Fort Leonard Wood Soldiers demonstrate expert skills, earn badges

Brian Hill
Fort Leonard Wood

After two weeks of instruction and one week of testing March 8 to 26 at Fort Jackson, S.C., three Maneuver Support Center of Excellence drill sergeants successfully demonstrated their knowledge of warrior tasks and battle drills.

Staff Sgts. Justin Morgan, with Company C, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, and Joseph Vertin, with Company A, 31st Engineer Battalion, were awarded the Expert Soldier Badge. Staff Sgt. Michael Ivers, with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, was awarded the Expert Infantry Badge.

According to Sgt. 1st Class Toddrick Murry, the MSCoE operations sergeant who helped coordinate the opportunity, the difficulty in earning these badges “demonstrates a Soldier’s high level of dedication and fortitude.”

“All Soldiers can attempt to accomplish this,” he said. “All Soldiers will not succeed.”

Soldiers within Career Management Field 11 test for the EIB, while Soldiers in CMF 68 test for the Expert Field Medic Badge. All other CMFs test for the ESB.

Murry said earning the badge tests a Soldier’s proficiency in fitness, marksmanship, land navigation and other critical skills, and demonstrates a mastery of the art of soldiering.

Before being selected, candidates undergo a two-day validation process at the Combat Training Company here, where they must achieve 80 points in each Army Physical Fitness Test event for the ESB, or 49 pushups, 59 sit-ups and a sub-32 minute 4-mile run for the EIB.

Additionally, every candidate participates in day and night land navigation, a 12-mile ruck march in under three hours, and an M4 weapon assembly, disassembly and functions check, Murry said.

For Vertin, going after the ESB was a challenge he wanted.

“It was one of the toughest things I’ve done,” he said. “I think it is the attention to detail that they require. I can approach most Soldiers in the Army and say, ‘I need you to clear, load, fire, correct malfunction and clear the (M249 Squad Automatic Weapon) and they can do that without any coaching. But to do it in the sequence that’s required and the time hack that’s required, that’s what makes it difficult. They’re not just looking for you to do it, they’re looking for you to do it perfectly and in a certain amount of time.”

Morgan said “it sets you aside from your peers.”

“It was a huge accomplishment, for sure,” he said. A lot of the stuff was pretty new to me — some of the weapons systems, I’d never touched before. So, that was a little bit difficult at first, but as I practiced it came to me a little easier.”

The lone infantry Soldier of the three, Ivers, said the EIB testing involves an extra station and a longer run compared with the ESB, but there’s “not too much of a difference.”

“It’s a pride thing to be able to do all the tasks in sequence,” he said. “A lot of people go for it and a lot of people don’t get it.”

All three agreed no Soldier earns their expert badge alone.

“I had a good group with me,” Morgan said. “The three of us worked together.”

Murry said there are still plenty of chances for Soldiers to attempt to earn their expert badge this fiscal year — six candidates are now at Fort Riley, Kan., doing just that. Other upcoming opportunities include May 20 to June 11 at Fort Campbell, Ky., and June 7 to 25 at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Vertin said every Soldier should try to earn their badge.

“I’m over the moon,” he said. “I’m super happy with myself. It’s hard to describe.”

Staff Sgts. Justin Morgan (left), with Company C, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, and Joseph Vertin (right), with Company A, 31st Engineer Battalion, were awarded the Expert Soldier Badge. Staff Sgt. Michael Ivers (center), with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, was awarded the Expert Infantry Badge after two weeks of instruction and one week of testing in March at Fort Jackson, S.C. Courtesy photo