The Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB) was designed in 1965 as a special skill award for the recognition of exceptional competence and outstanding performance by field medical personnel in the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) Corps. The challenge is open to Soldiers with an MOS in the Career Management Field (CMF) 68, MOS 18D, or in an AMEDD area of concentration. The first time I heard the words “Expert Field Medical Badge,” I will admit that I was a little intimidated. I was placed into the 84th Engineer Battalion Medical Officer (MEDO) position the first week of my Army career after just completing Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course. Since I spent the majority of the first two months trying to understand my job, it was difficult to allocate time toward adequate preparation. I did not even know if the Test Board would allow me to compete for the prestigious badge. However, by currently serving in the role of the 84th Engineer Battalion Medical Officer, I was able to conduct the training and contend for the badge, even as an Engineer Officer.
In order to be eligible for the badge, candidates must meet prerequisites before the start date of the EFMB test. Each candidate must volunteer for EFMB testing, have a current passing Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), current weapon qualification within one year, possess a current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification, and, in my opinion most important, be physically and mentally prepared to cope with the rigorous demands of the EFMB test. Staff Sergeant Jaime Lara, the 84th Engineer Battalion Aid Station (BAS) NCOIC and I coordinated, planned and executed a five-day train-up with the 130th Engineer Brigade in order to better prepare our Soldiers. We had prior badge-holders design, prepare, and grade lanes as we progressed through the crawl, walk and run phases. Even after the train-up week, a majority of the tasks were still difficult for me to wrap my head around; however, I felt more confident in myself as the actual testing date approached.
One week of standardization is conducted prior to testing to ensure that candidates understand how EFMB testing will be conducted at the particular location. The standardization phase is used to allow the candidate an opportunity to view how the events will be evaluated and tested, provide them the opportunity to clarify any questions, and afford Soldiers 36 hours of continued education unit (CEU) credit hours. The train-up week with the 130th Engineer Brigade made standardization week seem familiar, which allowed the Soldiers and I to focus on fine-tuning our skills. One of my favorite parts of standardization and testing week was the mandatory one-hour study hall each night. It gave me the opportunity to spend time with my Soldiers, learning about their lives and absorbing their tips and tricks from their experience as Army medics.
Testing was tough. Throughout the duration of training and testing, candidates are completely immersed in medical terminology, countless acronyms, and the never ceasing repetition and visualization of each lane. I am almost certain that others started ignoring me after the eleventh time I verbally ran through the lane and insisted we get hands on every single task. The testing consists of a 60 question written exam, three Combat Testing Lanes, day and night land navigation, and a 12-mile ruck march in under three hours. The testing lanes are comprised of a multitude of Tactical Combat Casualty Care, evacuation, communication and warrior tasks. The grading scale is simple; GO or NO-GO. Even if you miss one simple step or accidently complete a step out of order, you are a NO-GO for the entire task. You are allowed to miss three TCCC tasks, two evacuation tasks, one communications task, and three warrior tasks. SGT Walton mentioned that prior to attending EFMB she was overwhelmed and thought it would be impossible to memorize the lanes and perform each task to the standard. However, after standardization, nightly study hall sessions and constant repetition, she felt immensely more confident and executed the lanes with little error, as did the majority of our Soldiers.
I think most candidates would agree with me when I say that the greatest challenge of EFMB was day and night land navigation. Day land navigation eliminated roughly one-third of the candidates, while night land navigation purged half of those who were still remaining. The combination of constant rain and minimal illumination during night land navigation made it seem as if we were scavenging East Range for our points blindfolded.
At 0200 on the morning of the 12-mile ruck march, it was down to SSG Lara and I from the 84th Engineer Battalion. I was in shock to have made it so far with only 26 candidates remaining from the original 214. After 10 days of non-stop, physically taxing events and little sleep, our bodies and minds were exhausted. 12 miles was no easy feat. When SSG Lara and I finally finished we conducted our final layout on opposite sides of the field, but that didn’t keep us from shouting and expressing our joy for everyone to witness. He claims he was the happiest Soldier on the field that morning, but I think he was still competing with the 21 remaining candidates who would have their Expert Field Medical Badge pinned on their chest later that morning.
I owe a majority of my success and desire to compete for the badge to SSG Lara. Throughout EFMB testing, I doubted myself and caught myself thinking that it was too difficult and I would not be able to complete it. SSG Lara continuously reminded me that “it is just a challenge, and any challenge can be overcome.” He reiterated many times that “EFMB is one of the most mentally and physically challenging competitions in the military, and the attrition rate is historically high.” Sergeant Alyssa Walton and Specialist Haoda Zhong, Soldiers in the 84th Engineer Battalion, agreed that earning the badge would distinguish them from their peers and help support their career progression. We had a total of ten Soldiers from the 84th Engineer Battalion and 130th Engineer Brigade compete for the badge. I believe it was SSG Lara’s positive attitude and determination to succeed that motivated my Soldiers and I to make it as far as we did.