st Brigade Combat Team] of the 101st Airborne and we are getting ready to deploy, it will probably be low on my priority list to train for, based on my deployment training tasks and [combat training center] rotations and all my other training I have to do.
"We expect it will pick up more in fiscal year 2021. We will see quite a few more of them executed. ... A lot of training plans and resources have already been locked in so, by next summer, we will see an uptick in units scheduling them and then will come more commonplace in 2021," he said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.