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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: 2017-03-24 10:19 AM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Every spring Camp Ripley begins its annual controlled burn program to help reduce the risk of wildfire during training.
"Usually the burns are completed every spring before the summer annual training season begins," said Tim Notch, training area coordinator on Camp Ripley. "However, the warmer weather conditions provide a nice opportunity for preventative burns earlier this season."
As in years past Camp Ripley will conduct controlled burns on approximately 13,000 acres of the 53,000-acre military reservation. The burns are done in coordination with the staffs of the Camp Ripley Department of Public Works and the Camp Ripley Environmental Department along with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Posted: 2017-03-23 09:46 AM DULUTH, Minn. - Pfc. Trevor Nelson received the Minnesota Distinguished Recruiting Ribbon and a Minnesota Recruiting and Retention Battalion medallion for excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Serbus, March 18, 2017, at the Duluth Armory. Nelson earned these awards as part of the online referral system, Leads 2 Enlistment for referring four friends who have joined the Minnesota National Guard.
"I talked to some buddies in my school about the Guard. They liked the benefits, so I put their info in the app and let my recruiter take over." said Nelson. "I thought it would be fun to serve with friends and help them figure out their path in life."
Nelson is currently a senior at Cloquet Senior High School and assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program in Duluth. He attended basic training at Fort Benning in the summer of 2016 with follow-on training in the summer of 2017 to become an infantryman.
Posted: 2017-03-10 08:50 AM LITCHFIELD, Minn. -Bruce Cottington, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korea, donated a bronze bust of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. to the Litchfield National Guard unit during the armory's public open house event March 4. Cottington, a Litchfield resident, commands the Minnesota Chapter of the Veterans of Underage Military Service. VUMS members enlisted in the military prior to the minimum age requirement in order to serve their country during WWII. Cottington received the bust from Vessey, a fellow VUMS member. Both enlisted in the military at the age of 16.
The highlight of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion open house was the unveiling of the sculpture. The unit was very supportive when Cottington proposed donating the sculpture. The Litchfield community has always been very supportive of the National Guard over the years, so the open house was a chance to say 'thanks' to their neighbors. "This was a great opportunity to honor Bruce and to honor Gen. Vessey," said B Co., 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Commander, Capt. Seth Goreham. Bravo Company also has a tight relationship with the local American Legion and VFW. Many Litchfield citizens are former members of Bravo Company, or the unit's predecessors A Co, 682nd Engineer Battalion, and the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company.
Posted: 2017-03-08 03:29 PM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The garrison command team of Camp Ripley, family, friends and colleagues from the Minnesota National Guard attended a Change of Responsibility ceremony between Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Worden and Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, March 5, 2017, at Camp Ripley.
The ceremony was an official "passing of the sword" from one senior noncommissioned officer to the next and assumption of the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position of Garrison Command Sergeant Major.
As with many military ceremonies those in attendance welcomed Erickson as a new member of the team and bid farewell, recognized and thanked Worden for his service.