Army leaders really want soldiers to earn expert badges, with service planners doubling the amount of promotion points awarded to those who earn the honors meant to reflect skill sets useful for soldiers, according to an internal memo reviewed by Military.com that was signed this summer by Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, who at the time oversaw personnel policy.
In April, the Army will adjust the number of points awarded for promotion to sergeant and staff sergeant. Soldiers can be promoted ahead of their peers through the accumulation of points for scoring well on marksmanship or the Army Combat Fitness Test, and by furthering their education, among other accomplishments.
Next year, the expert soldier, infantryman and field medical badges will be worth 60 points -- double their current value. Yet top fitness scores will be worth 120 points, a 60-point decrease from the current rate for the promotion to sergeant and 25 for staff sergeant.
The move to boost badges comes as service leaders, particularly Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, have placed a growing emphasis on expert badges. Those badges certify troops are proficient in basic infantry tasks, such as land navigation and combat medical care. The Army introduced the Expert Soldier Badge, or ESB, in 2019. The test is the same as the decades-old Expert Infantryman Badge, but allows soldiers outside of the infantry or medical field to earn a badge.
However, it is unclear how eager non-combat arms troops are to dedicate huge blocks of time training for and conduct a test on what are effectively infantry tasks. However, the recent boost in the badge's value for promotion could make that badge more sought after.
"All else being equal, ESB will be a differentiator and show the board you are an expert at your warrior tasks - something ALL Soldiers should strive for," Grinston, the service's top enlisted leader, said on Twitter in July.
Performance on the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, still will carry the lion's share of potential points for a noncommissioned officer (NCO) to earn. But the adjustments come from some concerns in the force that there has been too much emphasis placed on physical fitness, the argument being that a leader shouldn't be decided solely on their ability to lift heavy weights and run two miles fast.
Yet Army planners are also eyeing a new fitness test specifically designed for the badges. An upcoming test in Fort Benning, Georgia, this month will pilot the new fitness standards, which include a one-mile run, push-ups, 100-meter sprint, an event which soldiers stack sandbags, a 50 meter farmer's carry with two 40lb water jugs, a 50 meter lane which soldiers crawl and sprint, and an additional one-mile run. The whole circuit will be conducted in body armor.
There are no standards defined for the proposed fitness event as officials look to effectively beta-test it.
The changes go into effect for the June 2023 promotion month.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.