infantry

Two (More) Academic Articles on Women in the Infantry

untitled_by_liarafemshep-d6w7599A reader of the blog sent me on a hunt for two (more) academic articles on women in the infantry, or, women in combat arms more generally. The two articles are “Breaking the Kevlar Ceiling” by Major Jacqueline Escobar and “Why Can’t Anything Be Done?” by Dr. W.J. Gregor.

The articles are worth reading in their entirety – but they are not really shedding anything new on the discourse. This is a topic that has been beaten beyond death. And anything we really ever needed to know was laid out twenty years by COL(R) John Ripley.

However, I’ll attempt to boil these articles down to their thesis’ below.

Major Escobar makes the case that getting more women into the top positions of the Army and military is critical to ensuring that we make the best strategic decisions possible. Her evidence comes from studies on corporate America where it was determined that achieving a “critical mass” of women in the boardroom creates a “fundamental change in the boardroom and enhance[s] corporate governance.” She demonstrates that although the top positions in the military aren’t necessarily coded to combat arms, the historical norm has been that those top positions are traditionally filled by combat arms officers. Thus, allowing women to serve in combat arms would by extension lead to more female combat arms officers and eventually more women generals in the top positions, finally leading to a “fundamental change in the boardroom” and an “enhanced corporate governance.”

Escobar also makes an argument that another reason female officers are not making it to the top ranks is because many of them choose to get out at or before the field grade level. Part of the reason, she says, is because they know that in the current system, the chances of them achieving the highest positions in the military are slim given the current restraints (top positions being traditionally reserved for combat arms guys, for example).

It needs to be stated that Dr. Gregor is linked to the Center for Military Readiness, which is a non-profit that has opposed the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ and often publishes articles against integration of combat arms. That is to say, they have an agenda. Dr. Gregor’s article is lightly colored with the bias of someone out to prove his hypothesis out of political spite rather than allowing the data to speak for itself (he writes about the “Democrat Congress” and targets “those who are committed to making the Army look right”). That said, where the paper is coming from shouldn’t discourage you from reading it. Data is data, and there is value in reaping from multiple perspectives.

It’s tough to plow through because he builds the case slowly and over arguments you’ve no doubt read about time and time again. For the patient reader, there is value in sloughing through, though. Dr. Gregor argues through the presentation of physical fitness data that women simply are not cut out for the tough work of combat arms. The graphs he presents are convincing, showing that even the top performing females just barely reach nod-worthy standards in the male category.

Interestingly, Dr. Gregor does not make the argument that because so few women would be able to meet the male standards (in this case, on the APFT) that we should not integrate combat arms. Instead of making that argument, he argues instead that if we were to maintain current standards (which it is likely we will) than given the data, very few women will ascend into combat arms, and that of those who do, they will be at a severe handicap because of the built-in limitations of their gender which will further hinder them as they are rated against their peers – mostly males. Thus, fewer women will ascend the ranks to get into the “boardroom” as Escobar argues because there will be so few that make it through the brutal combat arms gauntlet.

It’s an interesting argument, a kind of “be careful what you wish for” argument. Of course, the great fear is that “standards” may change to allow more women in, at the risk of military readiness and performance. Then, you would have more women making it to the “boardroom” of a force that looks different than it does now. Better? I don’t know.

The two articles interplay well with one another, and I thank the reader who sent me to them.

Aside from the ominous forecasting, I’m of the belief that writers on this topic truly do want to see a military that is better than before, and their passion pours onto the page when they write about it. For various reasons, that passion often comes out as either vehemently opposed to integration or fanatically in support of it.

Again, I think the key question that we aren’t asking is ‘what is the infantry?‘ Or rather, what do we want to the infantry to be? Has it changed? Should it change?

I think there is a disconnect out there in what people think the infantry is (or want it to be) versus what it actually is. Most people (meaning, outsiders) think the infantry is something between what it actually is (close with and destroy the enemy) and special forces (hearts and minds). That force – which doesn’t exist – is filled with older, exceptionally fit, super smart men and women.

So, go read the articles and be informed.

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infantry

Two Academic Articles on Women in the Infantry

Female Commander Shepard

I’ve been reading, writing, and thinking a lot about women in the infantry the past few weeks. Well, the past year, really, but more so in the past couple of weeks. Soren’s blog post from last week is attracting tons of visitors and people are commenting and sending me things to read.

I’ve had two academic articles about the fighting woman open in my browser for a few days waiting for me to get to them. I finally read them this week and wanted to share them here.

The first was sent to me by friend of the blog Kayla Williams (who incidentally is referenced in the other piece I’ll get to in a moment). It’s called “Fighting and Winning Like Women” by Dr. Robert Hill. It’s in the November-December edition of Military Review.

There was a time not too long ago when I would whole-heartedly recommend anything written on the subject because there wasn’t much out there that talked about why women should be integrated into combat arms or why it was a good thing, or in this case, inevitable. I just couldn’t get into this piece though. It is short, but it’s not really saying anything new. It’s a rehash of the same things that Soren said, but less digestible. There are lots of references to things famous people have said, a reminder not to lower standards, and for leaders to lead. Other than that, there really isn’t much there.

The second piece comes from the summer 2013 issue of Parameters. It’s called “Women in Battle: The Female Soldier” by Anthony King, a professor at the University of Exeter. King’s article is more academic than Hill’s, which is refreshing in a field that is stuffed with gross anecdotes from current or ex-infantrymen. In the piece, King argues that the integration of women in the Armed Forces has been an overall success and is due to the professional ethic of the all-volunteer force. He concedes that full integration into the infantry will be difficult, however, because of the likely very few women who will be able to make it.

 Indeed, for Kanter, a female workforce of 15 percent or less constitutes not even a genuine minority but merely a token.

King’s thesis shines brightest when it introduces studies from other fields, in this case gender studies and sociology. He notes that in studies of the business world, a workforce comprising 15% women (like the military) does not even constitute a minority, but merely a token. Breaking cultural norms long established would be extremely difficult at best when the sight of a female soldier is a “token” event.

In the course of a narrative ostensibly dedicated to extolling brotherly cohesion, Sergeant O’Byrne (one of the central figures in Junger’s account) made a surprising admission. Rather than expatiating on his soldiers’ love for each other, he observed: “There are guys in the platoon who straight up hate each other.” Yet O’Byrne noted a paradox: “But they would also die for each other. So you kind of have to ask, ‘How much could I really hate the guy?’”

King also makes the best argument I’ve seen against the idea that integrating women into the infantry will weaken the force because of disruptions to male bonding. In his section titled “Professionalized Cohesion” he makes the case that soldiers guided by a professional ethic to accomplish the mission would unlikely have any issue with an infantrywomen so long as she could do her job. He discusses examples where units are able to accomplish the mission even if they don’t know each other, based on common knowledge acquired through standardized training. Anyone who has been through an Army school knows that this is true. You get thrown in with a bunch of people you don’t know, someone is in put in charge, and you get to work. There are always initial pains as the dust settles, but it usually doesn’t take long to start operating on high. Success doesn’t come from being buddies with the men, but rather trusting in the competence of them.

There might be something worth exploring further on the topic of ‘brotherly love’ in combat arms. By the end of our year in Iraq, our platoon was sick of each other. Even my best buddy and I went through ups and downs. But as a fighting force, we were tight and trusted one another.

Implied in cementing that trust, of course, is maintaining current standards for ascension and tough training at the unit in order to preserve that confidence.

King also references two friends of the blog in his research, Kayla Williams who wrote Love My Rifle More Than You (which I reviewed earlier this year) and Jason Christopher Hartley who wrote Just Another Soldier (the last book I read before going to OCS – still owe a review!). Kayla’s book is probably the best primer on what it feels like to be a woman in the modern military and at war. Jason’s book is a great way to get into the mind on an infantryman – it’s about so much more than pulling the trigger. In Jason’s book, he makes a case against women in the infantry because of sex (something I alluded to as well in What is the Infantry – Part III). I know Jason, and I know that his thoughts on the subject have changed. It would be interesting to know what he thinks about his book being used in a article about women in the infantry and being cited as a critic of it (well, what do you think, Jason?).

I suspect that we’ll see even more academic articles on this subject next year, as we’re still only warming up to 2015 when the other foot is supposed to drop. I’ve been contacted by a few academics in the past year asking permission to cite things I’ve written on the subject so I imagine there is a horde of passionate college students ready to prove whatever it is they set out to prove regarding women in the infantry.

This is a good thing, because I for one am tired of reading about women in the infantry from male infantrymen.

infantry

How to Lead Infantrywomen in Combat

One of the author's soldiers, 'Karina,' during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2009.

One of the author’s soldiers, ‘Karina,’ during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2009.

This is a guest post from friend of the blog Soren Sjogren, a Danish Army Officer who has led a mixed-gender infantry unit in combat.

Leading women in combat

Whether women are eligible to serve in combat units in the US is no longer a discussion. The first women have already passed basic infantry training and American junior officers will soon face the challenges of leading mixed units.

As a Danish army officer I have led mixed platoon-size combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here is what I have learned about leading women in combat.

Do not focus on gender

Gender is not important. Ethnicity is not important either. What is important, however, is this simple question: Does this person deliver the results expected as a part of the team? The only standards to measure are the soldiers’ ability to do their job. Do not focus on anything else.

Measure your soldiers by the same standard

Make sure you measure your troops by the same standard. The idea that women have to prove themselves more worthy than the males by making tougher demands on them is just as wrong as the opposite – lessening standards in an attempt to stuff more women into the unit. Remember: It can never be an objective to have a specific number of women in a given unit. The objective is to train and maintain a fighting force able to carry out its tasks.

Protect your unit from attention

Along with arrival of the first women in your unit comes a lot of attention. Imagine the interest of the media in the first mixed unit deployed in combat. All sorts of commentators might have an interest in the women in your unit in order to use them to promote a specific cause. Higher command might have an interest in telling the success story of women in combat.

Say no, politely. Your job as a leader is to protect your unit and focus on the mission. The women in your unit are there for the same reasons as the men: to prove themselves and serve their country. They did not become soldiers to attract the attention of the press, commentators, or higher command because of their gender.

Never accept sexism

Words have the power to move and to transform us. Never use nor allow language that implies negativity related to gender. An innocent joke about women’s lack of ability to do something or implying that it is OK to use gender as an explanation is the first step down the wrong path.

Do not go there yourself, and strike down hard on any approach to sexism.

Allow women to be women

There is no such thing as a stereotypical infantry soldier. Dark, light, big or small – the only thing that matters is that you are able to do the job. You do not need to transform women and make them more ‘manly’ in order to serve.

Allow them to be women as long as they do their job. Just as you allow the rest of your soldiers to be the individuals they are.

A final word

In the Danish army women are still a minority, even more so in combat units. Few women make it into the infantry. The average woman certainly will not.

But neither would the average man. The point is that we are looking for people who can get the job done. Gender regardless.

Focus on the task. Focus on the standards of the field manuals. Focus on your unit’s ability to capture the objective or to hold the ground. That is all there is.

soldiering

The Infantrywomen of Instagram #inyourface

women_itb

What a day for military women!

Yesterday was a day where that ugly topic, women in the infantry, reared its head again and for some reason was all over the place. It’s one of my favorite subjects because it is about so much more than just women in the infantry. It’s an exhausting, emotional topic and I’ve been happy not having to write about it for awhile.

But here we are again.

As it has been reported, the four women pictured above will likely be the first four women to complete the United States Marine Corps infantry course. A milestone day, and more on the picture in a bit.

On the same day that this photo and story emerges, I also read an article in the Washington Times titled “The feminist campaign to make weaklings of America’s warriors,” an article in Politico that suggests that as the Army moves closer to integrating combat arms, it would “behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy,” and a blog written on Ranger Up’s Rhino Den asking “Where is the Army I Joined” in which the author rants about the impending implosion of the Army, mostly because of women.

What all of this says to me is that on a day where four women have done it – they’ve proven that they can do it, the running line is still that they are here to make us weaker, destroy our Army, and it would be in everyones best interest if they weren’t attractive.

As I’ve written about extensively, women in the infantry is a topic that I am conflicted about. But that conflict doesn’t stop me from responding to false narratives, bad ideas, or poor arguments.

Now as I learned the last time I responded to a piece in the Washington Times, they often retain a strong bias when it comes to military issues. This article was no different. In a nutshell, it argues that the military can’t have it both ways, as in, it can’t say that it wants to reduce the number of sexual assaults in the military (making women victims) while also trying to push women into combat arms (making women warriors). The hidden claim is that there is some mystical male sexual power that is a necessary thing for combat, and that by letting women into the show, that power will be diminished or destroyed(!). I wrote about sex in the infantry, and it made a lot more sense when I wrote it.

Most of the article is complete nonsense, a stringing together of old tropes and anti-feminist fears. I’m not even going to do it the favor of fisking it. I will say this, though. His central claim, that there is this hidden feminist cabal that has an agenda and in their crosshairs is the infantry as an object of hate, is a theory I have heard quietly whispered in hallways before. I have no idea where this is coming from, but there are people out there that believe it is a real thing, and if they were reading this paragraph right now, would scoff at me and say I am being naive.

The Politico piece which reports on an email shared with them recommends we showcase “average looking women” in strategic communications because pictures featuring pretty women often undermine the message. As friend of the blog Kayla Williams said on her book’s Facebook page: “Army guidance on pics of women inarticulate but not misguided – more images with mud/camo instead of mascara = good.” As in, we all know what was said in the email is true, but it feels bad hearing it. When we see a picture featuring an attractive female soldier, it undermines the message mostly because we’re all very immature. The email looks bad but the message is correct. What’s sad, is that we’re still at a point where we have to say these things – pick ugly women so they’ll be taken seriously. We’re still cavemen: There Are No Girls With Good Personalities.

Now the Rhino Den piece. Ugh. I like Ranger Up, but I feel like that as their brand matures, I expect more from them. For every great Rhino Den article, there are three or four that ride the line of racist or misogynist. I’ve always enjoyed the “barracks” level stuff that comes out of there, but to keep this in military terms, the Rhino Den isn’t a Private anymore. It’s a First Sergeant now, and First Sergeants can’t get in front of the formation and say some of this shit (or at least, they shouldn’t).

The piece is a mostly rage-fueled anecdotal trek into why one soldier believes his Army is falling apart, and it has mostly to do with women and his belief that the top generals are only interested in pleasing their political masters who have grand schemes for reshaping the military. It’s a sad article, and I am sad that it’s on the Rhino Den, where I imagine thousands of people will read it.

I could go line by line and show what’s wrong with the article, but that would be tedious and boring. I’ll just leave this here to give you a taste. You can click the link if you actually want to read the whole thing:

I wish that was a stand-alone incident, but the more time I’ve spent in the Army has taught me that this actually happens to be the norm. The vast majority of female soldiers I have encountered think it’s some sort of game and view the Army as a playground for them. Despite what anybody says, the Army is very much still male-dominated, and rather than aspire to show they can do what the males do, the average Army female adopts that playground mentality and engage in a variety of unprofessional conduct, the most common being flirting and sometimes sleeping with upper ranks. A female E-4 I encountered during in-processing to my first duty station had told me stories of sleeping with lieutenants and captains and her philosophy was that rank only applied on duty.

With that out of the way, I can go back to the good news story of the day, the four women in the picture.

What I love about that picture is that I feel like I can see what they’re feeling. Knowing that they are finishing up their infantry course and are near graduation, I can see the relief and exhaustion in their faces – that feeling of completing something hard. They are clean for the first time in probably over a week. They watched the dirt flow into the drain and felt that simple satisfaction of stepping out of a hot shower for the first time in a while and smelling good. Their smiles show the happiness of achieving something great, and I know their minds are fantasizing about the things they are going to eat that they couldn’t while they trained and the things they will buy with the money saved up while in the field.

It is a picture I’ve seen hundreds of times of young infantrymen near graduation day, happy and ready for the big adventure. They are the greatest pictures and they make me happy. #nofilter

What a day for the military!

infantry

EIB Week: Complete

EIB

EIB Week: The Expert Infantryman Badge - Introduction.

EIB Week: “Expert” vs. “Combat” Infantryman Badge - Which is more important?

EIB Week: Is the EIB the “mark” of the infantryman? - Well? Is it?

EIB Week: Where/When did you get your EIB? Because, that’s super-important. - I got the last hard EIB.

EIB Week: Camp EIB vs. Camp Ranger - A cosmic struggle.

EIB Week: One final thought - Just sayin’.

infantry

EIB Week: Where/When did you get your EIB? Because, that’s super-important.

An EIB cadre and candidate during testing. From the 3d Cavalry Regiment Facebook page.

An EIB cadre and candidate during testing. From the 3d Cavalry Regiment Facebook page.

Further down the rabbit hole of infantry minutiae.

One does not simply “have” their EIB. No, they earn it at some place and at some time. Back in 2001 when I tested, the actual place where one earned their EIB was very important. Getting an EIB while assigned to 4th Infantry Division somehow meant less than getting an EIB while assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division or the 101st Airborne Division. This, of course, is due to perceived ideas of unit toughness or eliteness, a thing that really has never been measured.

Today, where you earned your EIB is not nearly as important as when you earned your EIB. Over the past decade of war, the EIB testing scheme has changed to reflect a more realistic test of what makes an “expert infantryman.” Infantrymen from the old school tested on “stations.” Once the basics were our of the way (APFT, land navigation, rifle marksmanship) you would then move, as a group, from station to station training and testing on infantry tasks. Testing took two or three days. Claymore to weapons to grenades to movement to range estimation etc. Then, finally, you would do the twelve mile foot march and be done.

The EIB assessment eventually morphed from “stations” to “lanes” where infantrymen received an OPORD and moved through a training exercise as an individual where many of those infantry tasks were incorporated.

Now, the EIB assessment is kind of like the old school way and kind of like the new school way. There are stations and lanes.

The important thing to know is that whatever EIB YOU did was by far the best one and the one that truly separates the “expert” infantrymen from the ordinary infantrymen. You will know this because said expert infantryman will tell you.

Besides where and when you got your EIB, it’s also very important for EIB holders to know the exact statistics for their EIB. As in, “when I got my EIB, only 7% of candidates got it.” Or, “Out of 900 guys that went for it, only 130 got it.” If someone doesn’t rattle off their statistics, than most likely his EIB would be what many infantrymen would refer to as an “easy EIB.” Likely, close to 50% of that guy’s candidates got theirs. No one ever thinks that a high pass rate might have something to do with good training. The only possible reason so many people would pass is because the grading was easy, infantrymen will tell you.

There’s still more to be said about the EIB, and I’ll get to that tomorrow.

iraq ten years ago

Brand new PL (September 13, 2003)

From a letter dated September 13, 2003:

We got a new platoon leader today. His name is Lt. *****. He just graduated IOBC and Ranger School. Brand spanking new! He went to West Point, which is pretty cool. He seems like a cool guy. We’re going to be getting a new Platoon Sergeant in a week too. This is how an infantry platoon works, for your info.

Task Org

infantry

EIB Week: Is the EIB the “mark” of the infantryman?

Photo from the 3d Cavalry Regiment Facebook Page

Photo from the 3d Cavalry Regiment Facebook Page.

Whenever I hear commanders talking to soldiers trying to pump them up for EIB, they’ll usually say something about the EIB being the “mark of the infantryman.” Back in the barracks, some NCO will tell an old myth that the Springfield rifle on the EIB badge, if you look real closely, is cocked, ready to fire. Earning the EIB “primes you” for war. And then if you look at the CIB, you’ll notice that the cocking lever is forward, that rifle has been fired. You have seen the white elephant and survived. None of that is true by the way – the rifles and cocking levers on both the EIB and CIB are exactly the same. But the myth is stronger than the reality.

Throughout the year, “the standard” that people refer to when discussing an infantry task is usually the EIB standard.

Take, for example, the foot march. The EIB foot march is a 12 mile movement wearing fatigues, load-bearing equipment, helmet, rifle, and rucksack that usually weighs about 35 pounds without water. To pass the EIB foot march, a soldier needs to complete the twelve miles in under three hours.

Anyone who has done the twelve mile foot march understands that in order to pass that event, it usually takes a lot of shuffling or running to keep under time – especially if that soldier is short, like me.

But if you asked anyone what the foot march standard is for the infantry (there isn’t one), they would likely respond with “12 miles under 3 hours with a 35 pound ruck. EIB standard.”

Out in the field, an infantryman’s ruck usually weighs well over 35 pounds. Field movements – be they tactical foot marches or patrols – are rarely conducted at a 15 minute mile pace, i.e.; EIB standard. They are usually slow and deliberate, designed to preserve the fighting capacity of the infantryman when he arrives at the objective. Plus, hauling ass with +70 pounds of gear just isn’t that easy.

My point, is that for good or for nil, the EIB standards become adopted as de facto infantry standards, when that is just not the case. If they were the infantry standards, infantrymen would not be able to leave Fort Benning without their EIB.

As I wrote about yesterday, the original intent of the EIB was to give infantry soldiers a way to distinguish themselves from other, less physically demanding jobs in the military. Through hard training and a tough, fair assessment, an infantryman can proudly wear the rifle on his chest and everyone would know that he has done something hard and that the job that he does is hard.

Today, when a unit does EIB, there is usually a long train-up period to the event to sharpen soldiers’ skills. Even if a soldier fails to pass the assessment, he receives good, in-depth training on his basic tasks, which has become the reason the event is so important today. For many infantrymen, EIB training is the only time they’ll get their hands on some of the more exotic weapons in the arsenal unless it is in their normal duties.

So is it the “mark” of an infantryman? It is certainly a way for an infantryman to distinguish himself (or herself!) by earning a badge he can wear on his uniform.

I’ll write more tomorrow about the culture that surrounds the EIB. But to address the title of this post, I’ll defer to something an old PL of mine said.

Sitting in the CP, the PL called in all of the new EIB holders. Once they gathered, he turned from his computer with a white foam cup in his hand, spitting tobacco juice into the cup. He quickly addressed the new Expert Infantrymen, voice garbled by the giant dip in his mouth:

“Hey, good job guys, you’ve earned your EIB. *spit* That’s good. You should be proud of yourselves. Now when you go to the PX, everyone will be able to look at you and know you’re infantry. Good job.” *spit*

He then turned back to his computer and did whatever it is he was doing.

infantry

EIB Week: “Expert” vs. “Combat” Infantryman Badge

CIB

First, let’s just get the basics out of the way. The Expert Infantryman’s Badge, known in everyday parlance as the E-I-B, is a badge awarded to infantrymen and special forces soldiers after undergoing a series of infantry tasks over the course of a few days, usually a work week. Although the testing standards change every decade or so, there are are common elements to all of them. The EIB test will assess: physical fitness, shooting, weapons skills, common soldier skills (camouflage, medical skills, communications, etc.), land navigation, and foot marching. The badge was introduced during World War II by General George Marshall as a way of honoring infantrymen, who were known to have a particularly harsh and often thankless job. Wearing a badge that sets you apart from other soldiers was an easy way of raising morale, while also giving soldiers another reason to train hard.

Also, EIB holders earned an extra $5 a month, which is equal to about $35,000 in today’s money.

For more on the history of the EIB, see this article from the Infantry School.

I probably first learned about the EIB early in infantry training at Fort Benning in 2001. It was probably at 30th AG, lounging around in the barracks waiting for three weeks for my class date to begin. There were plenty of know-it-alls who knew everything there was to know about the Army. They usually carried around this giant book called “Hooah” that was full of pictures and short missives on everything exciting in the Army. There were pages and pages of special skill badges and tabs. I’m sure that’s where I first saw the EIB.

I didn’t really understand what it was though until later in training. Most of my Drill Sergeants had Combat Infantryman Badges – which is like the EIB, but with a wreath. The CIB is awarded for being an infantryman who engaged in active ground combat – essentially going to war and doing the job of an infantryman. Most of my Drill Sergeants were Gulf War veterans. A few of the Drill Sergeants in the company, however, did not have CIBs, they had EIBs – just the naked rifle.

Towards the end of training, I remember being on a formation run. My Drill Sergeant – who incidentally would wind up deploying to Iraq with me a year and a half later – was calling cadence. He had both an EIB and CIB.  He was free-styling, just singing whatever came to his mind. Some soldiers have that talent. He started singing:

(Italics is my Drill Sergeant, bold is the soldiers’ reply)

C-I-B / C-I-B
On my chest / On my chest
Hell noHell no
HELL NO!
HELL NO!
Don’t want it
Don’t want it
Don’t need it
Don’t need it
You can have it
You can have it
E-I-B
E-I-B
E-I-B!
E-I-B!
Hell yeah / 
Hell yeah
Hell yeah! / 
Hell yeah!
We can take it / 
We can take it
We can make it / We can make it

I’m pretty sure I understood immediately what he was saying. The CIB is something you really don’t want to get. To earn it, you’re really putting yourself out there. It is one of the proudest things you can earn in the Army, and most infantrymen I know will tell you that the CIB is the award they are most proud of. But it comes at an incredible cost.

Which takes me to the point I wanted to make here, which is the EIB is always compared to the CIB. A soldier is not allowed to wear both, so he has to choose which he wears. Infantrymen tend wear a CIB if they have it, as it is generally held in higher regard than the EIB. This is due partly to scarcity. Before Iraq and Afghanistan, and with few exceptions, there was only the Gulf War, Panama and Granada. Those were places that infantrymen could earn their CIB, but those were short wars. Not that many CIBs (relative to now) were pinned. Then there is Vietnam, which is going back pretty far.

When I got to my unit in 2001, only senior NCOs and officers had CIBs from “back in the day.” Most of the rubber-meets-the-road infantrymen sported EIBs.

Now, with over ten years of war behind us and thousands of CIBs pinned on the chests of young infantrymen, they are not so scarce. In a very Seussian-way, it is not that uncommon to see someone who has both a CIB and an EIB choosing to wear his EIB to distinguish himself from his peers.

It is true, that for the most part, the CIB is an award for being in the right MOS at the right place at the right time. The EIB, on the other hand, requires a measure of skill and performance.

Which gets me to the next thing which I’ll discuss tomorrow: is the EIB the “mark” of an infantryman?