Arizona Guard members earn coveted Expert Infantry Badge

Arizona Guard members earn coveted Expert Infantry Badge

Staff Sgt. Chad Spahr a Soldier in A Company, 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment, has an Expert Infantry Badge pinned on his uniform by retired Brig. Gen. Alberto Gonzalez at Camp Navajo, Ariz., July 24. First Battalion conducted Expert Infantry Badge testing as a part of their annual training. There were six recipients of the EIB out of 135 candidates. (National Guard photo by Sgt. Adrian Borunda)

CAMP NAVAJO, Ariz. – In the high altitude of northern Arizona, five Guard members from 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment, and one from Louisiana earned the prestigious Expert Infantry Badge out of 135 who attempted the grueling test here this month.    


Soldiers from Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Utah and Hawaii participated in this the first EIB test conducted by the 1-158th.


The Arizona Guard members who earned the EIB were: Capt. Brian Gaume, Staff Sgt. Chad Spahr, Spc. Jeremiah Drane, Spc. Daniel Lopez, and Pfc. Nickolas Ball. Spc. Brian Smith from Louisiana also earned the badge.


“The EIB is very prestigious, it sets you apart from your peers within the infantry community,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Fidel Zamora, the EIB president.


To earn the badge, Soldiers had to perform above standards. Each had to qualify as an expert with the M4 semiautomatic rifle, score a minimum of 75 points in each of the three Army Physical Fitness Test events, and demonstrate proficiency with an array of weapons systems used by the infantry from the M9 Beretta pistol to the 40mm MK-19 grenade launcher.


Further building on that knowledge, the Soldier’s tactical movement techniques and their ability to deal with stress were tested in practical exercise lanes. Day and night land navigation, basic medical treatment of wounds and calling for artillery fire were among the tested skills.


“There is a tremendous amount of pressure put on the candidates – a lot of stress. That way we know if he is proficient in those tasks going through the test,” Zamora said.


He said it’s typical not to earn the badge on a first attempt and that only about 8 to 10 percent of the original starting number earn the badge.


For Staff Sgt. Chad Spahr, a Soldier with A Company, 1st-158th, this was a second and successful attempt to earn the EIB.


“I was stressed out. You don't know if you’re going to make it or not,” Spahr said. “You train so hard and you go through so much that if you don't make it, well who knows when that chance is going to come again.”


Spahr said that if a Soldier really wants the badge he has to pay attention to details.


“Learn from your mistakes and have that attention to detail, that's what the EIB is all about. There is so much that goes into each task that if you forget one little thing that's a no-go,” he said.


Spc. Jeremiah Drane, a Soldier with Headquarters Company, 1st-158th, defied the odds and earned the EIB on his first attempt and was the distinguished EIB recipient for outperforming the rest of the candidates.   


 “It’s not the ‘easy infantry badge,’ it's the Expert Infantry Badge. You have to take the time to focus, train, learn and complete it to standard,” Drane said.


Drane, a member of the scout and sniper platoon, said he didn't earn the badge on his own; it took time outside of drill and the support of his leaders.


“The biggest reason for my success was my [noncommissioned officers]. There were many times outside of drill that they sat down with me and went over something as simple as call for fire,” he said.


The Soldiers will now return to their units throughout Arizona as subject matter experts in all things infantry. They will pass their skills and knowledge to their subordinates and peers.


“They are going back to their units in their communities to make sure that Soldiers are trained to standard,” Zamora said.


First Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment, set up the test sites and was certified to conduct EIB training and testing by officials from Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the U.S. Army Infantry.