FORT BRAGG, N.C.- Two hundred seventeen candidates competed in the Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB) competition hosted by the 44th Medical Brigade at Fort Bragg, Oct. 21 through Nov. 1.
According to the Department of the Army, the EFMB was established in June 1965 as a special skill award for the recognition of exceptional competence and outstanding performance by field medical personnel.
The competition is a two-week long event open to all Soldiers, regardless of their military occupational specialty (MOS).
“Any military personnel can earn the badge; however, only Army medical personnel can wear it,” said Capt. Kenneth Rodriguez, the EFMB officer in charge.
The abilities needed to successfully navigate this competition vary not only in medical skills, but also common warrior skills that include, day and night land navigation, a written test and a 12-mile foot march.
Like many of the skills badges in the Army, the EFMB is physically exhausting. However unlike some other skill badges, the EFMB pushes the candidate’s mental threshold too.
“The written test has 60 questions varying in topics from three different field manuals,” said Sgt. Dezmond Quarels, an EFMB candidate with 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Topics including field sanitation, detainee operations, and topics from the 68W [health care specialist] Soldier’s guide, and Soldier’s manual of common tasks, he said.
Expert Field Medical Badge competitions have some of the highest attrition rates compared to some other skill badges.
“The complexity of the task is more detailed and the pass rate is far lower [than other skills badges], said Rodriguez. “Additionally, the spectrum of MOSs and AOCs [Army Occupation Code] that can compete is wider than what is seen in the Expert Infantry Badge (EIB) competition.
According to the United States Army Infantry School Pamphlet 350-6, enlisted personnel must possess a 11 or 18 series as their primary MOS. Personnel holding the 18D MOS [special forces medical sergeant] are not eligible to test for the EIB. Officers must be branch qualified as infantry or Special Forces. Officers who are branch detailed to the infantry may test for the EIB as long as they have completed the infantry Officer Basic Course and are still on loan to the infantry from the donor branch in accordance with AR 614-100.
The competition itself has stayed constant with the skills required however, with technology today, commands and Family members can now track their Soldier’s progress through the 44th Medical Brigade’s EFMB blog on the Internet.
“Home units can better keep up with how their Soldiers are doing,” said Rodriguez.
This technology provides not only updates for units that are too far away to visit their Soldiers during the competition, but the blog can assist competitors as well.
“The site also allows cadre who are out on the lanes to report at the end of each day what the trends of the lanes have been,” said Rodriguez. “This allows the candidates who will come through the next day to better prepare for the lanes.”
Preparing for competition is just as crucial as the competition itself.
“I did a short train-up on medical skills, since I’m not a medic or doctor by trade, just to be familiar with what would be asked of me,” said Rodriguez. “I read the required study materials a few nights before and ultimately had no problems.”
For many candidates it can be much more difficult than just studying a few nights before.
“The most difficult part for me, as far as the lanes, was land navigation, just because I don’t get to do it as much as I would like,” said Quarels. “For the whole EFMB the hardest part was staying focused on what is in front of you.”
Soldiers who study hard and properly prepare can help increase their odds of receiving the coveted EFMB. This competition ended with only 33 candidates who met the standards required to earn the elusive badge.
“It is one of the hardest badges to earn, with an average of 15 percent graduation rate,” said Quarrels. “If you don’t get it on your first try keep going until you do, it will pay off in the end.”