FORT HOOD, Texas - Deep in the rugged terrain of Central Texas, soldiers of the 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade prepared to welcome 309 candidates Oct 17.
Those candidates are competing for the Expert Field Medical Badge, which began Monday and runs through Oct. 31.
“The EFMB is the most sought-after badge and is the toughest to get,” said Sgt. Juliane McClowsky, an animal care specialist with the 43rd Medical Detachment Veterinary Service Support. “It shows that you are an expert in the medical field.”
Established in 1965, the Army created the badge to identify those with a special skill of medical proficiency, competency and performance in a field environment, said Capt. Daniel Davis, commander of the 582nd Medical Logistics Company and the EFMB officer in charge.
Despite the badge’s prominent history, the recent years of conflict and budget constraints made it difficult for installations and units to host this kind of event, Davis said. With the tempo slowing down in Iraq and Afghanistan, opportunities to try out for the badge should increase, he added.
“We received the mission to host the event in May, and there are about 10 organizations that are involved from 1st Cavalry Division, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 56th Signal Support, as well as civilian organizations,” Davis said.
From the moment the Test Control Office, from Fort Sam Houston, announced the EFMB course here, Davis said soldiers in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Oklahoma and Washington state began requesting candidate slots.
“Then we had to cancel all temporary duty assignments due to budget constraints, and had to turn them down,” Davis said.
Even so, soldiers of the 582nd Medical Logistics Company are still able to sustain up to 300 participants throughout the EFMB event, he said.
The EFMB course is a two-week event consisting of a standardization week and a testing week, Davis said.
During these events, the candidates will be tested in land navigation, tactical combat care, radio communications, litter carries and medical-evacuation procedures, Davis said.
“Our days will start with introducing ourselves to the candidates,” said Spc. Kyle Morneau, a combat medic with the 546th Area Support Medical Company and lane evaluator. “We will go step-by-step through each task for them, and then break them for lunch.
“After lunch, we will send one of us evaluators down to actually show them the lane so they can see how it flows,” Morneau said. “Then we will break them off into their own individual tasks.”
Throughout standardization week, soldiers can ask questions, take notes and attend study hall in the evenings to be better prepared for what lies ahead, Davis said.
“For a candidate to be successful, it takes hours of studying for the written test, conducting numerous miles of foot marches and conducting numerous hours of day and night navigation,” Davis said.
“The culminating event is a 12-mile foot march that must be completed in three hours,” Davis said. “It is on the last day, the participants will finish up at graduation.”
Although the EFMB course is tough, the event offers necessary experience and college credit in the end and many soldiers are encouraged to attend, Davis said.
“Any soldier that’s in the medical field that wants to come, I encourage them to come out and try,” McClowsky said. “It will make you a better person afterwards because it is tough. It’s definitely a challenge that is worth its reward.”