You are here


Infantry: Where the Action Is

Whether you’re joining the Guard or considering changing your MOS, here’s why infantry might be the right fit

If you want to be on the frontlines engaging the enemy, enjoy the rush of blowing things up, or are dedicated to leading troops into battle, an 11 series Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) is for you.

The oldest branch in the Army, the infantry represents what the military was built on—foot Soldiers. And it’s filled with individuals who carry that weight with pride. 

There are three MOSs in the 11 series. Infantrymen, 11B, constitute the main land combat force. They perform reconnaissance missions, provide security in convoys and engage in ground combat. Mortarmen, 11C, also known as indirect fire infantrymen, drop explosives on the enemy, and locate and neutralize mines. Infantry officers, 11, lead the infantry and combined Armed Forces during land combat. Here’s a breakdown of those roles.

Infantryman (11B)

Main equipment: M4, M249, M240L, rucksack, your feet

Overview: In the past, an infantryman’s mission was limited to seeking and destroying enemy forces. In today’s Army, their mission may also include diplomacy and keeping the peace.

Did you know: The infantry branch is often referred to as the “Queen of Battle.” That term is believed to originate from chess, where the queen is the most powerful and versatile piece on the board.

This MOS may be for you if … Your childhood was spent outside with a toy gun, and if today you want to be the tip of the spear.

When you enlist as an infantryman, you can expect tough training, trigger time on the latest weapon systems and the respect of your fellow countrymen. Yes, the job description includes danger, mental and physical challenges, and other hardships. These Soldiers live for it. And there are rewards that make serving in the infantry well worth it.

There is no closer bond formed between Soldiers than the camaraderie built through shared adversity and team efforts to overcome obstacles. If the infantry is the backbone of the Army, then the individual Soldiers that form this structure must have spines of steel.

Sergeant First Class Kurtis Defoor of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s C Company, 1/110th Infantry, 2nd Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, has three overseas tours under his belt. He has experienced combat in Iraq and has seen fellow infantrymen rise to the occasion.

Defoor uses his real-life battlefield experiences as teaching tools for his younger Soldiers. “During training, you can see the strengths and weaknesses of each guy,” he says. “My platoon builds off of the things I’ve learned from actually being there. That’s a lot better than just reading about how to do it in a book.”

He explains that in today’s modern, tech-savvy Army, the days of the dumb grunt are dead. “With daggers, Blue Force Trackers, night optical devices, digitized radios and other electronic equipment, an infantryman needs to use both his brains and his brawn on the battlefield,” Defoor says. “And of course, old-fashioned land navigation, patrolling, actions on the objective, combatives and door-kicking are still prerequisites.”

Serving since 1999, the 11B platoon sergeant knows he has the best MOS in the Army. “I’d point out to people considering the infantry that it is a stepping stone to exciting occupations,” Defoor says. “From here, you learn the basics used by Special Forces as well as civilian SWAT teams and law enforcement agencies.”

He believes a good infantryman needs to be aggressive, physically fit and have the ability to think on their feet. “When you’re a kid playing with your G.I. Joes in the sandbox in the backyard, who do you pretend to be? An infantryman, of course.”

Mortarman (11C)

Main equipment: 60 mm, 81 mm and 120 mm mortars

Overview: 11Cs operate and fire mortars, which are some of the most jaw-dropping weapons on the battlefield. 

Did you know: Mortar fuses can be set to detonate while in the air, on impact or even after impact. 

This MOS may be for you if … You get a thrill from explosives and enjoy working elbow to elbow with other Soldiers in a team environment.

A mortarman works on a three-man team that fires mortars during combat. The teamwork and skill of each member is vital to success.

The gunner is responsible for aiming and firing. The assistant gunner sets the base and drops the rounds into the cannon. The ammo bearer ensures the mortar is properly constructed—making sure it has the right charge and proper fuse. Once the ammo bearer has the round set up, he hands it to the assistant gunner, who drops it into the barrel. After the gunner aims and fires it, the whole process starts again.

Sergeant First Class Kenneth Brooks, a Georgia Soldier who has spent 22 years in the National Guard, has been an 11C for 15 years and loves the teamwork aspect of the job. When a crew works together well, it looks like a strange dance to the uninitiated. But to Brooks, it’s pure beauty. 

“In my opinion, it’s the best MOS in the military,” says Brooks, who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. “It involves individual skills and teamwork. To have a mortar crew that is a team that works together, to me, is the greatest thing on earth.”

The more a team works together and the better the individuals know one another and their jobs, the more effective the team becomes. Brooks says that is especially true in the National Guard because Soldiers don’t get transferred as much as in other military components. 

The weapons can be used to fire great distances (the 120 mm’s range is 7,200 meters) or in close combat (the 60 mm mortar can be fired by hand at enemies who are close enough to be seen). In fact, it’s in those scenarios that 60 mm mortars are perhaps most effective. 

“The machine guns are nice, but when you can send a sixty-millimeter round out there, that was usually a game changer against the Taliban,” Brooks says. “To see something that was going to explode coming their way, they didn’t like that.”

Infantry Officer (11)

Main equipment: M4

Overview: Infantry officers inspire and lead their comrades during combat. 

Did you know: Infantry officers can volunteer for specific developmental assignments in Airborne and Ranger units.

This MOS may be for you if … You push onward in the fight when many would want to fall back.

An infantry officer must be driven, persistent and tenacious. Most important though, he must be willing to do whatever it takes to prepare Soldiers for battle and lead them into it, making sure their mission succeeds. 

“He needs to have the analytical ability necessary to understand his commander’s mission-essential tasks and diagnose his platoon’s and company’s weaknesses through well-planned training and evaluation,” says Captain David Engelman, commander of A Company, 1/175th Infantry, Maryland National Guard.

Engelman likes the infantry because it affords Soldiers the opportunity to receive training and the chance to apply that training. The commander, who works at the National Guard Bureau as an Innovative Readiness Training program manager and has deployed to Iraq and Egypt, attended Sniper School, Pathfinder School, Airborne School, Air Assault School and Ranger School.

An infantry officer needs more than just technical skills to succeed in his job. He needs audacity. “He needs to have the drive and courage to stand alongside his men no matter how bad the conditions are. In the infantry world, an officer will eat, sleep, train, fight and possibly die next to his men,” Engelman says. “He must understand that respect is not given. It’s earned.”

Gaining that respect involves demonstrating competence, confidence and calm, no matter the circumstances. “An infantry officer must be ready to lead by example at all times,” he says. “To do this, he must have the discipline to maintain peak physical fitness, stay current and knowledgeable in infantry doctrine and have the emotional control to push his unit to mission success no matter how difficult the challenge may be.”

Click here to learn more about the infantry experience.


Photo © FLICKR