GRAFENWOEHR, Germany (Sept. 4, 2014) -- Testing for the 2014 U.S. Amy Europe Expert Field Medical Badge kicked off today, at Camp Aachen in the Grafenwoehr Training Area here.
The Expert Field Medical Badge identifies the pinnacle of the U.S. Army Medical Corps personnel, and is only awarded to those who display tactical, technical, and physical excellence in all areas of Tactical Combat Casualty Care and Army Warrior Skills. It highly sought-after and is only awarded to those who excel in all areas of combat medicine.
Historically, approximately only 18 percent of U.S. candidates and less than 10 percent of International candidates typically achieve the badge. Currently, less than 10 percent of U.S. Army Medical Command personnel wear the badge, making it one of the most selective and elite skills badges available to U.S. Army personnel.
Candidates from eight major subordinate commands within U.S. Army Europe are represented.
They are: U.S. Army Europe, the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, the Joint Multinational Training Center, Europe Regional Medical Command, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, and 10th Air and Missile Defense Command.
In addition, candidates from nine European countries are represented, including the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Macedonia, Italy, Slovenia, and Romania.
Earning the badge requires candidates to proceed through three Combat Testing Lanes, a day and night land navigation course, take a written test, and complete a 12-mile road march, in order to qualify. Tomorrow, 265 candidates will begin the test phase, with the hopes of earning the prestigious badge at the graduation, scheduled for Sept. 9.
Typically, the standardization (training) phase runs for five days. This year, the host unit, the 212th Combat Support Hospital, extended training to 12 days. The goal of the expansion was to allow each candidate to see each combat testing lane at least twice, and the land navigation courses seven times, before the testing phase. Coupled with extra study halls, leaders anticipate significantly higher passing rates.
Spc. Joseph Andersen, the logistics non-commissioned officer for the Katterbach Dental Clinic, said his confidence at this years' competition was bolstered by the additional train-up time and study halls. Last year, he was eliminated after the written test.
"I feel confident about running the lanes," he said. "I've passed all my lanes so far this week. I'm not going to take it for granted, but I do feel confident. I'm just going to make sure I study more for the written test as well."
For Spc. Gregory Swindell, the Wiesbaden Army Health Clinic training NCO, a failed attempt in 2011 is making him really push for success this year.
"I'm going to get my badge this year," he said.
Swindell said he thinks the training time is structured better for the candidates this year, and receiving good feedback throughout the week has helped boost his confidence.
"You will see me on graduation day getting pinned," he said. "It's a prestigious badge, and it's training every medical person needs. You never know what will happen and you may be called on to perform some of these tasks. As they have a saying out here, 'for the fallen, get the badge,' so I'm going to get my badge."
Pvt. Brittany Gomez, a medical supply tech for U.S. Army medical Materiel Center-Europe, at 19 years old, is the youngest candidate at the event, having only been in the Army one year. She said this does help her confidence but also intimidates her.
"It's intimidating because all these sergeants are coming up to me and telling me I have to pass because I am the youngest," she said. "But it does push me more. I think about coming back to my unit and being only one of two privates, with an [Expert Field Medical Badge]. That's rare. It's really nice trying for something that barely anyone has."
Gomez said she is most confident about the patient assessment tasks, and most nervous about rucking. She is also learning more respect for those who have earned the badge before her, since this year the candidates are getting the additional training time.
"They would consider this easy, what we are going through," she said. "If you come out here, you learn to really respect the badge holders."
For updates throughout the competition, check www.eur.army.mil/efmb/.