Fort Campbell "Strike" Soldiers strive for coveted field medical badge
May 7, 2009
- Two 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division Soldiers earned the coveted EFMB after rigorous training and testing
- 278 Soldiers began the course at Fort Campbell
- A Staff Sergeant strived to succeed after two failed attempts at the badge
- Soldiers who earned the coveted badge said it was the hardest two weeks in the Army
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Nearly 11 years ago, Staff Sgt. Alan Fullerton came into the Army as a combat medic to render aid to any Soldier found wounded on the battlefield. He also had another goal in mind - to earn the coveted Expert Field Medical Badge.
The EFMB is an important badge to medics, signifying their expertise in warrior and combat medical skills.
After two failed attempts at earning the badge, Fullerton set out on yet another journey.
"My very first time I thought I just wasn't prepared for it; I was a younger Soldier," Fullerton said. "My second time it was heartbreaking because I knew I had the capacity to do it, but I just had a bad day. That's all it takes is just one bad day and one mistake."
However, on his third try for the coveted badge, Fullerton stood tall as he crossed the finish line of the 12-mile foot march accomplishing what he set out to do 11 years ago. He could finally be known as an expert field medic.
When Fullerton crossed the finish line it was "probably the best feeling I've had in my military career, knowing that I did something only 10-15% of my field accomplishes."
Along with Fullerton, only one other medic from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), earned the badge - Cpl. Daniel Pugh - who happens to be a medic under Fullerton.
These two Strike Soldiers did something only 29 other medics, out of the 278 candidates, were able to do through sheer determination. On April 24 at the Division Parade Field, they were awarded their EFMB.
The EFMB was first created in June 1965 to recognize medical personnel for attaining a high state of technical skill in field medical functions, which is awarded on the basis of proven skill and performance.
The two-week competition tests the medics under realistic combat conditions and scenarios.
During the first week of the competition, the medics review the testing standards and become more familiar with what they will see during the second week of the competition. They are given a chance to run through each lane and receive hands-on training.
The second week of the competition was test week. This is where the Soldiers ran through each of the combat medical lanes, which covered tactical combat casualty care, communications, medical and casualty evacuation, basic warrior skills, a written test, day and night land navigation, and culminating with a 12-mile road march.
For Fullerton, earning his badge was two of the hardest weeks he has ever endured in the Army.
"It's physically, mentally and emotionally taxing on the body," said Fullerton, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT. "It's difficult to see people fail out after spending more than a week training for it with them. The demands of the testing really test an individual."
While under intense pressure to perform and definite lack of sleep billowing up, these medics endured a lot both physically and mentally.
Each of the combat medical lanes presented very physical and mental demands on the candidates.
Spc. Joshua Matienzo, with Company C, 526th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT, reflected on one such lane through the hilly terrain deep within the woods of Fort Campbell.
Matienzo had to move through the lane and negotiate any obstacle presented to him. He began moving through the lane and came upon an enemy choke-point and quickly checked the barbed-wire for explosives. Once he cleared the objective, he moved tactically through the woods as notional indirect enemy fire came flying in.
Soon, he came to his first patients. Two Soldiers, sitting upright in their tactical vehicles, needed immediate medical attention. Matienzo immediately bandage the passenger, whose arm was wounded, then moved to the more serious threat. The driver had a neck injury and Matienzo was able to safely secure his neck in place and remove him from the vehicle, with help from the passenger, and place him on a spine board. He immediately maneuvered him onto a SKED litter and had to safely drag him through the dense wood line until he reached his next objective.
Once their, Matienzo, along with a three-man team, had to safely and quickly maneuver a 170-pound patient on a litter up and down the hilly terrain while ensuring they properly positioned the casualty according to the terrain they were negotiating.
Once he cleared the objective, Matienzo moved directly to the communications testing site where he set up his radio, input the correct frequencies - ensuring he had a solid signal - and called in a 9-line medical evacuation.
Matienzo and his three-man team had to then load his three patients onto the UH-60 Blackhawk properly to ensure they were safely evacuated from the area.
You have to move, react to fire, seek cover, engage the enemy and evacuate casualties," he said. "You see a lot of anxiety, stress and fatigue. It's both physically and mentally tough."
The stressor's of it all was difficult, but through it all two Strike Soldiers stood tall.
"This is true stress training," said Pugh, with HHC, 2nd Bn., 502nd Inf. Regt., 2nd BCT. "You go out there and by the end of day one you are just hating life and you are completely taxed already," but one must be confident and push through the everyday stressors.