Three days of proving in Vilseck
VILSECK, Germany — Grenades are flying, machine guns are rattling and soldiers are leaping between piles of sandbags at Vilseck Army Airfield this week in an effort to earn the coveted Expert Infantryman’s Badge.
More than 300 soldiers from 1st and 2nd squadrons, 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment are preparing to test for the badge Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, according to Sgt. Maj. Patrick Ogden, 2nd Cavalry’s operations sergeant major.
Every eligible infantryman in the regiment will test this month and in May, he added.
Master Sgt. Joseph Dallas, operations NCO for the Vilseck testing, said candidates must pass physical training, qualify as rifle experts, pass day and night land-navigation tests, and march 12 miles in full kit with a 35-pound ruck in less than three hours before they can start training for the EIB. Mortar men also must pass a gunnery exam, he said.
After 10 days of training, candidates must complete 35 test stations with just two retests allowed, Dallas said.
The stations include machine guns; movement under fire; AT4 anti-tank weapon; calling for and adjusting fire; nuclear, biological and chemical tasks; throwing hand grenades; first aid; radio skills; and using night-vision devices.
Ogden said the training is useful to young soldiers.
“More than 70 percent of our infantrymen are first-termers in the Army and have never tested for the EIB,” he said. “Every skill they learn out here is a skill they will use in combat.”
At the hand grenade lane on Friday, grader Sgt. 1st Class Loren Kirk, 39, of Benicia, Calif., showed soldiers the technique for lobbing grenades.
Candidates get five training grenades and must use them to take out a target representing an enemy soldier 35 meters away by landing the grenade within a 5-meter circle, Kirk said. Then they have to zigzag their way to a bunker using cover and drop a grenade through a hole before racing over to a pile of sandbags and lobbing another grenade into a foxhole 20 meters away.
Nearby, at the first-aid lane, a candidate practiced bandaging a leg wound using a mannequin.
Dallas said he’d done the same thing in combat twice, once in 2005 on an Iraqi insurgent who’d been shot.
“He was in a significant amount of pain so he quit fighting at that point,” he recalled.
At the .50-caliber machine gun station, grader Staff Sgt. Carlo Polidori, 29, of St. Johnsville, N.Y., showed soldiers how to load, correct malfunctions, fire and unload the weapon.
“The most common mistakes include loading ammo the wrong way or too slowly and failing to lift the feeder when clearing the weapon,” he said.
A big motivation for earning the EIB is the four-day leave pass soldiers get as a reward, said candidate Spc. Charles Heekin, 20, of Port Charlotte, Fla.
“I’m planning to sleep a lot,” added Heekin, who’s spent 10 hours a day over the past two weeks doing badge training.