Fort Stewart soldiers train for coveted expert badges

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 5:28 PM EST
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FORT STEWART, Ga. (WTOC) - Training never ends for members of the military. Soldiers at Fort Stewart know all about it.

Now, hundreds of soldiers at the military installation are working toward an important honor—a highly-coveted badge to add to their uniforms and resume.

Soldiers with the 3rd ID are putting their skills to the test in training for three different types of expert badges. Military leaders say it’ll make them more effective in their positions.

Around 700 soldiers are training for their Expert Infantry Badge, Expert Soldier Badge, or Expert Field Medical Badge. On average, only 30 percent of soldiers pass the test, but Fort Stewart leaders are hoping to go above and beyond that number this year.

Earning one of the badges involves a combination of more than 30 different drills and physical tests – all of which help prepare these soldiers if they’re called into action.

“This program is important to soldiers in the Army because it helps them improve their own individual skills, which ultimately helps improve the lethality of the organization, and it makes them more competitive against their peers as well,” EIB Board President Sgt. Maj. Joseph Cobb said.

He said exercises like these can make a difference between life and death on the battlefield, ensuring all soldiers are performing to the best of their abilities.

Training continues throughout the rest of this week, with the tests happening next week.

Participating in exercises

First up was one of the more physically challenging exercises: transporting a wounded soldier. In this case, a 200 pound dummy.

Demonstrated by a soldier, you’re assessing injuries, and preparing to move them 50 meters.

Then, it was time for WTOC to try and these soldiers make it look easier than it is.

Military leaders say these tests determine the best of the best.

“Before they participate, they’re required to meet minimum standards of physical fitness and marksmanship, and they’re tested on their ability to pass a physical fitness test. Over the course of a week, they test infantry skills on patrolling, weapons proficiency, and medical proficiency,” Sgt. Maj. Cobb said.

Weapons proficiency, which was WTOC’s next challenge. Soldiers are timed while they prepare and fire a Mark 19 grenade launcher - a lethal piece of machinery.

Of course, all weapons used in this test are disarmed.

Soldiers going through the training say these exercises help them establish a baseline.

“Going through all of this training, for me, it’s very important to see where I’m at from a readiness perspective, and also improve my readiness and lethality, and be ready when the nation calls upon me,” said Pfc. Cristian Marginean, with the 3rd Brigade Support Battalion.

Regardless of who passes, military leaders say these past couple of weeks of preparation are crucial to preparing them if they’re called into action.

“It really just gives them a lot of training. Whether you learn the task or not, the grueling effort it’s going to be to be able to take all of this in in a short period of time and then go out and test on it, it just totally talks volumes to the character of that individual,” EFM Badge Testing Board member, Sfc. Jason Hodges said.

From throwing grenades, to assembling weaponry, these are just some of the more than 30 exercises and drills required of these soldiers. All leading up to a final test they’ll take next week.