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NEWS | April 12, 2022

U.S. Army Japan to Kick Off First Expert Soldier Badge Contest

By Sean Kimmons U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs

CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- The first-ever Expert Soldier Badge (ESB) competition for U.S. Army Japan (USARJ) is set to take place next week as more than 140 Soldiers vie for the chance to wear the coveted badge.

The ESB, which a Soldier can earn by completing 30 warrior tasks, was created in 2017 to provide all Soldiers not in infantry and medical career fields an opportunity to prove their combat readiness.

The skill badge is an equivalent to the Expert Infantryman Badge and Expert Field Medical Badge. It looks similar to the Combat Action Badge, minus the wreath. The badge displays the same M9 bayonet knife and M67 fragmentation grenade inlaid against a solid, gray rectangular bar.

“It designates those who put in the extra work to demonstrate that they are an expert at their craft,” said Sgt. Maj. Joshua Yost, organizer and G-3 sergeant major for USARJ.

Yost said the badge could also positively impact future promotions for Soldiers who earn it.

“It’s important to get it early in your career to show that you have the mental [and physical] stamina to do the job,” he said, adding the ranks of those competing range from private to major.

USARJ planners had other U.S. Army units across the Pacific region support the weeklong competition, which runs from April 18 through 22, due to the lack of potential graders here.

Other units supporting the contest with dozens of graders include the 2nd Infantry Division (ID) out of South Korea; the 25th ID from Hawaii; First Army from Camp Shelby, Mississippi; 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and 1st Bn., 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) from Okinawa.

“It’s never been done before and because of the remote location we’ve had to reach out to other Army units to provide graders,” Yost said. “So it’s really a team effort for us to be able to put this on here in Japan.”

Events will take place at Camp Zama, Sagami General Depot and Combined Arms Training Center Fuji.

The skill level 1 warrior tasks being tested fall under three lanes: weapons, patrol and medical. Some of the tasks include proficiency on several weapons systems, evacuating and treating wounded personnel, and moving under direct fire.

Competitors must also complete a land navigation course, the Army Combat Fitness Test, and a 12-mile foot march as the final event.

Staff Sgt. Michael Villerot, an ESB validation noncommissioned officer assigned to the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training’s Leader Training Brigade, helped make sure all events upheld the strict rules of the competition.

Villerot’s team, which consists of 10 NCOs, travel around the world to validate ESB competitions. So far this year, Villerot has also been to Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia to assist units with their competitions. His team plans to conduct a total of nearly 40 similar validations this year, he said.

“We validate the same standard that is in the book,” he said. “Fairness is one thing, but it also [ensures] all Soldiers who do this are trained at the same high level and it’s not easier for certain people. The same high standard is kept for the entire Army.”

Soldiers are screened to verify they are deployable and not flagged for anything before they can even compete, Yost said.

While the combination of events will be difficult to memorize and execute to standard, Yost said the end result for those who complete them all effectively will be a special experience.

“A Soldier earning their Expert Soldier Badge establishes a sense of pride in oneself that they were able to accomplish something that so many people either don’t have the guts to do or just weren’t able to accomplish,” he said. “It’s a chance for a Soldier, regardless of rank, to stand above their peers.”

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