FORT BRAGG, N.C. –
A Special Operations Recruiting Battalion Soldier received the Expert Soldier Badge during the Association of the United States Army Eisenhower Awards Luncheon held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Oct. 14.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Lodiong and the ten others who successfully completed the trial phase of the ESB are the first Soldiers to receive this award.
“It was the first time non-combat/medical MOS's (Military Occupational Specialty) were given the opportunity for a specialized skills badge,” Lodiong said. “I had always wanted to do the EIB (Expert Infantry Badge) or EFMB (Expert Field Medical Badge), but I was not eligible because of my MOS. When I was told about the opportunity for a pilot ESB, I felt like God had answered my prayers! Whether I pass or not, I’m going for it.”
In April of 2017, 56 Soldiers took part in the trial testing of the Army’s Expert Soldier Badge. The trial was held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The Soldiers were selected from bases across the U.S. with the selection criteria being “the best of the best.”
Lodiong, who currently serves as a recruiter assigned to Charlie Company, SORB in Fort Bliss, Texas, was among those selected. Then, assigned to the 725th BSB as a logistics specialist, Lodiong jumped at the chance to participate in the ESB trial.
With such short notice, Lodiong had little time to prepare for the trial. He relied heavily on his years of training and basic skills as a Soldier to carry him through.
Consisting of the Army physical fitness test, day and night land navigation, individual testing stations, and culminating with a 12-mile foot march, the ESB test stations included warrior tasks laid out in the ESB regulation and may also include five additional tasks selected by the brigade commander from the unit’s mission essential task list. Example tasks included:
- React to an improvised explosive device attack
- Construct individual fighting positions
- Search an individual in a tactical Environment
- Employ progressive levels of individual force
- Mark CBRN-contaminated areas
“We worked tirelessly on the ESB to ensure we got it right,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Edward W. Mitchell, Center for Initial Military Training Command. “We wanted to provide commanders the opportunity to recognize their top Soldiers who have met the highest standard of performance in physical fitness, warfighting tasks and readiness.”
Each ESB task was evaluated on a “go” or “no-go” basis. Candidates are allowed to retake two events before being disqualified from testing. Pass rates during the ESB pilot testing were similar to that of the EIB and EFMB. Of the 53 candidates in the trial, only 11 made the cut and earned their ESB.
According to Lodiong, the hardest part for him was the nine-line MedEvac request. The candidates were given a scenario in which they were given several casualties and had to complete a nine-line within three minutes.
“With nine-line MedEvac, you are given a written scenario about an attack and you have three minutes to read, write out the nine-line and transmit it over the radio,” Lodiong said. “You have to correctly identify the number of urgent, urgent surgical and priority patients. I was transmitting line five when I was told, “Candidate you are a no go at this station because you have failed to complete the event in time.” I quickly collected myself, waited 10 minutes then retested and passed.”
The day and night land navigation portion of the testing turned out to be a breeze for Lodiong who hit four-of-four points in under two hours of the allotted four they were given.
“I was very confident during the land navigation,” he said. “I used terrain association to get from point to point and kept a good pace count. I looked for roads that were on the map and large terrain features. It was pretty easy.”
The testing concluded on day five with a 12-mile foot march. Lodiong finished first in the group, 25 minutes ahead of the next participant, making him the first official ESB winner.
The ESB isn’t just a flashy badge to wear on your uniform, it signifies mastery of not just basic Soldier skills, but high level warrior tasks that make the American Soldier the elite fighting force it is today.
Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy A. Guden, command sergeant major, Training and Doctrine Command, summed it up when he said, “The ESB is all about increasing the readiness of our Army. It will provide commanders outside the Infantry, Special Forces and medical communities the opportunity to recognize Soldiers who best demonstrate excellence in their fields… This is a badge to award to those who truly deserve recognition as an expert in their career field; for those who have achieved a high level of competence and excellence in their profession.”
Looking back, Lodiong had some final thoughts on improving the ESB for future Soldiers who participate as candidates.
“When I took it, there was no live ammunition during the weapons training portion of the test. We used blanks only. I would also like to have to qualify expert with an M4 (as one of the ESB stations) added to qualification,” Lodiong said.