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’.

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EIB Week: Camp EIB vs. Camp Ranger

Ranger EIB

An interesting thing happens when infantrymen who have EIBs but no Ranger tabs come into direct contact with infantrymen with no EIBs but Ranger tabs. An argument will break out as to which one is more important to the infantry or whether one or the other matters more.

Camp EIB will usually argue that Ranger School is just a suck-fest that tests one’s ability to suck, be hungry, and stay awake for a long time, whereas the EIB is an actual comprehensive assessment of an infantryman’s core tasks.

Camp Ranger will usually argue that given the EIB’s relatively short duration (usually two weeks at home station) it doesn’t require the same level of commitment to attain. Camp Ranger may also argue that the leadership aspects of Ranger School are significantly more important than the technical/physical aspects of the EIB.

Of course, the whole thing is just another topic of conversation to make it through one more hour of staff duty.

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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.

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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 and everyone would know that he/she has done something hard and that the job that he/she does is hard.

Today, when a unit conducts 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/she receives good, in-depth training on 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 to wear on the 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.

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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, marksmanship, weapons proficiency, common soldier skills (camouflage, medical, 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.

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

I 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 three weeks for my class date to begin. There were plenty of know-it-alls who knew everything there was to be known 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 and has to choose which to wear. 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 Grenada. 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?

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EIB Week: The Expert Infantryman Badge

EIB

As the saying goes, the best thing about getting your EIB is not having to do it again.

The unit I am with is currently testing for the Expert Infantryman Badge. I got my EIB back in 2001, so I do not have to test for it. Usually, EIB holders find themselves sucked into EIB anyway, as graders or planners. My current duties have me doing neither, so instead, I’ll write about it.

There is so much for me to say about the EIB. More than I can do in one post, so I’ll break it up throughout the week. It’s an interesting piece of infantry lore and I love reading and writing the strange minutiae of sub-cultures. This is as strange as it gets.

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