News: The Expert Field Medical Badge tests Fort Carson’s health care best
Story by Sgt. Grady Jones
FORT CARSON, Colo. – Simulated artillery and gunfire echoed through Camp Red Devil on Fort Carson as soldiers playing the role of casualties cried for help while being loaded on to air ambulances by medics competing for the Expert Field Medical Badge, Sept. 7-18.
In the end, seven health care specialists earned the prestigious badge out of the 185 who participated in the course.
“It’s the mark of the elite,” said Lt. Col. Brian Spangler, EFMB test board chairman and executive officer, 10th Combat Support Hospital. “You have to be sharp mentally and physically.”
The EMFB is the Army health care profession’s equivalent to the Expert Infantryman Badge and, once earned, becomes a permanent decoration on the soldier’s uniform.
“I think (the EFMB) symbolizes hard work, dedication and sacrifice - just being the best you can be,” said Capt. Christopher Bass, veterinarian, 438th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Services), 10th CSH. “It’s not just about being in great shape or the smartest person. You have to be really well-rounded. You have to be confident in yourself and confident in your abilities.”
According to Staff Sgt. Robert Mullins, treatment platoon sergeant, Company C, 64th, Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th ID, the EFMB course has an average 15-18 percent passing rate across the Army.
Some consider it the toughest badge to earn in the army, including Pfc. Joshua Frerichs, healthcare specialist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd ABCT.
“I really, really wanted this badge,” said Frerichs. “I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way of getting it.”
EFMB recipients are considered to be among the top health care soldiers in the Army. All soldiers working in health care fields are eligible to earn the right to wear the badge.
“It means to be one of the best of the best,” said Sgt. 1st Class Rosario Quintanilla, medical platoon sergeant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd ABCT, 4th ID.
The 12-day course was divided into two, six-day periods: one period for standardization and one for assessments. Candidates had to successfully complete the assessment stage, which consisted of three combat test lanes totaling 40 tasks, a 50 question written test, day and night land navigation, and a 12-mile road march which had to be completed in three hours or less while carrying a 35-pound rucksack.
Candidates were not allowed to perform tasks for a second time and were only allowed to fail a total of three tasks, and miss one out of four points for night land navigation.
The written test usually screens out about 25 percent of candidates before going on to the next phase of the course according to EFMB statistics.
“It was the first time I’ve taken the written exam,” Bass said. “I studied quite a bit for it. I felt as if I was back in veterinary school.”
Candidates performed the rest of the tasks under simulated small arms fire and simulated artillery explosions during the assessment phase.
The combat test lanes were very challenging, according to Frerichs.
“It was intense, said Frerichs. “You have to make sure everything is on point.”
A lot of preparation was taken to establish the course to include bringing in personnel from the Army’s EFMB test board from Fort Sam Houston to verify the Fort Carson course.
“We had to reserve (Camp Red Devil),” said Quintanilla. “Then we had to survey the site to figure out where we were going to put everything.”
While the heavy rains received in the area forced the tests indoors for a day, the course was able to continue on schedule and seven soldiers walked across the finish line Sept. 18 knowing they had finished what they had set out to accomplish.
“It’s a symbol of pride in what we do and what we stand for. It’s the pinnacle of what we do in the medical profession,” said Bass.
For the individuals who didn’t earn the EFMB, next year they will have another chance.
On average most people don’t earn the badge until their 2nd or 3rd try according to Quintanilla.
“They just have to keep going. If it’s something they want, they have to keep coming for it,” he said.
The following soldiers graduated the course:
Pfc. Jordan Parker, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd STB, 3rd ABCT
Pfc. Joshua Frerichs, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd ABCT.
Spc. Thomas Mellone, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team.
Sgt. Toby Barnes, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd ABCT.
Second Lt. Gregory Knobel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Capt. Brittany McAllister, Company A, 10th CSH.
Capt. Molly Byrnes, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 62nd Medical Brigade, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.