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FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERBER, Kuwait-Those who chose to enter the ranks of the citizen-soldier infantry are a breed a part from the rest, often times volunteering to serve in the most dangerous and demanding ways for the needs of the US Army It's these soldiers' military occupational specialty that has become increasingly important to the US in a world where small-scale acts of terrorism and unconventional warfare are the order of today's battlefield, but what sets an infantryman apart from his peers?
Earning the coveted Expert Infantryman Badge not only designates an infantryman elite in his career field, but it is considered to be "the mark of an infantryman'
Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, currently deployed to Kuwait, hosted an EIB validation for the first time with the Army's new revised testing standards for the EIB
Maj Jeffery Blowers, the battalion's Operations Officer-In-Charge, oversaw all plans for the validation as he watched his soldiers strive for what is considered a must-have accouterment for any infantryman
"It means a lot to be able to offer this for soldiers to go through,"said Blowers "It hones a great skill level one task that all infantrymen should be experts at and to allow soldiers to earn the coveted Expert Infantryman's badge, which is only worn by less than 10 percent of all infantrymen in the Army today and is something they can be proud of-they are true expert infantryman"
In 1993, while stationed at Fort Lewis, a young private Blowers proved the mastery of his skills and earned his EIB
Before any deployment, validating on the EIB is rarely an option for most National Guard infantry soldiers because of how time consuming and labor intensive the training and validation for the EIB is
1st Sgt Paul Oakes, grader and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division First Sergeant, agreed
Depending on where the unit is in their mission training cycle for deployments it typically can't be fit it in, said Oakes, we just have so much to do and minimal time to do it in
EIB committee members at Fort Benning, Ga, took into account the constant combat since Sept 11 and attempted to create a test that would fit between repeated deployments and added updated combat-related situations
The outcome is a 12-day process and requires less time, personnel, and resources
Following the new test standards, soldiers had seven days to train on required tasks and five days of testing
On the first day of validation, EIB candidates took an Army Physical Fitness Test and had to score 75 points or higher in each event in order to move on to the next day, along with passing a day and night land navigation course separate from the lanes
Over the next three days, soldiers ran through three lanes: urban, patrol and traffic control point Each lane had 10 to 12 tasks including moving under direct fire, engaging an enemy target with a grenade, providing first aid to a simulated casualty, and one decision task which had the soldier applying critical thinking while performing their mission
Oakes noted that there is an added level of stress since soldiers had to take on multiple tasks throughout the lanes as opposed to the focusing on one at a time at individual stations like in the previous test
This, he said, affects not only the candidates, but the test graders as well
"Before, graders only validated one task," Oakes explained "Now that one grader has to know 10 to 12 different tasks and master them"
If a soldier is deemed a "no-go" on a task, he does not have the option to retest like the old standards allowed
On the final day of testing, the soldiers who are left set off to complete a 12-mile foot march in less than three hours
For soldiers, such as Oakes, who earned his EIB in 1991 with others in the 1st Ranger Battalion based out of Savannah, Ga, there's something that makes earning an EIB even more highly regarded being a "True Blue" EIB holder
"True Blue" means a Soldier completed every task without a "no-go," thus every "go" box on his score sheet has a blue mark all the way down the page
"It means everything-it means that now I'm an Infantryman, but not only am I an Infantryman, I'm one of the best infantrymen out there," said Ehrreich
Even after accomplishing so much throughout testing, it was his service in the Minnesota National Guard he was most proud of
"I plan on staying in the military for quite some time as long as I can," said the infantryman from Roseville, Minn "I'll be in the Minnesota National Guard leading troops and taking on anything that I can-now I just have to find something new to challenge myself"
Posted: 2017-04-28 12:38 PM MANKATO, Minn. - Commissioned leaders of the Minnesota National Guard convened for the 112th General Conference of the National Guard Association of Minnesota at the Verizon Wireless Center and Hilton Garden Inn, Mankato, on April 22, 2017.
The annual gathering of association members - who serve as advocates for the needs of Soldiers, Airmen and their families - includes a business meeting, commanders march, formal dining event and transfer of responsibility to the chapter's new president.
The day's event began with a business meeting, which focused on the association's mission of educating and informing legislators on the issues facing the current and future role of the National Guard in serving Minnesota communities. The strategic planning meeting was attended by Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, his staff and unit commanders.
Posted: 2017-04-26 02:09 PM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The Department of Defense announced that Camp Ripley was selected as the winner of the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Natural Resources Conservation, Large Installation.
The awards recognize individuals, teams and installations for their exceptional environmental achievements and innovative, cost-effective environmental practices.
"The winners' efforts strengthen the Department of Defense's position as a resourceful environmental steward, both at home and abroad, and demonstrate our continued commitment to fulfilling mission needs through advanced environmental practices and technologies," stated James A. MacStravic, performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
Posted: 2017-04-26 10:57 AM COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. - Staff Sgt. Nicquie Neely has been working with victims of sexual assault for four years in the Minnesota National Guard and also volunteers as a victim advocate in the community. As a victim advocate, it's her job to believe and support victims through a difficult process that can often involve extensive medical care and legal proceedings.
"Ever since I joined the Guard and heard about the SHARP program and learned what a victim advocate was, I always wanted to be one," said Neely. "And then I learned that you had to be an E-6 to be in that position, so the minute I got promoted I asked my commander if I could go to the training."
Neely is a combat medic and the full-time training and administration NCO with Company C, 134th Brigade Support Battalion. In addition to military victim advocate training, Neely also attends regular training with the civilian organization she volunteers for - SOS Sexual Violence Services in Ramsey County.
Posted: 2017-04-24 10:43 AM Washington - Members of the Minnesota National Guard and the Air Force Reserve traveled to Washington D.C. with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (also known as the JCRC), to visit the Holocaust Museum, April 4, 2017, to honor the victims of the Holocaust. Also, traveling with this group were St. Paul and Minneapolis police officers along with students from various high schools around the state. For those in uniform that day, it was an opportunity to see, hear and experience the stories of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Each Service member who attended was asked to bring back a summary of their experience in the form of a presentation, professional discussion or briefing to their respective unit in order to help other Guard members better understand and remember that horrible event, to honor the courage of the victims and survivors, and to remain vigilant as members of the U.S. military.
"The honor and privilege of accompanying members of the Minnesota National Guard to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. met so many goals," said Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the JCRC. "I wanted to reinforce the importance of the commitment of the U.S. military to democracy. After all, it was the Allies that defeated Nazi Germany and ultimately put an end to the Holocaust."