On Friday, June 14—coincidentally the Army’s 224th birthday—the Army unveiled its newest and most unnecessary badge: the Expert Soldier Badge. If you read this and are rolling your eyes, trust me, you are not alone.

According to a press release, the Expert Soldier Badge will recognize those individuals who demonstrate a mastery of physical fitness, marksmanship, and critical skills necessary for combat.

According to a quote from TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command), who was behind this latest fiasco, the Army wants the units to train for their warrior tasks and battle drills while in garrison or in peacetime. But shouldn’t commanders be doing that anyway? Isn’t that what their job entails? Or did we miss something?

“We wanted every soldier to make sure they understand that they are experts in their field,” Command Sergeant Major Edward W. Mitchell, the senior enlisted man of the Center for Initial Military Training, said. “Achieving the new badge…requires a much higher standard, just like its cousins, which are the EIB and the EFMB.”

Infantrymen, medics, and Special Forces personnel will continue to test for the EIB/EMB.

The testing will take place over a five-day period and consist of the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), qualifying expert on the range with an M16/M4, conducting day and night land navigation (read: compass course), passing individual testing stations, and satisfactorily completing a 12-mile rucksack march.

ESB testing stations include warrior tasks that will be specified once the ESB regulations are completed and may also include five additional tasks selected by the brigade commander from the unit’s mission-essential task list.

Each testing station will be assessed on a go/no go basis and will consist of 80 percent of the EIB/EMB testing. But soldiers, according to the press release, can still receive a few no-gos and still be awarded the ESB.

A few years ago, the Army, in their endless quest to make everyone “elite” and feel worthy, took the Black Berets from the Ranger Battalions and issued them to everyone. Every swinging Richard in the Army now wears a black beret. Rangers then adopted a tan beret similar to the SAS, while Airborne troops continue to wear maroon and Special Forces wear the Green Beret.

But they weren’t done there. It was decided that everyone should have a combat badge like the infantry’s Combat Infantryman’s Badge or the medical field’s Combat Medical Badge. Since other MOS’ weren’t eligible, the Army in 2005 decided to give them to all the other MOS’ and created the Combat Action Badge. However, unlike the CIB, the CAB can be given to any rank, even general officers, whereas CIBs were for just colonels and below.

The criteria for being awarded this badge? A soldier had to perform duties in an area where hostile fire pay or imminent danger pay is authorized, who is personally present and actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy, and performing satisfactorily in accordance with the prescribed rules of engagement.

Personally present? I would imagine that is a no-brainer, but perhaps not.

If you were also thinking that the new Expert Soldier Badge looks like the aforementioned Combat Action Badge, you would be correct. Just like the EIB/CIB of the infantry, the ESB has a wreath around it when it is awarded as the CAB. Obviously, someone worked tirelessly on that design and deserves an impact award.

TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy A. Guden said in a statement released by the Army, “This is not a badge to award so that the entire Army now has an ‘expert’ badge to wear.”

“As it is now, not every infantryman or Special Forces soldier earns the EIB and not every medic earns the EFMB,” Guden said. “Keeping with the same mindset, this is a badge to award to those who truly deserve recognition as an expert in their career field.”

This latest move didn’t fool soldiers or veterans, who responded to the original idea that this is akin to a participation trophy—which is exactly what it is.

Mitchell shot back, as would be expected, that such assertions were false. “That is absolutely not the reason why this badge was created,” he said. “It’s just like the EFMB and EIB. It’s to find out who is the top one percent or two percent across the board.”

This is a ridiculous and a totally unnecessary participation trophy, indeed.

Having worked in many Third-World countries, I’ve always looked with amusement and much head-shaking upon the number of badges and ribbons some of our allies wear. We are rapidly approaching that Third-World status. Soon the only man who’ll be wearing more doodads than a chairborne staff guy will be the doorman at the Excelsior Hotel.

 

This article was written for NEWSREP by former Green Beret Steve Balestrieri