JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Four-man teams road marched and carried litters through an obstacle course Jan. 25 for the Brave Mercy Medic Stakes competition at the Jameson Combat Medic Training Center at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
The competition included units from Task Force 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade, a subordinate unit of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) at Fort Hood, Texas, and took place, Jan. 25 - 27.
"The purpose of the event was to test the combat medic and Soldier skills of the competitors over the course of a physically and mentally demanding three-day event," said Master Sgt. Michael J. Rubio, the chief veterinary non-commissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 61st MMB.
Rubio, a San Antonio native, said the Brave Mercy Medic Stakes was designed to evaluate the medics' competence in medical skills, common military tasks, and overall physical fitness.
2nd Lt. Jason A. Browning, the civil military operations officer with TF 61st MMB, said the medical competition encouraged the best medics in the task force to compete and have fun.
Browning, the officer in charge of the Brave Mercy Medic Stakes and a Marlow, Okla., native, said the 18 Soldiers were tested on an individual basis, competing in events ranging from a litter obstacle course, evacuation lanes, an Army physical fitness test, a six-mile road march, Soldier skills, emergency medical technician skills and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.
There were 11 graded lanes in the three-day event.
The litter obstacle course was a favorite among the Soldiers, said Browning. In this event, four-man teams carried a casualty on a litter throughout an obstacle course that started in a narrow passage, included low crawling under barbed wire, overcoming high and low wall obstacles and maneuvering on rough terrain, he said.
Spc. Ray E. Brown, a health care specialist with the 501st Area Support Medical Company out of Fort Campbell, Ky., said his team had to keep constant communication with their teammates and make sure they used proper commands during the obstacle course.
"The most interesting [event] was the litter obstacle course," said Brown, a Colleyville, Texas, native.
He said the competition offered a variation in his routine, helped him stay motivated and allowed him to meet some new faces.
"There is plenty to learn from other medics while you're here," said Brown.
Browning said this is the first time they have conducted an event of this nature within the task force, and the event allowed for a healthy competition.
"The importance of a competition like this, is it builds cohesion within the units," said Browning. "[It] gives people over here in Iraq a mission to train for and then rewards our Soldiers for their hard work."
Sgt. 1st Class Gregory G. Barriffe, non-commissioned officer in charge of the Brave Mercy Medic Stakes with the TF 61st MMB and a New York native, said the competition will help participants prepare to test for and earn their Expert Field Medical Badge.
"I think it is a good competition," said Barriffe. "It will get Soldiers to prepare for the future and know how to do basic medical Soldier skills, and have a good feel for the EFMB."
Rubio said the Soldiers were exposed to the same tasks, conditions and standards they would encounter during the EFMB standardization and testing, with the exception of a land navigation course.
"It puts the responsibility of standardization [or] training back onto the individual Soldier prior to competition," he said.
Browning said the event went smoothly.
"I expect the Soldiers to leave this competition feeling like they were tasked and tested on their medical, technical and Soldier skills, and come out of this competition feeling that the winners really earned the title Brave Mercy Medical Stakes," he said.