FORT HOOD, Texas - During an emotional finale to a grueling 13-day course designed to identify those who possess the highest level of professional skill and proficiency, only a few had demonstrated that they earned the right to wear the Expert Field Medical Badge.
A ceremony at Sadowski Field honored 22 soldiers, from units throughout Fort Hood, who successfully completed the EFMB course Oct. 4. Of the 230 Soldiers to volunteer for the course, these few displayed the perseverance the course demanded.
“This is one of the proudest moments of my life, and I feel like I have done everyone proud,” said Spc. Bruce Stack, a combat medic from 3rd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, adding that he has always wanted people to look at him and know that he was squared away.
“I always try to present myself the best way I can, and this is just one more way to show that I know what I am doing and am on top of my game,” Stack said.
This was the first EFMB course to be held on Fort Hood since 2008.
“Now that we have the time and resources, we hope the results of this event will lay the groundwork for more frequent EFMB events in the future,” Maj. Caryn Vernon, the Tactical Operations Center officer-in-charge, said.
Candidates were trained by the course evaluators in a number of individual tasks, such as tactical combat casualty care, communication, evacuation platform, warrior skills and land navigation during the standardization week of the course.
The candidates began test week with a written exam, which was the only part of the course that a candidate could fail and have the opportunity to retest. The catch is the retest would be at the end of test week before the 12-mile road march.
“There typically is a high-failure rate for the EFMB course. On average, only 15 percent of the candidates pass, because should they fail one portion of the course, they are sent home without the option to finish the course,” Vernon said.
At Combat Testing Lane 1, candidates were presented with 16 tasks, including a weapons function check and reaction to sniper fire. From there, candidates had to use tactical movements until they reached their first simulated casualty, who suffered from a gunshot wound to the leg.
After a quick assessment of the situation, the candidates had to carry their patient 25-30 meters to a safe zone to conduct a thorough assessment of the patient’s condition.
Next, candidates were presented with a triple casualty scenario, where the casualties suffered from a variety of injuries, such as an open head wound, a fractured arm, an abdominal wound and a chest injury.
Candidates then had to determine if the casualties required immediate treatment or evacuation for further care.
“The badge shows that you are the cream of the crop, that you know how to conduct yourself in a field tactical environment, and sets you apart from your peers,” said 1st Sgt. William Dicker, first sergeant of Company B, 21st Combat Support Hospital, as he described how attention to detail leads to success.
Dicker said that while only 4 percent of Soldiers in the medical field have earned the EFMB, he tells candidates not to give up and that it is OK to retake the course.
“The badge knows if it is your time,” said Dicker, who earned his badge in 1997 after more than one attempt.
At CTL 2, candidates were presented with a 13-task scenario, some of which were the disassembly, assembly and functions check of a 9 mm pistol, reacting to indirect fire and submission of an unexploded ordnance report.
Candidates also had to prepare 10 casualties, averaging 140-pounds each, for evacuation. The first five casualties had to be loaded onto a Humvee, while the rest had to be lifted more than four feet off the ground and placed in the back of a 5-ton truck. Candidates were only given 15 minutes to perform this task.
In the final task on this lane, candidates had to react to a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear attack, where they donned their pro-mask, decontaminated themselves and reported their situation to their command.
“Preparation is key and utilize your time wisely,” said Capt. Lloyd Mason, officer-in-charge, who wears the badge. “It sets you apart from your peers.”
At CTL 3, candidates like Spc. Christopher Lee, a combat medic from 21st CSH, were presented with such tasks as radio assembly and operation, clearing the lane of any traps or obstructions and rendering aid or the evacuation of casualties.
This lane had three of the five communication tasks for the whole course, and if a candidate missed two of the communication tasks in this lane, they were disqualified from the course and sent home.
“This is the pressure that the test itself adds to the candidates and makes this badge so difficult to earn,” 1st Lt. Christopher Rodriguez, officer-in-charge of CTL 3, said.
“It was challenging to make sure I completed each step,” Lee said, adding that rainy weather during testing week made the obstacles even harder to overcome.
The final test of mental and physical fortitude was a 12-mile road march, which candidates had three hours to complete. This seemed to be the most difficult task of the whole course, because many of the candidates, quite literally, collapsed into the arms of their peers as they crossed the finish line.
Exhausted, dehydrated and covered in sweat, each candidate was directed to the medical personnel on stand-by, who aided each candidate to a quick recovery. Those who made the 12-mile road march in the allotted time had to stand in formation to receive their EFMB.
At the ceremony, 22 soldiers were recognized for their determination and dedication to become experts in their field.
The guest speaker at the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Dean Milner, III Corps deputy commanding general (Canada), told the new EFMB recipients that they were an inspiration, exemplifying how persistence pays off.
Following Milner’s speech, soldiers stood in formation as friends, Family members and co-workers swelled their ranks to show their support, and to pin the prestigious badge to their Army Combat Uniform blouse.