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Story and photo by Sgt. Landis Andrews, 444th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Sgt. Mark Recinos, right, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-113th Infantry Battalion, on the homestretch for the Expert Infantry Badge.

After high intensity training under the Fort Indiantown Gap sun, and nights spent trekking through the woods and hills of central Pennsylvania, New Jersey has awarded eight soldiers the Expert Infantry Badge, one of the highest honors an infantryman can earn.

On day one of the competition, 40 Soldiers from all over New Jersey had eyes on the badge. However, as each event came to an end, so did the hopes of some candidates.

"It's called the Expert Infantry Badge for a reason," said 1st Sgt. Brian Townsend, the president of the committee that organized EIB 21. "The thing that knocked most people out was the small details. It's not the Everybody Infantry Badge. It's the Expert Infantry Badge."
This particular expert infantry competition returns to New Jersey with a brand new feel. In previous competitions, candidates displayed their competence in a round-robin fashion, with each of the 40 events being timed.

In EIB 21, there are fewer events to complete; however, it is now done in a combat setting, adding a completely new element to the process.

"When the blood got pumping and the adrenaline was flowing, it made it more difficult to execute the tasks that you're sure you know how to do," said 1st Lt. Andrew Stevens, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1/114th Infantry. "With the amount of preparation I put in to this, it was all muscle memory, but the combat element made it a bit more difficult.

" Though difficult, it did not stop Stevens from enjoying the tasks.

"The lanes were my favorite part," he said. "Once we got passed the preparation, I had a really good time."

Preparation was a huge part of EIB 21.

When the day was over and all of the competitors gathered for dinner, normal chow chatter was nowhere to be found. Instead, tips for the next day's event feverishly bounced off the walls. Terms like left and right limit, call for fire, SALUTE report, check for shock and SPORTS filled the dining facility, leaving little room to discuss anything else. It sounded like these Soldiers just stepped off of the battlefield.

That is what the planning committee intended.

"In the old style, you didn't get as much battlefield experience, but it was a little harder," Townsend said. "But the EIB 21 adds the element of combat stress to make it more challenging."

That new level of stress was felt prior to each event.

"Everyone was nervous before the lanes," said Capt. Timothy Sorrentino, Commander, HHC, 1/114th Infantry and EIB recipient. "Doing all of the tasks over and over again prior to the competition was easy. But, executing them under the pressure situation was different."

Sgt. Thomas Fisk, EIB 21 staff and trainer, said this is how Soldiers of today should be learning.

Expert Infantrymen, left to right, 1st Lt. Andrew Stevens, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-114th Infantry Battalion; Sgt. Mark Recinos, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-113th Infantry Battalion; Capt. Timothy Sorrentino, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-114th Infantry Battalion; Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Kirkpatrick, A Company,1-114th Infantry Battalion; Staff Sgt. Joseph Kern, A Company,1-114th Infantry Battalion; Staff Sgt. Ethan Letz, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-113th Infantry Battalion; 1st Lt. Myan Colatat, A Company,1-114th Infantry Battalion and Spc. John Finamore, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 50th Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

"It's good that they see a scenario and it's battle focused," he said. "They know what they are supposed to do with their training and can immediately incorporate it with their mission."

Fisk enjoyed this opportunity to teach Soldiers the skills needed to earn the prestigious badge that he received several years prior.

"I like to teach younger guys, any of the Soldiers coming up," Fisk said. "That way, when they get to be sergeants, they can teach the guys coming up. That way we can have a better Army for the future."

The future is something that Townsend is also looking toward.

"We wanted something to build from since this is the first time we are running EIB 21," he said. "We mirrored a lot of what was going on at Fort Benning. What I wanted to do was give the state something to build off of, so we can make this competition something great for the state."

Sorrentino expects a number of his Soldiers to take part in next year's event.

"It's something that every infantryman should have," the commander said, a sentiment that all infantrymen competing at FIG echoed.

Guard helps students stay on track
By Sgt. Wayne Woolley, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Public Affairs

The closest Gunnar Larson ever came to the cockpit of an UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter was an XBox game. That got the Freehold Intermediate School 7th grader thinking some day he might want to fly one.

Then Larson sat in the Blackhawk's cockpit and any doubt went away -- now he's a kid with a dream.

"These National Guard (pilots) told me how to do it," Larson said. How?

"Stay in school, study hard, keep out of trouble and stay away from drugs," Larson said.

And that was the message the New Jersey National Guard Counter-Drug Task Force, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and officials of CentraState Healthcare System hopes was received by the 150 middle school students who took part in the DEA's Red Ribbon Campaign event in Freehold last week.

For most of the students, the highlight of the event was the two Blackhawks, a Humvee and a Counter-Drug display that allows the students to try on goggles that create the same vision impairment as alcohol intoxication.

Eighth grade students of the Somerdale Park School get a tour of the Joint Training and Training Development Center at Joint Base MDL on January 10. Master Sgt. Luis Arroyo talks about the mock Iraqi village to the graduates of the Drug Demand Reduction's "Stay on Track" program. Photo by Kryn P. Westhoven, NJDMAVA/PAO

The students weren't the only ones impressed.

"Having the Soldiers and equipment here and having the students absorb the whole positive message about the dangers of drugs helps me do my job," said Nelson Ribon, the principal at Freehold Intermediate School. "The whole message they can give the students just reinforces everything we try to teach in the classroom. It's great stuff."

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Volume 35 Number 2 Staff / Information
(c) 2011 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs