NEWS

6 women just earned the Expert Infantryman Badge

Women quietly broke through barriers last fall when they became the first in the Army to earn the prestigious Expert Infantryman Badge at Fort Bragg.


The badge, which was created in the 1940s, only recently opened to women when the Department of Defense struck down regulations that prevented them from serving in infantry jobs. The women earned the badge during testing with hundreds of male candidates in November — about two years after infantry jobs opened to women.

"This historic achievement is a reminder of the great things we can achieve when women are seen and treated as equals and given the same chance to contribute to their country," U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth said in a statement. The Democrat from Illinois was among the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Image from Flickr)

In 2004, Duckworth was deployed to Iraq as a Black Hawk pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard when it was struck down by a rocket-propelled grenade. She lost her legs and partial use of her right arm.

"These six incredible women prove exactly why the Department of Defense was right to allow women to serve in all military roles, an action that was long overdue," she said. "Remember, women have served attached to infantry units for decades without being formally assigned to the unit — so even when they meet the requirements, they technically could not earn the EIB until now."

Through a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, all six women who earned the badge declined to talk about their achievement or the significance of the badge. The division did not name the women.

Division leaders declined interview requests for this story.

To earn the Expert Infantryman Badge, a soldier must successfully complete 30 tasks that prove mastery infantry skills. If a soldier makes three errors, he or she fails and must wait one year to try again.

At Fort Bragg, soldiers were tested on weapons proficiency and medical and patrol skills.

Soldiers assembled the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle, claymore mine, Javelin, and AK-47 weapons systems. Among medical tasks, they performed first aid for a suspected fracture, open head wound, open abdominal wound and burns. In the patrol lane, soldiers decontaminated themselves and equipment, identified terrain features on a map, and applied camouflage.

Master Sgt. Renee Baldwin fires a .50-caliber machine gun during training last summer at Joint Multinational Training Command's Grafenwoehr range in Germany. (U.S. Army photo)

The testing takes place over several days, during the day and at night.

Of the 1,000 candidates who tested for the badge at Fort Bragg in November, 287 earned it. The candidates came from Fort Bragg, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, 18th Airborne Corps and units at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Also Read: The first and only female Buffalo Soldier joined the Army disguised as a man

Traditionally, only about 18 percent of all candidates who test for the badge earn it.

Testing for the Expert Infantryman Badge is conducted at several installations each year. Standards for the test are set by the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

A 'soldier skill'

As women became eligible for infantry jobs, Command Sgt. Maj. Martin Celestine said there was never skepticism that women wouldn't be strong enough or trained well enough to test for the badge.

"No, there was no doubt," said Celestine, command sergeant major of the Infantry School. "I've deployed on multiple times and I've been side-by-side with women. When we talk about technical competency, it's not about 'man or woman.' This is a soldier skill. We're all one team here."

Col. Townley Hedrick, deputy commandant for the school, said the Army's training has set women up for success, just like the men who have been training in those jobs for decades. He said he expected women to earn the badge.

"Women are going through infantry basic training," he said. "They're going through operations. We expect them to go through it and earn it just like a man."

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, who recently left command of the 18th Airborne Corps, said the corps and overall Army readiness has been strengthened as women integrate into combat arms jobs.

A Soldier with 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team drags a simulated casualty to the finish line of Objective Bull Dec. 15, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Objective Bull was the final event of the Expert Infantry Badge testing, which was held Dec. 11-15. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Northrup)

"Army forces must possess the capabilities -- and be prepared to fight across multiple domains and through contested areas -- to deter potential adversaries, and should deterrence fail, rapidly defeat them," he said. "As the Army shapes the future force, we will ensure that every individual has the opportunity to maximize his or her potential."

The achievement has fueled the passion for Jakhira Blue, a 17-year-old 2017 graduate of North Johnston High School, who had been planning to enlist in the Army as airborne infantry. She will head to Fort Benning for training in March.

She knows she'll be in the minority in infantry training since the jobs opened to women. It doesn't matter, she said.

"It's going to make me push myself harder," she said. "I want to show everybody I can do it."

Entertainment

5 times Americans left to fight in foreign wars

In the past few years, dozens of veteran and civilian Americans left the comfort and safety of their homes to tackle what they saw as an unspeakable evil growing from the Middle East — the Islamic State. A new television documentary series from History followed those Americans as they fought with Kurdish fighters in Syria. The show pulls no punches in showing what combat looks like on the front lines of the fight against the world's most ruthless terrorists.

You can catch Hunting ISIS every Tuesday at 11pm on History but read on and learn about how and why Americans fought the good fight long before their country was ready.

"I heard the stories, I knew that ISIS was evil," says PJ, a Marine Corps vet who served in Iraq. "But you can never understand the brutality that they're capable of until you see it with your own eyes... Most people in America aren't able or willing to come over here," he says. "And for them, I will carry what weight I can."

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.

Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today's growing technology industry.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
Melia Robinson

Why splitting California into 3 made the November ballot

Tim Draper is known for having crazy ideas — and for funding them.

Now, the legendary Silicon Valley investor is making headway on a longtime and perhaps unrealistic effort to split California into three states: Northern California, California, and Southern California.

Draper's proposal to cut up the Golden State qualified on June 16, 2018, to appear on the ballot in November 2018's general election. It received more than 402,468 valid signatures, more than the number required by state law, thanks to an ambitious campaign called Cal 3 and financial backing from Draper, an early investor in Tesla, Skype, and Hotmail.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
Christopher Woody

Why China's President warned Obama about 'immature leaders'

Days after Donald Trump won the 2016 US presidential election, Barack Obama left the country for his last trip abroad as president.

The trip took him to Greece, Germany, and finally Peru, where he attended the 2016 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Throughout the trip, anxious world leaders greeted Obama, inquiring about the man who would soon occupy the Oval Office.

That sentiment was on display in Lima, where "Obama was pulled aside by leader after leader and asked what to expect from Donald Trump," the former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes wrote in his memoir of his time in the White House, "The World as It Is."

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
John Haltiwanger

Trump and Mattis go 'good cop, bad cop' on Putin

President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis offered strikingly different perspectives on Russian President Vladimir Putin in the course of just a few hours on June 15, 2018.

Speaking with reporters outside of the White House, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama, not Putin, for the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

"President Obama lost Crimea because president Putin didn't respect President Obama, didn't respect our country and didn't respect Ukraine," Trump said.

Keep reading... Show less

5 things about the M16A4 that you complained about

The M16A4 was the standard service rifle for the Marine Corps until October, 2015, when it was decided that the M4 Carbine would replace them in infantry battalions. For whatever reason, civilians tend to think the M16A4 is awesome when, in reality, it's actually despised by a lot of Marines.

Now, the M16A4 is, by far, not the worst weapon, but it didn't exactly live up to the expectations laid out for it. They're accurate and the recoil is as soft as being hit in the shoulder with a peanut, so it certainly has its place. But when Marines spend a considerable amount of time in rainy or dusty environments, they'll find it's not the most reliable rifle.

Here are some of the major complaints Marines have about the weapon:

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

The Army has a dream team working on its robotic future

As part of a strategy to develop and deliver new robotics capabilities to future soldiers, Army researchers have partnered with world-renowned experts in industry and academia.

The University of Pennsylvania hosted a series of meetings in Philadelphia, June 5-7, 2018, for principal investigators and researchers from the Army's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, or RCTA.

Keep reading... Show less