Pass or fail, EFMB candidates endure tough training
May 20, 2014
FORT HOOD, Texas -- More than 200 Fort Hood Soldiers, around two-dozen from the 1st Brigade Combat Team "Ironhorse," 1st Cavalry Division spent 10 days working through their own limitations to find out what it takes to become an expert in their field.
From May 10 through 20, Soldiers in medical professions endured pouring rain, mud, a challenging land navigation course, three Combat Testing Lanes, a written test and a 12-mile ruck march during training and testing for the Expert Field Medical Badge.
Regardless of the outcome, these candidates experienced the training and witnessed what it takes to earn the EFMB, a badge signifying physical fitness, mental toughness and proficiency in medical and Soldier skills.
For many participants, including Sgt. Cindy Rojas, a combat medic, and Spc. Lawrence Echon, a dental specialist, both assigned to the 91st Brigade Engineer Battalion "Saber" of the Ironhorse Brigade, this isn't their first trip through the EFMB lanes.
Rojas, a Salinas, California, native, excelled during her two previous attempts, scoring high in each lane, but tragedy struck during the 12-mile ruck march on her first EFMB.
"(On) mile eight, I started running," Rojas said. "I was still on time, (but I) tripped and fell on my tibia. (I) broke my tibia and tore a calf muscle."
It took Rojas a year to get back into shape after her injury, but she went after the EFMB once again. After making it through the lanes her second time, she missed the ruck march cutoff time by only a few seconds.
Although disappointed, Rojas trained even harder for the ruck march this time, determined not to let the near miss stop her from earning the badge she strived for since she trained to be a medic at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Aside from not making it in the past, Rojas said she believes the training is still valuable. She said there are things she would not have had the opportunity to learn without participating in EFMB.
Echon, who is shooting for the badge for his fourth time, agreed.
"It's good training, great training," said Echon, a native of Yigo, Guam. "You learn a lot of new stuff, (and) you get to know a lot of people."
Echon said he feels an advantage this time around having been through the training before. He had a hard time with day and night land navigation and the written test in previous attempts.
"You have to be physically fit, because everything here is a smoker," Echon said. "You have to know what to do when you're tired."
Basic Soldier skills like land navigation, weapons knowledge, movement and communication account for a large portion of the EFMB qualification, so Echon's unit used Sergeant's Time Training to prepare months in advance.
"I think if you study hard and listen to whatever they teach you, then you will pass," Echon said.
With high hopes, Echon said it's always possible for everybody to succeed. He said he has wanted to wear the badge ever since he saw a drill sergeant wearing it in initial entry training.
Rojas said her favorite part of the EFMB is completing the lanes, because she knows she tried her best.
"It's great training, and it's always good to get out and see people from different groups. Different ranks all come together, try and teach each other to get something," Rojas said.