FORT SILL, Okla. – The Expert Soldier Badge signifies those who have mastered the fundamentals of Army combat training, and the U.S. Army Reserve’s first commissioned officer to receive it wasn’t just a good soldier — he was better than good. Capt. Christopher Young is the first male commissioned officer to earn this badge for his unprecedented level of military prowess and readiness in everything from weapons handling to leadership roles at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
“I’m very excited to be the first officer and U.S. Army Reserve to have the ESB,” said Young. “I’m looking forward to bringing more officers and enlisted people into the fold and growing us out the best way possible, while doing it the right way.”
According to the Army Training and Doctrine Command, only 19 percent of 5000 Soldiers who have sought the ESB have successfully passed.
Young explained that at the beginning of the course, his instructors informed them that out of the hundreds of participants there, they only expected about five of them to graduate.
“You think, alright, well that’s just somebody being very overzealous,” he said, “but as the days went by, and people would be escorted out, you started to see that that was a realization.”
He described his experience as being one of the hardest things he’s ever done in his military career. The decoration was to be given only to those who possessed extraordinary skill in weapons use, tactics and leadership. It requires careful training, discipline, and patience.
“It took a lot of training and a lot of dedication and a lot of sleepless nights of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone in order to accomplish it,” he said.
Young explained that during one of his sleepless nights, he made a special request to have weapons brought back to their containment area so that they’d be able to spend time working on them. He said it had been a while since he had his hands on them and wanted to re-familiarize himself with it.
“I spent many hours just staying up working the mechanics of the different weapons systems to make sure that I had it at a level where I was comfortable and could test out on,” he said.
Other than sleepless nights, Young recalls losing between 10 and 15 pounds due to the physical and mental stress he experienced during the course.
“When I was ready to hit the wall or quit, I just kept going forward,” he said. “Every day was just a kind of a blessing because after every day, I made it to the next day.”
He told himself every day that he just wanted to make it to the next day and that he wanted to keep going as a motivation to himself. He said that when an event was hard and he was getting stressed out, he would picture the badge on his chest.
Now that his hard work and determination has paid off, Young is looking at going to Airborne or Pathfinder school.
He said that if you, or a Soldier you know, are seeking to earn the ESB, he advises that you begin studying and preparing yourself mentally and physically as soon as you can.
The Expert Soldier Badge is a coveted military decoration. It takes tremendous effort, patience, and grit to complete just one of the many tasks to earn this badge. Even though it requires intense focus, there is a lot of fun mixed in with the hard work, explained Young.
“I want to add a shout out and special thanks to my Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Jessica Sanders, for coming to my graduation and supporting me along the way. Civil Affairs Leads the Way.”