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A 2nd Infantry Division soldier throws a grenade during Expert Infantryman's Badge training near Warrior Base in South Korea. To earn the Expert Infantryman's Badge, soldiers must complete 33 infantry specific tasks without failing.

A 2nd Infantry Division soldier throws a grenade during Expert Infantryman's Badge training near Warrior Base in South Korea. To earn the Expert Infantryman's Badge, soldiers must complete 33 infantry specific tasks without failing. (Greg L. Davis / S&S)

A 2nd Infantry Division soldier throws a grenade during Expert Infantryman's Badge training near Warrior Base in South Korea. To earn the Expert Infantryman's Badge, soldiers must complete 33 infantry specific tasks without failing.

A 2nd Infantry Division soldier throws a grenade during Expert Infantryman's Badge training near Warrior Base in South Korea. To earn the Expert Infantryman's Badge, soldiers must complete 33 infantry specific tasks without failing. (Greg L. Davis / S&S)

Charge! A 2nd Infantry Division soldier charges during a qualifying run for the Expert Infantryman's Badge at Warrior Base in South Korea.

Charge! A 2nd Infantry Division soldier charges during a qualifying run for the Expert Infantryman's Badge at Warrior Base in South Korea. (Greg L. Davis / S&S)

Second Infantry Division soldiers give an enthusiastic thumbs-up at the start of Lane B of the Expert Infantryman's Badge training site in South Korea. Most soldiers pictured are South Korean soldiers who are a vital part of the 2nd Infantry Division's force strength.

Second Infantry Division soldiers give an enthusiastic thumbs-up at the start of Lane B of the Expert Infantryman's Badge training site in South Korea. Most soldiers pictured are South Korean soldiers who are a vital part of the 2nd Infantry Division's force strength. (Greg L. Davis / S&S)

WARRIOR BASE, South Korea — Pvt. Xong Yang hurled himself across the white tape finish line Thursday, sweaty and breathing hard after rolling, crawling and running his way through the woods.

Xong, a U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division soldier, had just completed “moving under fire,” one of the 33 tests required to earn the Expert Infantryman’s Badge.

The Army says the badge, a crucial qualification in an infantryman’s career, is a sign the soldier is combat-ready, confident and can handle the rigors of war.

When the older soldiers wear their blue Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the younger ones look on with want. The rectangular patch has a long musket, indicating the soldier’s mettle at infantry skills.

Xong said the course wasn’t difficult if “you know what you are doing.”

He pulled out a crumpled score sheet and tallied: He was four tasks away from getting the badge.

And he remained confident: “I know I’m going to get it, sir.”

Soldiers say they spend weeks studying and training and that getting the badge is a mix of brains, brawn and luck.

“I’m much more proud of the EIB than the CIB [Combat Infantryman’s Badge],” said Maj. Curtis V. Roberts, a 2nd ID public affairs officer who served in Grenada and Somalia.

“You have to be completely focused. You have to have extra attention to detail.”

In the past few weeks, more than 1,300 soldiers have tested for the badge at Warrior Base, just south of the Demilitarized Zone. Only about 20 percent successfully complete the 33 tasks, which range from lobbing grenades to tying tourniquets to wallowing in the mud on their bellies.

Soldiers can fail two tasks — but they must retest within an hour. Failing a second time means they’re done.

The tests encompass firing weapons, lobbing grenades, map navigation, firing range cards and medical skills. At the field dressing station, soldiers were tested on how to properly apply a tourniquet on a bleeding wound.

The task isn’t hard, and about 90 percent of soldiers pass on their first try, said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Snyder, who runs the station. But the skill is time consuming, and it’s essential not to rush, said Pvt. Jeffrey Eakon, who passed on his first try.

“It seems easy, but if you rush yourself and miss one thing, you can fail the task,” said Eakon, 18. “I memorized the steps.”

The key also is hitting the practice stations beforehand, Eakon said. Many soldiers came out two weeks before just to train before the tests, said Command Sgt. Maj. Marvell Dean, 2nd Brigade sergeant major.

They had chances to practice before the real tests, Dean said. If they pass the tests, it shows they have met an Army standard that’s key to combat, he said.

“You know they’ve got what it takes to survive,” Dean said.

Of 625 soldiers in the first EIB cycle, 231 got it. Of about 757 soldiers in the second cycle, 282 soldiers were still in it as of Thursday, Dean said.

But soldiers shouldn’t be sad if they don’t get the badge on the first try, said Sgt. Maj. David G. Anderson, 2nd Brigade operations sergeant major.

Only one of 100 soldiers managed to get the badge when the competition first started in 1944, Anderson said.

“A very select few get it,” Anderson said.

Even those who don’t get it are receiving good training and have a positive experience, said Command Sgt. Maj. James Lucero, 2ID sergeant major.

“It makes you have a competitive spirit,” Lucero said.


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