WASHINGTON – Eleven top-performing military members were the first to receive the Army Expert Soldier Badge during the Eisenhower Luncheon Oct. 15 at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition here.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville made the presentation along with Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston.
“I’m really proud of what these Soldiers have accomplished,” Grinston said. “These 11 individuals can now proudly wear a badge that firmly recognizes them as experts in their profession; something all Soldiers should strive to be.”
Announced during the Army’s 244th birthday in June, the ESB is a proficiency badge designed to recognize a Soldier’s lethality, outside of the infantry, by measuring their “mastery of physical fitness, marksmanship, and other critical Soldering skills necessary for combat readiness,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Moore, the badge program’s noncommissioned officer in charge at the Army Center for Initial Military Training.
“(The ESB) recognizes the next generation of competent, committed leaders who thrive in chaos, and adapt and win in a complex world,” added Master Sgt. Norbert Neumeyer, a U.S. Forces Command master gunner who oversaw the first ESB test.
In April 2017, 56 Soldiers were selected from FORSCOM units across the Army during the pilot phase of ESB testing. Of those, 12 passed, making the pass-fail rate on par with the Expert Infantryman Badge and Expert Field Medical Badge.
For Staff Sgt. Tyler Lewis, a field artillery fire-finder radar operator out of Fort Bliss, Texas, earning the ESB “represents all aspects of being a Soldier,” he said.
“It means being a tactical and technical expert from the level of basic Soldiering skills to the advanced levels of your (military occupational specialty),” he further observed. “A Soldier learns to be adaptable, disciplined, and a master and steward of his or her profession in every situation.”
Sgt. Michael Ostrander, armament shop noncommissioned officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., was able to earn the badge by focusing on base-level knowledge like land navigation. The small arms repairmen said he relied on the Soldering skills he learned during basic combat training and throughout his military career during the test. He also suggested to Soldiers planning to go for the badge to “brush up on things they’re rusty on.”
Lewis agreed. “For many Soldiers, the ESB tasks may seem like common ones that have been taught before,” he said. “But, (Soldiers) need to ensure their knowledge is accurate to each standard tested. Practicing each skill until it becomes second nature is the key to success.”
Staff Sgt. Mike Mata, joint fire support specialist at Fort Sill, Okla., echoed his fellow recipients when he credited “hands-on training and mock repetitions” for earning the ESB.
“It’s important to remember that testing is intended to be rigorous, mission-focused and conducted under realistic conditions,” Neumeyer said.
The new skill badge is an equivalent of the EIB and the EFMB. It’s nearly a spitting image of the Combat Action Badge, minus the wreath. The badge displays the same M9 bayonet knife and M67 frag grenade inlaid against a solid, gray rectangular bar.
The test includes various commander-selected tasks essential to their respective units, like how to respond to an improvised explosive device, forging fighting positions, finding Soldiers in a tactical environment, and how to mark chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear-contaminated areas. Other tasks include a day and night land navigation test, a 12-mile ruck march, and a series of individual assessments.
The test also contains a variety of events, sharing roughly 80 percent of the tasks in the EIB and EFMB, and takes five days for Soldiers to complete. Standards for the test will not be adjusted based on age, gender or any other criteria.
“The (ESB) will increase overall readiness and lethality, and the first recipients are among the top-qualified Soldiers in the Army,” Moore said.
To qualify for the ESB, Soldiers must first pass the new Army Combat Fitness Test, slated to be the official test of record for the Army by October 2020. Soldiers must also qualify as expert on the M16 or M4, and be recommended by their chain of command.
“The ESB gives units a new standard to achieve and the ability to incentivize Soldier physical fitness,” Neumeyer said. “It also ensures Soldiers perform to standard all the critical tasks they’re supposed to have knowledge of, and measures their abilities to an expert level.”
Grinston said the recently presented awards are only the beginning for the Expert Soldier Badge, adding it will increase readiness and Soldier lethality across the force.
“We have ESB testing that will be underway later this month at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and next month at Fort Eustis,” Grinston said. “I look forward to seeing the results. This is a truly challenging badge to earn with training along the way that will help better prepare our Soldiers for combat.”
Recipients of the first ESB other than those mentioned in the article are:
- Staff Sgt. Joseph Alcorn, JBLM
- Staff Sgt. Freeman Harris, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Germany
- Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Harvey, JBLM
- Staff Sgt. Thomas Jacobsen, Army Recruiting Office, Gretna, La.
- Staff Sgt. Anthony Lodiong, Fort Bliss, Texas
- Staff Sgt. Julio Macias, Fort Campbell, Ky.
- Staff Sgt. Evan Neilson, Fort Jackson, S.C.
- Staff Sgt. Bradley Sherman, Fort Benning, Ga.
- Spc. Mahrubius Ledford (released from active duty in March and unable to attend ceremony).