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Inside the Gates: Paratroopers march to a different beat to earn Expert Infantry Badges

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 9:05 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Morning hikes are not uncommon for U.S. Army Alaska soldiers based at Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson. But it’s not everyday they have to carry 70 pounds of equipment with them as part of a 12-mile ruck march.

However, that’s what’s required of them if they want to earn their Expert Infantry Badges, or EIB. They have to complete the march in three hours. It’s a tradition that started back in World War II.

“I’m glad I never have to do this again,” said Lt. Alex Kim of the 1-501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. “Because if I have to do this again, I’m not sure I can make it.”

The ruck march is the final step for the paratroopers with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

“You’re standing all day, you’re pushing yourself mentally” Kim said. “You’re learning 10 tasks a day. At the end of the day you’re smoked.”

The paratroopers got tested over the course of a week to demonstrate their ability to conduct their basic soldier tasks. Those include medical care, weapons proficiency and physical fitness. Army leaders call it a great test of their soldiers’ willpower.

“This represents excellence inside the formation. It’s the pinnacle of what we do,” said Lt. Col. John Campbell, squadron commander of the 1-40th Cavalry Regiment. “You put all those events together, and on the battlefield, it creates an individual that’s going to win.”

Last Friday, 150 paratroopers set out on their ruck march. Of those, 149 paratroopers finished on time, and earned their EIB. They wear their prize as a badge of honor.

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