FORT CARSON, Colo. — For an entire month, Ivy Soldiers prepare, practice and perfect more than 40 tasks in order to successfully execute a five-day evaluation. Upon sufficing the tasks, Soldiers are able to earn one of three Army-sponsored badges: the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Expert Soldier Badge and the Expert Field Medical Badge.

1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, recently hosted the three badge evaluations, known as E3B, at Fort Carson from December 4-8, 2023.

“This is a great opportunity for Soldiers to hone and sharpen all of their skills,” said Sgt. 1st Class Julian Pacheco, E3B lane noncommissioned officer in charge assigned to 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div. “Whether you get it or not, there is a positive outcome out of this. Soldiers get an opportunity to come out here and train.”

Each testing lane evaluated is a skill level 10, or entry level, task. Pacheco says the badge helps a Soldier’s career progression regardless of their occupational specialty, however, it is no easy feat.

“There is a very high rate of attrition because it’s very methodical and procedural,” said Pacheco. “It asks a lot of the Soldiers throughout the week in order to get their GOs.”

To put the attrition into perspective, 1,100 hundred Soldiers submitted a packet for E3B. By day 3 of the testing, 252 remained in the running for one of the three badges.

Pfc. Angelina Shabelina, a cavalry scout assigned to 2nd battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div., felt added pressure to her participation as she aspired to gain her ESB.

“I am nervous about earning my ESB because I am the only female from the battalion who is testing for the ESB,” Shabelina said. “It’s a lot of pressure and work.”

Shabelina says there is a lot of preparation behind E3B testing, which consists of events ranging from land navigation to weapon familiarity. The first event started with the expert physical fitness assessment and then moved onto land navigation.

However, the testing doesn’t end there. Throughout the week, Soldiers must pass 10 different stations that tested their knowledge of tactical combat casualty care, weapons functions checks and basic knowledge of different weapon systems, patrolling and tasks associated specifically to the badge they were testing for.

For example, the EFMB conducts three testing lanes with a varying number of evaluated skills. These lanes test the practical ability and keen eyes of candidates while performing evacuation and warrior skills tasks.

“EFMB is a test of a candidate’s attention to detail,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Bland, flight paramedic, 2nd Battalion, 4th General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Inf. Div. “All of the grade sheets and standards are published and that is really where the rubber meets the road.”

Soldiers are graded on each task to a strict standard. Participants are eliminated if they receive two no-go’s on a task. Soldiers who complete all the tasks perfectly are recognized as earning their “True Blue” for EIB, “Perfect Edge” for ESB and “No Blood” for those who earned their EFMBs with perfect scores.

Despite a plethora of rigor during the first few days of competition, the remaining Soldiers enter the final event, a 12-mile road march completed within three-hours. After crossing the finish line, Soldiers must disassemble and reassemble their weapon within five minutes.

“If you feel like you are losing yourself when you’re training up, you get everything right, you are in line to test out, and your mind goes completely blank, try to remember the Soldiers who are motivating you,” Shabelina said. “For me it’s my first sergeant and my team leader.”

In the end, 172 out of 924 Soldiers earned one of the E3B awards. Ivy Division alumni were able to pin the respective badges onto the recipients during the award ceremony at the conclusion of the final event.

Story by SPC Jason Klaer

Photos by PVT Cecilia Ochoa and SPC Mark Bowman

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