Four NY Army Guard troops are first to earn new Expert Soldier Badge – DVIDS

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Courtesy Photo | New York Army National Guard Soldiers, from left, Spec. William Neumeister, Spec…. read more read more
Courtesy Photo | New York Army National Guard Soldiers, from left, Spec. William Neumeister, Spec. Nicholas Weber, Sgt. Alexander Sonneville, and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Blount pose for a photograph at Fort Drum, New York on October 1, 2021 after earning the Expert Soldier Badge. The four are the first New York Army National Guard Soldiers to earn the new skills badge. (Courtesy Photo)  see less | View Image Page
FORT DRUM, New York –Four Soldiers became the first in the New York Army National Guard to earn the new Expert Soldier Badge on Oct. 1,
2021 following two weeks of training and testing at Fort Drum, New York.
The four men joined another 950 Soldiers across the Army who have earned the new badge.

Created in October 2019, the Expert Soldier Badge, or ESB, joins the Expert Infantry Badge and the Expert Field Medic Badge, as a special skills badge.

The Expert Soldier Badge can be earned by all Soldiers who are not infantrymen, Special Forces Soldiers or medics. They train and test alongside infantry and medical troops seeking their skill badges.

As of July, according to Army Training and Doctrine Command, only 19% of the 5,000 Soldiers who have sought the Expert Soldier Badge have passed the course.

Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Blount, a member of the 427th Brigade Support Battalion; Sgt. Alexander Sonneville and Spc. Nicholas Weber, both assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry; and Spc. William Neumeister, assigned to the 10th MCPOD; had to successfully complete 30 Soldier tasks, qualify expert on their individual weapon, complete a physical fitness assessment, day/night land navigation and complete a timed 12-mile foot march.

The New York National Guard sent a team of Soldiers to compete for the ESB in May, according to Sgt. Maj. Matthew Stark, the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team operations NCO. But they did not earn the badge.
They took what those Soldiers learned and used that knowledge to help the four who earned the badge on Oct. 1, make it through, Stark said.
Their success, Blount, Sonneville, Weber and Neumeister all agreed; came from showing up at Fort Drum four days early, and then working together to master the tasks they were tested on.

The session run by the 10th Mountain Division allocated two weeks for the skill badge evaluation. The first week, from Sept. 20 to 26, gave Soldiers a chance to review the skills and then master them with hands on training. The second week, from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1, was the testing phase.

“Once we got there and we saw what it was all about and how challenging it was, it was pretty clear we were going to succeed or fail as a group,” said Blount, a full time human resource specialist.

He’s been involved in planning best warrior competitions, Blount said, so he figured he could use his experience and help the younger Soldiers do better.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t leave anybody behind,” Blount said. “We went at it as a team.”

“We would stand there and test each other while we were getting ready to go through the lanes,” Sonneville said.

“Having other people there to talk it through and correct me if I am wrong, or out of sequence was important,” Neumeister said. “If I didn’t have them with me, it would be a different story.”

The toughest part of the two weeks for him, Blount said, was “maintaining a calm and collected outward appearance as a leader” for the other Soldiers and “managing the internal stress and anxiety as a participant.”

“With the 30 plus tasks that you have to perform near flawlessly it can get extremely stressful and overwhelming,” explained Blount, who lives in Liverpool, New York.

The tasks are broken down into three lanes: weapons tasks, medical tasks and patrol tasks which involve things like map reading, transmitting a spot report and emplacing a Claymore mine.
Sonneville, a cavalry scout and team leader in the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry’s Alpha Troop, said he was fairly comfortable with the ten weapons related tasks.

But it was still “kind of overwhelming” to work through tasks involving the Mark 19 grenade launcher, the M-2 .50 caliber machinegun and the M249 squad automatic weapon without making a mistake, he said.

They also had to learn to break down the new M-17 Sig Sauer pistol, instead of the M-9 Beretta pistol used by the New York Army National Guard, because that is the pistol issued to 10th Mountain Division Soldiers.

Sonneville, a Webster New York resident, said his training as a scout stood him in good stead when it came to the patrol tasks lane, Sonneville said. His unit spends a lot of time training on range estimation and call for fire, he explained.

Weber, a part-time college student and full-time security guard who lives in Cicero and is also a cavalry scout in Alpha Troop, said he also found the weapons lane the most challenging.
That was probably because it was the first set of tasks they had to complete and he had to get used to the system, Weber said.
He got interested in tackling the badge after talking to Sonneville, Weber said.

“Because it is a new badge, and not many people have it, it was something I wanted to go for,” Weber said.
“Just having the word ‘expert’ attached to you is awesome,” he said. “And at the very least, if I failed, I know I would have learned a lot of stuff I could bring back to my unit.”

Neumeister, a signals intelligence analyst, said he signed up for the ESB competition when his chance to go to Air Assault School fell through.
Going to the ESB competition at Fort Drum was Neumeister’s last official act as a member of the New York Army Guard and the 10th MCPOD, a unit which supplements the 10th Mountain Division headquarters.

He has since transferred to the Colorado Army National Guard’s 19th Special Forces Group, where he will serve as a full-time intelligence analyst.

Earning the ESB has been a real confidence booster as he moves into a full-time job with a highly specialized unit in Denver, Neumeister said.
The biggest challenge for him, Neumeister said, was learning a new skill, becoming an expert on it and then “completely brain dump” the information and master something else.

“I usually carry a notebook with me and in two years in the Army I have filled in ten pages,” he said.

“I filled that up immediately. My hand is a lot stronger now from taking notes, with how much I had to write,” he joked.

The medical lane was purely memorization: how to treat a casualty for a spinal injury and shock, how to control bleeding, how to treat an abdominal wound, he said.

The weapons testing involved building the muscle memory to disassemble and assemble the weapons with correct steps. The patrol lane involved thinking through the tasks, he said.

“It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun,” he said. “I’d never touched a Mark 19 (grenade launcher). I never touched a .50 caliber machine gun. It was fun studying up, and recognizing, and getting used to the sequences,” Neumeister said.
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