RICHMOND, Va. –
Staff Sgt. Alex Miller, assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team earned the coveted Expert Infantryman Badge in March during testing with the Fort Meyer-based 3rd Infantry Regiment, known as the Old Guard at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. He was the only Soldier from the 116th IBCT to participate in the testing.
“[EIB] signifies the mastery of critical tasks that every infantryman should know and be able to accomplish,” Miller said.
The EIB was developed in 1944, under the guidance of Gen. George C. Marshall, the Chief of Staff of the Army, to recognize individual infantrymen who had achieved the pinnacle of proficiency and expertise in infantry tactics while also building and maintaining esprit de corps within the infantry community.
Today, the EIB is awarded to Soldiers holding infantry or special forces military occupational specialties who have demonstrated mastery of critical tasks which build upon the foundation of individual proficiency, allowing them to accomplish the core mission of every infantry Soldier; to locate, close with and destroy the enemy.
Miller elected to attend testing with the Old Guard in order to be part of the cadre team when his own unit conducted the EIB during their annual training period.
“The opportunity arose to attend with The Old Guard who were testing at Fort A.P. Hill. I made the decision so that, if for some reason, I did not pass, I would have another opportunity in the summer, but if I did pass, I would be able to be a grader for the upcoming Expert Infantryman/Expert Soldier Badge testing at Fort Barfoot during AT,” said Miller.
Born and raised in a family with a long history of military service, Miller knew from a young age he wanted to one day join the military and serve his country. Inspired by his family’s long legacy of service, Miller enlisted in the Virginia Army National Guard as an infantryman in 2013. After completing One Station Unit Training, or OSUT, at Fort Moore, Georgia, Miller embarked on a journey that would test his physical and mental strength, leading him towards the pursuit of earning his EIB.
For Miller, attempting to earn the EIB was not something he went into lightly.
“Earning the EIB is physically and mentally demanding,” Miller said. “That is why, when you look around the formation, there are only a small number of people who have accomplished the task, and that is what interested and motivated me to pursue the EIB.”
For a Soldier to earn the EIB, they must demonstrate not just proficiency, but mastery of a set of key infantry skills by completing several prerequisites, then passing a battery of graded tests on infantry skills. Prerequisites included a passing Army Combat Fitness Test score, or ACFT, and an expert marksman qualification. After that, preparation for testing takes months of intense training in order to prepare for the physical, mental and tactical requirements that a Soldier must master in order to earn the EIB.
“The preparation phase of EIB is a very integral part if you want to be successful in getting your EIB. Not only are you preparing yourself mentally by learning the tasks, but you are preparing yourself physically for the [Expert Physical Fitness Assessment] and 12-mile road march,” explained Miller. The EPFA requires candidates to consecutively perform a one-mile run, 30 push-ups, a 100-meter sprint, 16 sandbag lifts onto a 65-inch platform, a 50-meter farmers carry of two five-gallon water cans, a 25-meter high crawl, 25 meters of 3-5 second rushes, and a final 1-mile run, all under 27.5 minutes for EIB candidates.
After hours of training and preparation, Miller was ready.
“During the testing I felt confident. EIB is all about remembering the sequence and remembering exactly how it is taught. By the time you go through train-up and get to testing, you either know it or you don’t,” said Miller.
Testing for the EIB is broken into four phases, which include the EPFA; day and night land navigation; weapons, medical and patrolling lanes; and a 12-mile ruck march. Soldiers must meet strict standards to successfully complete each phase before moving forward in testing.
“The most challenging part for me was the constant reminder that if you fail one event then you are going home,” said Miller. “My biggest advice to anyone going through EIB or [Expert Soldier Badge], is to make sure you pay close attention to the material being taught and take it one day and one task at a time. There is no point in worrying about medical lanes when you are in the middle of patrolling lanes.”
Throughout his preparation and testing for the EIB, Miller relied on the support of his command and fellow Soldiers to keep himself motivated, and finally, after five days of testing, Miller successfully met the EIB standards, completed the 12-mile ruck march and earned his EIB.
“Once I crossed the finish line on the 12-mile ruck march and completed the final event, I was relieved,” Miller said. “Relieved that I will never have to go through this again.”
As the Virginia National Guard’s most recent EIB holder, he is serving as cadre for the 116th IBCT-led EIB and ESB testing taking place June 11-15, 2023, at Fort Barfoot, Virginia.