By Staff Sgt. Tanya Thomas
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – More than 30 Iraqi army soldiers showcased their medic skills as part of testing for the Iraqi Field Medical Badge competition, May 2-4, at Al Asad Air Base.
The three-day competition was a culminating exercise modeled after the requirements to earn the U.S. Army’s Expert Field Medical Badge. It also highlighted the successes and lessons learned from U.S. soldiers assigned to the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.
“The IFMB is much like the [U.S. Army’s] Expert Field Medical Badge competition,” said Sgt. Kenneth Stover, a medic assigned to C Company, 703rd BSB and a Philadelphia native. “They [IA soldiers] were held to the same standard as us. It took me three times to earn my EFMB; it’s not an easy badge to get. Competing for the IFMB is a chance for the Iraqi army medics to prove themselves amongst their peers.”
The competitors in the event consisted of medics from the 1st and 7th Iraqi Army Divisions and Iraqi Special Operations Forces who arrived at 4 a.m. on Day 1 for a physical fitness test. Dressed in their military uniform and combat boots, the medics kicked off the competition with one minute of push-ups, one minute of sit-ups, and a one-mile run. After the physical fitness test, they switched gears and were challenged with a comprehensive written exam.
The competition intensified on the second day as each soldier navigated through a trauma lane, treating simulated combat casualties at seven separate stations. The event concluded on Day 3 with a six-mile forced road march.
“It was real hard work. This is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do, physically and mentally,” said Cpl. Hameed Firas, of the 1st IA Div.
Firas credited months of training with the U.S. Soldiers to his overall success.
“All of the training in Fallujah has paid off,” he said. “Due to all the practice, I was able to do very well here.”
Several of Firas’ competitors also did well during the event and stayed motivated despite the grueling tasks at hand.
“We’ve never experienced this type of event,” said Sgt. Baha Salman Hasan, with the 7th IA Div., “but our love for our jobs as medics and the encouragement of the American soldiers has kept us strong until the end.”
The IFMB competition marked a major milestone for Iraq, and as one U.S. soldier said, it was a true test of the advise-and-assist mission’s effectiveness.
“It’s a great feeling to see how much the whole group accomplished,” said Sgt. 1st Class Erendira Cortez, a Rialto, Calif., native assigned to C Company, 703rd BSB. “It was especially great to actually see them perform the medical skills with little or no guidance from our medics. It was like they showed us, ‘This is what you taught me; look what I can do now.’”
Spc. Joseph Chaffin, a Tampa, Fla., native and a Company A, 703rd BSB soldier, shared similar sentiments.
“This was beyond everything I’ve ever seen,” said Chaffin after completing the road march alongside one IA soldier. “The Iraqi army has such a drive to learn and such a drive to succeed. They want to be the best at what they do. I’ve earned a lot of respect for them; this was an eye-opening experience.”
Though there could only be one top finisher at the end of the IFMB competition, many agreed that the event itself was an overall win for the country of Iraq and the ‘Maintain Battalion’ soldiers who trained them.