Staff Sgt. Tyler Lewis (middle), a field artillery firefinder radar operator and Moore, Oklahoma, native, with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, is among the first 11 Soldiers to receive the Expert Soldier Badge, awarded by Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville (left) and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston (right) during the Eisenhower Luncheon at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition Oct. 15. Similar to the Expert Infantryman Badge and the Expert Field Medical Badge, the Expert Soldier Badge will allow commanders the opportunity to recognize Soldiers outside of the Infantry, Special Forces and medical communities who have met a high standard of performance in physical fitness and warfighting tasks | Photo By Staff Sgt. Kris Bonet
In April 2017, 56 Soldiers from U.S. Army I Corps were selected to test the new Expert Soldier Badge test pilot program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Among the candidates, ranging from privates to lieutenants, Spc. Tyler Lewis, a field artillery firefinder radar operator and Moore, Oklahoma, native, with only three years of active duty service and Staff Sgt. Anthony Lodiong, an automated logistical specialist and New Orleans native, stood out among the rest.
Lewis earned the trust of his leadership and was selected by his division sergeant major to fly from Hawaii to Joint Base Lewis-McChord to compete.
“My platoon sergeant at the time, Sgt. 1st Class Quintanilla, gave me the opportunity to volunteer,” said Lewis. “He had faith that I would pass. He mentored me since the time he took over as my platoon sergeant.”
Two and a half years later, now a staff sergeant with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Lewis became one of 11 top-performing Soldiers to receive the first-ever ESB during the Eisenhower Luncheon at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition at Washington D.C., Oct. 15.
“Soldiers are the real asset the Army uses to accomplish missions,” said Lewis. “Everything else as far as equipment is just to aid us to complete the task. This course altogether is going to help improve the ultimate asset the army uses for lethality.”
Lodiong, currently a special operations recruiter assigned to Fort Bliss, says the ESB testing is challenging, but rewarding.
“The ESB is definitely not a participation trophy! The 9-line MEDVAC challenged me the most,” said Lodiong. “Earning the ESB means everything a Soldier should be for me! The knowledge I gained from the ESB will not only help me in my military career, but also in my entire life after the military.”
The ESB is a special skills badge designed to recognize a Soldier’s combat proficiency outside of the infantry, by measuring their “mastery of physical fitness, marksmanship, and other critical soldering skills necessary for combat readiness,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Moore, the noncommissioned officer in charge of validating ESB testing at the Army Center for Initial Military Training.
The pilot test, in which Lewis and Lodiong participated, consisted of multiple events: the Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation courses, medical, weapons, and combat lanes, with each one having 10 testing stations, and a final 12-mile foot march.
Only 12 out of the 56 Soldiers passed the test, making the pass-fail rate similar to the Expert Infantryman and Expert Field Medical Badges.
Station after station, Lewis saw the number of participants decline with each passing challenge. But he never once doubted himself.
Lewis focused only on himself to have a clear mind, rehearsing each event while waiting for his turn. Fear of possible failure was present in his mind, but he was so focused on passing that he did not let it control him.
“The satellite communications were challenging, but not to the extent of being difficult,” said Lewis. “They are all simple tasks, but it’s crucial to perform them in the right sequence and timely manner. The most challenging part of the whole event was learning the standards in sequence and performing them with a short amount of time in training.”
Despite the challenges that Lewis and Lodiong faced, their determination to succeed was evident in their success. Lodiong offers some positive advice to future candidates interested in earning the badge.
“Go for it! It’s the best training I ever had in my entire military career,” said Lodiong. “If you earn it, excellent! If you don’t, you will still leave with a life-time of military skills from the five days of preparation training,” he continued.
Future testing will include the Army Combat Fitness Test and may also include five additional tasks selected by the brigade commander from the unit’s mission essential task list.
Example tasks include: react to an improvised explosive device (IED) attack, construct individual fighting positions, searching an individual in a tactical environment, employing progressive levels of individual force, and marking chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear (CBRN)-contaminated areas.
“The ESB gives units a baseline and ability to measure their Soldiers’ physical fitness and ensure they perform to standard all the critical tasks they’re supposed to have knowledge of,” said Master Sgt. Norbert Neumeyer, a U.S. Forces Command master gunner and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native, who oversaw the first ESB test. “It recognizes the next generation of competent, committed leaders who thrive in chaos, adapt, and win in a complex world. All the tasks can be a challenge for Soldiers that do not routinely train on basic army skills.”
Accomplishing an Army mission is a collective task, but challenges like the ESB, EIB and physical fitness tests are all about individual skills. With the ESB now ‘official,’ units can conduct testing annually just as they do with the EFMB and EIB.
Story by Master Sgt. Vin Stevens & Staff Sgt. Kris Bonet – 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division