News: Making the grade: Medical, Dental Soldiers strive for EFMB
Story by Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire
FORT RILEY, Kan. — One hundred and thirty-nine Soldiers from Fort Riley, the 1st Infantry Division and beyond recently tested their mettle on Fort Riley’s training areas in the name of earning the most prestigious medical badge in the Army — the Expert Field Medical Badge.
After a grueling, weeklong schedule of events that included a 60-question written exam, day and night land-navigation, three combat testing lanes and a 12-mile ruck march, 14 remained.
“That cut is extremely tough,” said Brig. Gen. Frank Muth, the deputy commanding general – support for the 1st Inf. Div., who spoke at the award ceremony June 9 at Barlow Theater. “For these (EFMB recipient) Soldiers that is a career, a lifelong achievement that I know they will never forget, as they participated in one of the most grueling tests the U.S. Army can come up with.”
According to the Army Medical Department website, the overall EFMB pass rate for 2013 was only 19 percent.
“As a medic it’s pride and joy” to earn the badge, said Spc. Elvis Palarchie, a medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., and a Montego Bay, Jamaica native, who did not end up earning the badge this rotation. “I’m looking forward to going as far as possible, and if I don’t get it this time, coming back and doing it again.”
Soldiers from both active and reserve components, from as far away as New York and Maryland, made the trip to Fort Riley for this rotation.
“As soon as it was put up on the website that we were running an EFMB in June we began getting requests from units across the country,” 1st Lt. Cory Alford, medical officer with 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div. and the lanes officer-in-charge, said. “It was great to have all these Soldiers come from as far away as the 10th Mountain Division (at Fort Drum, N.Y.) and Walter Reed (Army Medical Center.)”
Each task narrowed the field of competitors. The combat testing lanes — tactical combat casualty care; nuclear, biological, and chemical defense and warrior tasks; and an obstacle course done while bearing a casualty on a litter — were especially tough, according to one Soldier who did finish with his EFMB.
“Each task is very doable, and it seems very easy,” said Capt. Dan McAllister, a dentist with Dental Command at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. “Then when you’re in there doing it, it’s those little things that you just forget when you’re putting 19 tasks together and you’ve got a grader over your shoulder staring you down, I think that’s the most difficult thing…it’s not that uncommon for someone to just completely forget to do a step.”
Spc. Luis Perez, a medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd ABCT, 1st Inf. Div., said he had to re-center himself before each lane.
“Just keeping my mind on faith and Family — my wife, my friends, everyone who went through it with me, my platoon, and music, helped me get in the zone,” he said. Perez was one of the 14 who earned his badge.
With less than twenty Soldiers remaining, the final task was to complete a 12-mile ruck march in less than three hours.
McAllister and 1st Lt. Corey Moore, a medical officer with 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div. and a Flemingsburg, Ky., native, were the first to finish at just over two hours, 20 minutes.
“We came in and expected it to be flat, and it was much hillier than I expected,” Moore said. “We ran the downhills and walked the uphills and just pushed it out.”
Over the next forty minutes, 12 more Soldiers and their sponsors trudged across the finish line as Family — Perez’s wife Bridget among them — and fellow Soldiers cheered them on for the final few steps.
“It’s amazing having my wife out here, I saw her and was so happy,” Perez said. “My legs were cramped but I kept walking strong, I couldn’t look weak.”