Red Falcons Set the Standard; Join Elite Brotherhood
Story by Sgt. Matthew Ryan for DVIDS
“It is part of a brotherhood that paratroopers in the infantry have to earn,” said 1st Sgt. Daymond Graves, company first sergeant, A Company, 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. The road to earning the Expert Infantryman Badge is a true test of an infantryman’s skill and mastery of his environment, he said.
In 1944, 100 non-commissioned officers of the 100th Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., were selected to undergo three days of concentrated testing to determine the Army’s first Expert Infantrymen. Upon completion of testing, only ten NCOs remained. These ten had to then undergo a board of peers. On March 29, 1944, Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, commander of Army Ground Forces, presented the first Expert Infantry Badge to Tech. Sgt. Walter Bull of Company A, 399th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division.
The 1-325th AIR, “Red Falcons”, held their annual testing for the Expert Infantryman Badge on Fort Bragg, N.C., from March 26-30, 2012. paratroopers can only test once a year, and due to the Red Falcons’ recent deployment history, testing every year has been difficult.
Out of the 261 candidates from 1-325th, 157 earned their EIB. This year the Red Falcons had more than half of their paratroopers pass all the testing for the EIB. The ceremony for the candidates who passed all the testing was held immediately following the foot march, only moments after the last paratrooper crossed the finished line.
Lt. Col. Charles Masaracchia, commander of the 1-325 AIR, gave remarks about the testing for the EIB at the ceremony.
Masaracchia said he “Was extremely proud and honored to have so many Red Falcons earn their EIB this year.” He mentioned how the Red Falcons are always training very hard for deployments and missions, and training for the EIB is no different. He said, “The training paid off, look at how many stand before me to receive their EIB.” He spoke about how it is rare to have more than half of the candidates earn their EIB, and that the Red Falcons set the standard for the other battalions who are going to be doing their testing in the upcoming months.
Graves spoke about how time and progression of the Army has changed the testing for the EIB since 1996 when he earned his badge. Graves, a grader for the testing of this year’s EIB. “The testing was on multiple lanes, having one task that the candidates had to complete, one lane at a time,” Graves said. “I can remember doing my camouflage on my face, taking apart weapons, and completing other tests one at a time.” He explained that each lane was set up for tasks to be tested individually, and there were around 30 different tasks.
The individual tasks were more detailed and had to be followed in a certain order, step by step, in order to pass that lane. Graves explained how the candidates also had to be an expert marksman with an M4 Carbine rifle, hitting 36 out of 40 targets on a standardized range; perform an Army physical fitness test and receive a 70 percent in each of the three events, which are two minutes of pushups, sit-ups and the timed two mile run. The tests have changed over the years to reflect the style of fighting and combat environment that the Army was engaged in, he said.
“The physical tests are harder now, and you don’t get a second chance on the PT test, or the ruck march,” said Graves. “The PT test is now 75 percent of the max score, demanding more physically.”
Some of the senior enlisted NCOs in the 1-325th AIR commented on the changes from when they earned their EIB, compared to the testing that they are now overseeing.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Tapocik, from Richmond, Va., assistant operations NCO for Headquarters Company, 1-325th AIR, said, “I like the idea of the scenario based lanes. It helps prepares our paratroopers for deployments.”
The Expert Infantrymen Badge is a test of a paratrooper’s physical fitness, mental focus and determination to complete the mission. The training that the paratroopers from the 1-325th AIR received prepares them for future deployments, said Tapocik.
“This style of EIB lanes tests the paratrooper’s ability to think on the move, testing the complete soldier concept,” said 1st Sgt. Eric Quellhorst, from New York City, N.Y., senior enlisted advisor for C Company, 1-325th AIR. “I feel this pushes our paratroopers more towards the idea of a true expert infantryman than single task testing. Our paratroopers have to master multiple tasks in one lane, making it more realistic to what our paratroopers could encounter on the battlefield.” Quellhorst said the EIB testing of the past might have had more lanes and more tasks to complete, but combining a series of tasks that have to be completed to a standard is more mentally stressful. This also helps train our paratroopers for real life combat situations.
Lt. Col. Charles Masaracchia also spoke about how many paratroopers will try over and over again to earn their EIB, but some never manage to make it. Masaracchia said that Red Falcons who have earned their EIBs should feel very proud and accomplished.
“I am glad to have finished the road march,” said Spc. John Schoffstall, from Alexandria, Va., a grenadier in C Company, 1-325th. “I am so exhausted, I can barely move,” he said, sitting on the ground waiting to have his ruck inspected by a cadre member. “It feels really good to earn my EIB, since this is my second time trying for it.”