By Sgt. Joshua LaidackerJune 17, 2014
FORT STEWART, Ga. - A squad of infantrymen moves across an open field on patrol. Suddenly gunfire erupts and one of the soldiers is hit. Before God, before their mother, they call him, combat medic, a call echoed throughout the formation. This may sound like a common occurrence from a unit in combat, but this patrol happened at the Expert Field Medical Badge award ceremony on Cottrell Field, Fort Stewart, Ga., June 12.
"It takes a lot of skill and precision to get [the badge]," said Sgt. Paul Rava, a combat medic and squad leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. "It's the ultimate test not only for medics but for anyone who tries out for the badge."
Rava was one of the 16 total candidates to successfully complete the EFMB testing. He was also one of two successful candidates of 4th IBCT and the only remaining candidate from his EFMB platoon.
"With 182 candidates it's hard to say I've had a close eye on any candidate, but I would tell you with Sgt. Rava, we have, at least in the testing phase," said Capt. Brandy Gainsley, commander of Company A, 14th Combat Support Hospital, and the officer in charge of EFMB. "That's because Sgt. Rava is the last man standing. Third platoon started out with 47 soldiers and he is the last man."
EFMB testing consists of a written test, three combat testing lanes, a day and night land navigation course and a 12-mile foot march, all over a week's time, with many tasks and multiple sub-tasks falling into the testing lanes.
The EFMB 3rd Platoon conducted the night portion of the land navigation course the first night of testing.
"I couldn't see my hand in front of me, that's how dark it was," said Rava, a native of Huntington Beach, California.
Rava went on to say that rain and cloud cover contributed greatly to black-out conditions which resulted in a very select few candidates remaining.
"We only had seven left, and that was the first day," said Rava.
"Sgt. Rava was hitting the marker well above the expectation of a normal candidate," said Gainsley, a native of Riverside, California. "He continued to blast through."
"If you talk to him for five minutes, he exudes confidence," said Sgt. Christopher Embry, a combat medic with the evacuation section of HHC, 3-15 Inf., and fellow squad leader of Rava. "He's extremely confident."
Rava has displayed his confidence and competence repeatedly in the military, starting with his application to the Army's physician's assistant program as a private first class. The program accepts mostly applicants with more experience, according to Embry. Rava was placed on the stand-by list in his initial attempt, but he didn't let that get him down.
"He's always upbeat and brings a good amount of positivity to the platoon," said Embry, a native of Calabasas, California. "The medics in the platoon look up to him."
"If I had a broken foot, I still would have crawled across that finish line," Rava said of the 12-mile foot march, the final event of EFMB testing. "I still would've finished this, no matter what."
"These candidates are under immense pressure every day," said Gainsley. "I'm very impressed with Sgt. Rava and his performance out at EFMB."
"I like challenging myself to different things and this is definitely a challenge," said Rava. "I'm glad that I did it."
Rava demonstrated confidence and competence throughout EFMB and now looks forward to his next challenge of applying to the PA program once again and to become more knowledgeable in the medical field.