Grueling tasks for soldiers striving for EIB - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Grueling tasks for soldiers striving for EIB

Fort Sill_Close doesn't always count when hand grenades are involved, and certainly not this week for two dozen Fort Sill soldiers who will have to throw a grenade onto a five-meter target, 35 meters away.    It's one of the 35 tasks the soldiers must complete - perfectly - to earn their Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB).  The tasks aren't easy.  They must demonstrate proficiency with various weapons, and know all manner of tactical strategies - such as hand signals, night-vision operation, and map reading.

The rigorous testing of those 35 different tasks must be executed perfectly for a passing grade (once there were 52 tasks).  The testing taxes soldiers' bodies and minds.  If he or she fails it's called a "No Go."  If soldiers get a "no go," they're out, three strikes and they're out.  However, on Tuesday, Fort Sill soldiers seemed well prepared.

Most of the soldiers being tested are Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) who began as privates and worked their way up.  Wearing the EIB can make them role models.  "It means a lot," said First Sergeant Randy Norris who was overseeing the qualifications.  "If a private comes into the Army and he sees an NCO wearing an EIB, he knows that NCO is proficient in his task, and can lead them in anything."

It's even more rare to find a Commissioned Officer (CO) with an EIB - only one is attempting to earn the badge this week.  "I just wanted to do it with my soldiers, too," said Captain Jim Starling.  "That's important to me - to be doing the same thing they're doing, and attempting to meet the tasks that they're required to do as well." 

Many soldiers haven't executed some of the tasks in years, and while they still know how to maintain and fire a weapon, the challenge is to keep calm when they must concentrate on what they are doing.  "We rely a lot on muscle memory," said SSG, EIB Testing Supervisor Wardell Smalls.  "Muscle memory is just your natural reaction, but here you have to set aside your muscle memory and go to the deliberate side of the house - which requires long-thinking, and technique, with steps."

There are a lot of steps, too.  In a Claymore Mines task, soldiers must complete 25 steps in perfect order, and if they skip one...it's a "no go."  Only a few tasks, such as camouflaging, do not have a particular order.  A couple of soldiers demonstrated and explained why and how it's done - when they already are wearing camo.  "The helmet is smooth, round - you rarely see that in actual nature," said Staff Sergeant Augstin Chavez.  "We camouflage it with burlap and grass to conceal the outline, and the same thing with the outline on our equipment.  We want to make sure we don't impede the function of the vest, but still break up the basic outline."

Norris says he is very impressed with the soldiers' success.  They began the week with 27 soldiers, and, so far, only three have failed.  He says usually only 60% earn badges.  EIB qualification continues on Wednesday with nine tasks - including grenade tossing - and the final six events will be on Thursday. 

Qualifying soldiers will receive their badges on Friday morning.
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