The 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, “Black Jack”, 1st Cavalry Division hosted the Expert Infantryman Badge and Expert Soldier Badge qualifications Dec. 7 here at the Great Place.

Troopers across the installation began training for the Expert Infantryman Badge and Expert Soldier Badge on Nov. 16 and were tested over the course of five days, culminating with an awards presentation Friday.

These highly sought after, expert badges challenge troopers in various ways, so those seeking to train and test for them must first meet a baseline qualification. This includes passing a physical fitness assessment, qualifying as an expert marksman on the M4 or M16 rifle and being recommended by their chain of command.

After enrollment, Soldiers begin the training lanes which re-familiarizes them with their Warrior tasks and skills.

Training is extremely challenging, mission-focused and conducted under realistic conditions and since most of the events are shared between both badges, they are executed simultaneously.

“There’s 10 stations, but there’s multiple steps within those tasks,” Capt. Rodric Waugh, the brigade’s EIB/ESB Officer-in-Charge, said. “So, there are slight differences, such as on the patrol lane for ESB, they have claymore, while for the EIB the claymore is at the infantry lane, but the manner we run it allows us to execute both simultaneously.”

Black Jack Brigade’s training lanes consist of weapons, patrol, medical and day and night land navigation.

Troopers who successfully completed all tasks on the lanes, continued their journey towards becoming expert infantrymen and expert Soldiers with the final requirements, a 12-mile ruck march followed by the disassembly and reassembly of an M4 Carbine rifle.

There were 549 total participants. 380 for the EIB, including nine from the Florida National Guard, and 169 for the ESB including three female Soldiers.

“I always wanted to do EIB, but never had the opportunity,” Sgt. Emily Smith, a Gainesville, Fla. native, and an intelligence analyst with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade, said. “Thankfully now we have the ESB, it gives everyone the opportunity to wear the badge once you’ve earned it.  It gives you something to work towards while perfecting all those Soldier tasks that are in many support MOS in the Army.”

While the Expert Soldier Badge is an opportunity for some Soldiers, others view the Expert Infantryman Badge as a necessity.

Justin Vega attempted to earn his Expert Infantry Badge for the second time after previously receiving a no-go for an event on the last testing day.

“I feel like you need it if you want to stay in,” Sgt. Justin Vela, an Orange County, Calif. native, and an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, said. “It shows how much of an expert you are in your field. As an NCO, I feel being an expert is very important.”

Whether it is the Expert Infantryman Badge or the Expert Soldier Badge, troopers are determined to train and succeed no matter how many attempts it takes.

Sgt. Smith also attempted the event for the second time.

“I busted time on the ruck by 1 minute and 30 seconds,” Smith said. “I will continue trying. It’s valuable training coming here. It builds confidence and familiarity. I know I can take care of my battle buddies. It’s not just about the badge, it’s mostly about the training, but I want that badge.”