For the more than 60 years since it was introduced, the Combat Infantryman Badge and Expert Infantryman Badge separated the warriors from the support staff in the eyes of many soldiers.
Starting in 1944, members of infantry, Special Forces or Ranger units received the shiny powder blue pins for fighting in active ground combat or excelling in a competition to test their skills.
That is, until 2005. As the Global War on Terror sent thousands of soldiers from all military occupational specialties on patrols or convoys that brought with them the dire threat of improvised explosive devices and ambushes, the services began to award the Combat Action Badge to anyone who had engaged with the enemy while not serving in an infantry-type unit.
The move was met with much groaning from the CIB-eligible community, and the reaction was similar with the unveiling of plans for the EAB, the garrison answer to the infantry's EIB.
"Nope. We all got to choose our MOS. One of them came with a few additional badges," wrote Ryan Dickinson Gamc on Army Times' Facebook page. "If you didn't pick that one, cool. Now move on with your life."
Others agreed, calling the badge a participation trophy.
"No. You get to wear the U.S. ARMY tape for completing basic soldier skills," wrote Robb Lundberg. "This would legitimately just be a participation trophy."
"I would be curious to see the 'skills test.' Earning your EIB is no easy task," wrote Kevin Jones. "In my opinion, the 'inclusion' is going too far. Just like the completely broken awards system in the Army, the powers that be are degrading the accomplishments of others to accommodate those that just want another badge. It seems like those that are not willing to sacrifice are being rewarded for being a soldier."
Pfc. Connor Haste of the 82nd Airborne Division, approaches a notional enemy soldier during Expert Infantryman Badge testing. The Army is testing a new badge that would be similar to the EIB but designed for non-infantry soldiers.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Mary S. Katzenberger/Army
Asked about the detractors, Dailey was unconcerned.
"I don't think a few comments represent the opinion of the entire force," he told Army Times. "However, varying thoughts and opinions are why we have pilot programs like the one ongoing for the Expert Action Badge. We're going to look at the EAB, conduct the pilot and assessment, and go back to leadership for final recommendations."
Despite the barrage of negative reactions, there were many who showed support, inside and outside of the infantry.
"I don't see the problem with this badge. Infantry and medics get one, why can't other MOSs?" Jeremy Adams wrote. "It's a way to motivate non-infantry and non-medics to get better at basic warrior skills. ... So, if this shiny badge makes my soldiers dig in and make themselves better, then I'm all for it, and so should everyone else here that is butt hurt not being exclusive. We're all on the same team here."
Others wondered why the badge couldn't be tailored to specific MOSs.
"I don't disagree with other MOSs having their own expert badge they can earn. But a blanket Expert Action Badge is kind of silly in my opinion," wrote Kyle Semper Anticus. "Have each MOS come up with their own list of pertinent tasks they deem critical, and test soldiers on them over the course of several days, then they get their expert MOS badge. That seems reasonable to me."
Dailey, however, said that the badge is designed to apply to all soldiers, rather than being tailored to MOSs like armor or artillery.
"The EAB is about building individual skills," he said. "It also reinforces readiness, and that applies to all soldiers — not just armor or artillery."
Gragg encouraged infantry soldiers to be more accepting.
"I would express to them to not be emotional about it," he said. "Look at the logic of it."
The award is not meant to dilute the prestige of any other expert badges, officials said.
"It's about rediscovering a culture of training your soldiers," Davenport said.
And as for the name, it's not set in stone. During the town hall, several live commenters suggested a re-brand to the Warrior Skills Badge or the Expert Warrior Badge, pointing out that the word "action" has a combat connotation that doesn't apply to this expert award.
"We solicit that kind of feedback," Davenport said. "Does it actually, in fact, improve readiness? The naming of it, again, that's subject to change as well."
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT