Over the next few months, soldiers across the army will have the opportunity to test their MOS-related expertise badge two to three times a year.
The change was brought about by senior enlisted soldiers in Training and Doctrine Command, some Centers of Excellence, and operational units led by the 10th Mountain Division. Together, the group worked through what has always been a tedious testing process.
For example, Command Sgt. Major Mario Terenas of the 10th Mountain Division told reporters on a call on Tuesday that the division could often only offer to test badges once a year and, due to operational commitments, sometimes only once every few years.
This meant that army staff sergeants hoping to pin sergeant first class or even just how well they met the standards of the Expert Infantry Badge, Expert Field Medical Badge or the insignia of expert soldier, had few opportunities to test their mettle.
The EIB was created in 1945; the EFMB in 1965; and BSE in 2019.
Testing was delayed by shared tasks, such as machine gun use or land navigation, which still had slightly different standards for separate badges.
For example, soldiers testing to earn their ESB had to work a claymore in their patrol section while EIB soldiers performed it in their weapons section. Making the tests more similar saved time and resources.
In recent years, the differences have been more normalized, Command Sgt. TRADOC said. Major Daniel Hendrex. But he added there were no substantial changes to the actual tasks and passing scores for earning the badge.
With enough overlap, they can streamline testing, performing shared tasks for all three badges at once, freeing up space, time, and testers.
For example, Hendrex said that about 83% of EIB’s tasks are the same as ESB’s.
And they also reduced the time.
Previously, Terenas said, the entire course – training, set-up and testing – took around 45 days and involved a high level of command.
Now the initial training is on that soldier’s company, troop or battery to prepare them.
And they have “job books” to help them revise, as well as a set of videos showing them exactly what they need to know when performing these tasks for the tests.
Upon arrival at the badge course, soldiers will receive a week of training and a week of testing.
So far, about 3,500 10th Mountain soldiers have passed or are currently in the badge process, Terenas said.
The division’s goal is to see 500 EIBS; 100 to 150 BSE; and 30-50 EFMBs from the three pilot programs this year. The last pilot of the fiscal year tests on Friday, said Terenas.
The first rider in May with the 10th Mountain Division had a few bumps.
“I was very confident. I thought, ‘We’ll do well, probably the same or below average. [completion rates]”Terenas said.
But from day one, they had a “substantial loss” of candidates.
It was then that Terenas thought it might be “absolute disaster”.
However, over the days with the first pilot and again with the second pilot, Terenas saw about a 2-3% increase in completion rates across all badges.
The EIB recorded a success rate of almost 20% on the first try; BSE almost 21%; and the EFMB got eight of the 14 candidates through on the first try, he said.
While those initial success rates aren’t high, Hendrex said the additional opportunities will see a higher chance of success. More importantly, the increased chance of passing the test gives soldiers more time to work on these critical skills essential to their jobs and military service.
Over the next 30 days, Hendrex said, improvements will be made. But he was confident that by the end of October a finalized version could be ready for use by the military.
Todd South has written about crime, the courts, government and the military for several publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer Finalist for a co-authored project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Navy veteran of the Iraq War.