JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST-- After nearly 15 days of challenging and exhaustive challenges, 45 Soldiers received the Army?'s prestigious badge known as the Expert Field Medical Badge on April 3.

But what the Soldiers will remember most is what Mother Nature had thrown at them- the worst of three seasons in the way of blustery winds, rain and snow.

"I'll remember laying on the ground doing land navigation during the standardization portion of the training plotting my points and when I got there was two inches of snow on top of my ruck," Capt. Matthew Ruiz, a medical officer with the 174th Infantry Brigade?'s 2nd-312th Training Support Battalion, said.

The night before the last event-the 12-miled time ruck march- as he prepared his pack one last time-the Marlton, N.J. candidate said. "I didn't think I would get this far."

He did finish early the next morning and joined the graduate ranks to receive the coveted medical badge. When he first fell in the formation to test his combat medical and Army Warrior skills there were 180 candidates on March 23. He joined 25-percent of those, 45 Soldiers, to receive the coveted badge.

The grueling attention to detail to survive in combat and save other lives in a combat simulated environment proved to be a daunting task for many.

"You have to be on your game for every Army skill badge. But this badge is not called the really good field medical badge, it?'s called the Expert Field Medical Badge," Master Sgt. Daniel Correll, of the Fort Detrick, Md., headquartered U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, said.

Correll, a Bangor, Pa. native, was the lead evaluator and range noncommissioned officer of one of the three combat training lanes. On his lane, candidates are graded on the skills of evaluating a casualty, and begin immediate combat care to stabilize a patient.

From there, they had to navigate through the many tasks associated with handling medical litters, and communicate to get the patient follow on medical care. Candidates will be graded every detailed step of the way from calling in a nine-line medevac report using various litters to loading the patient in a vehicle or helicopter.

The candidates, from the Army and National Guard, were also graded at various different Soldiers?' tasks known as Army Warrior tasks. There are an estimated 60 medical tasks challenging the candidates on the training lanes.

"The competition is a long journey," Correll said of the long event sponsored by U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command, Fort Detrick, Md. The journey begins with candidates arriving and conducting a detailed show-down inspection in the cantonment area to make sure they have the equipment needed to safely participate in the competition.

From there, the military candidates who are doctors, nurses, combat lifesavers, medics and infantry for the training period were transported to the ASA-Fort Dix field operated Contingency Operating Location. They spent their entire time in the field on the hunt for the badge created by the Army in 1965, which is the non-combat equivalent to the Combat Medical Badge.

In addition to being evaluated on the lanes, personnel work long hours at passing a written test, providing combat medical care in a chemical, biological environment, and perform day and night land navigation.

At the April 3 pinning ceremony, Maj. Gen. Joseph Caravalho, Jr., commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Department Medical Research and Material Command, congratulated all who finished the program.

"As you all know our mission on the battlefield is to save lives. Today, we are better prepared then yesterday," Caravalho said.

Each cadre leader will say the most difficult challenge with the highest wash out rate is their combat training lanes, but there is really no one specific area being the toughest. The NCO Cadre, who wear the badge, will always bring up land navigation as difficult. It could be one missed navigation point difference that will get a candidate a no-go.

Master Sgt. John Castillo, a lane leader from the U.S. Army Public Health Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., said it was the land navigation that knocked him out of the ranks when he tried to get the badge.
"You know, I was a first sergeant-a leader of Soldiers and when it happened I did not want to talk to anybody. But when I returned to my unit the sergeant major came to me, offered tips and said the next time you go, you?'ll get it. He really helped me out," Castillo, a Port Arthur, Texas native said.
Castillo achieved his goal and was pinned in 2012-the first time the event was held at ASA-Fort Dix , JB MDL.

USAMRMC, in collaboration with the Public Health Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., the Northern Regional Medical Command, Fort Belvoir, Va., and the Maryland Army National Guard, sponsored the EFMB.