News: Medical soldiers train in preparation for Expert Field Medical Badge
Story by Staff Sgt. Mark Miranda
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Approximately 250 medical branch soldiers gathered to put in long hours and hard work toward earning the right to wear the Expert Field Medical Badge during the train-up and standardization week, April 1-6.
Candidates from across the U.S. will join local soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to try for the honor of wearing the badge.
Established in 1965, the EFMB is a prestigious Department of the Army-level special skill badge for the recognition of exceptional competence and outstanding performance by Army medical personnel.
It is a test of an individual medical soldier’s physical fitness, mental toughness and ability to perform to standards of excellence in a wide range of critical medical and soldier skills. Candidates are tested on medical, communication, evacuation and combat skills. They also must successfully complete a written examination, a 12-mile march and day and night land navigation courses.
“Combat Training Lane One is where the most people end up eliminated because it’s so attention-to-detail oriented,” said Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Hernandez, one of the training cadre for the EFMB. “Little things will trip you up here…forget to tie a slip knot on one of your bandages, forgetting to place the ‘T’ on the forehead of a casualty after applying a tourniquet.”
“My staff and my evaluators are going to give these candidates every opportunity to train. On that last day, we want to see as many people cross the finish line of the foot march as we can,” Hernandez said.
Several tasks are tested on the three Combat Training Lanes. On CTL1, there are 14 tactical combat casualty care tasks, three warrior skills and three evacuation tasks. Candidates must be able to pass 11 of the 14 tasks in less than an hour.
For many, working on earning the EFMB is a way to be challenged outside of a garrison medical environment.
“After 12 years, this is the first opportunity I’ve had to go after the EFMB,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy Roberts, a lab technician from Coopersville, Mich., assigned to 153rd Medical Detachment.
“At my unit I’ve been Soldier of the Year, [Noncommissioned Officer] of the Year, Recruiter of the Year and it’s one of those things that I was looking for to push myself, to keep from being complacent. I’d want to be able to push my soldiers to try for this.”
“I know triage, splinting fractures, treating shock. It would be a great feeling of accomplishment to stand apart, to be an example for my soldiers, my family,” Roberts said.
For Sgt. Justin Gavit, a lab technician from Round Rock, Texas, this is a second chance to attain the EFMB.
“I would hate to come out here with the confidence I’ve worked to build and then fail at it,” said Gavit, currently assigned to Madigan Army Medical Center. “My last attempt was in March 2011; it was the ruck march that got to me.”
All candidates stay on-site near the training areas. So far, Gavit has been impressed with the living conditions, layout of the course and the setup of this EFMB qualifier.
“At the end of our days looking at these lanes, after dinner chow, we have the option to go to study halls,” Gavit said. “One of the buildings near our barracks is set up with all the tasks inside. All the dummies, all the prosthetic arms to practice the [intravenous treatment], all the equipment is there so you can run a scenario and have hands-on training. It’s great to be able to work out if you have any technique that needs improvement.”
Any soldier, regardless of rank, who has a medical military occupation series or medically-related position within Army Medicine — to include veterinarians, dentists, lab technicians, health care administrators, officers in training at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Army officers enrolled in the Health Professions Scholarship Program, and warrant officers who are assigned to an air ambulance unit — are eligible to earn and wear the EFMB.
“I didn’t sleep well the night before I started the EFMB when I went for it here at JBLM in 2003,” said Maj. Brendon Watson, the chair for the board of evaluators.
“I slept four hours, that’s the most I could dedicate to sleep because I chose to burn midnight oil, staying up late to practice. I’ve recommended these soldiers to battle-buddy up, and fight to motivate one another. These are tough lanes with a lot of subtasks. I am here to adjudicate any issues that might come from a lane. It’s the candidates’ job to beat my evaluators.”
“These soldiers know the tasks; they’re trained. This is the time for them to ask questions because it’s showtime after this,” Watson said.
The soldiers are scheduled to train at least 14 hours a day through the end of the week. The EFMB will begin April 7 with a written exam and skill tests on land navigation.