By Staff Sgt. Mark A. Moore IIAugust 17, 2015
Historically the event has an average attrition rate of 80 percent. With figures this high one might question the training efforts put forth prior to attempting such a feat.
Despite statistics and historical averages, hundreds of health care specialists from all components of the Army, seek to demonstrate their tactical medical knowledge and skill.
Eighteen days ago, approximately 160 medics from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), and units from Fort Drum, N.Y., Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Bragg N.C., the Wisconsin National Guard, and Soldiers attending the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Md., attempted to defeat seemingly insurmountable odds during Fort Drum's Expert Field Medical Badge training and testing lanes held at the Bridgewater-Vaccaro Medical Simulation Training area Aug. 2-12.
To earn a badge, candidates must correctly answer 45 of 60 questions in a written exam; complete all performance measures on more than 40 tasks involving tactical combat care, reacting to chemical attacks and medical evacuations; find three of four points during day and night land navigation; and complete a 12-mile foot-march carrying nearly 40 pounds of equipment within three hours.
This year's competition yielded an unusually high graduation rate of 35 percent, one third of which are assigned to the Commando Brigade. But, what made these medical personnel more successful than everyone else?
For the health care specialists assigned to C Company, 210 Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT the answer was preparation.
"I've known about this for five months, there is no excuse to come out here unprepared," stated Sgt. Andrew Coglio, health care specialist, C Co. "You could set a week aside of your own time to review test materials and hands on will make you perfect."
Coglio's company executive officer, 1st Lt. Tim Lukacz knew the importance of preparation and gave every opportunity for his Soldiers to study.
"We began the train-up weeks before the event started," stated Lukacz. "During our recent mission with the Wisconsin National Guard we would train in the evenings. Once we returned to Fort Drum we set aside two weeks and concentrating on testable EFMB tasks."
All candidates began their Expert Field Medical Badge testing by learning the medical training lanes testing and grading standards.
Lukacz described the combination of prior training and practice as the key to successfully completing the lanes.
"If you have dedicated the time to prepare yourself for the competition, if you apply what the EFMB cadre teach you to what you've studied, you'll be successful. But, it's hard to have success when you're relying on only one or the other."
Understanding the grading criteria and perfecting their skills are why Charlie company Soldiers earned 47 percent graduation rate.
Staff Sgt. Justin Auschwitz, medical laboratory technician, C Co., describes the importance of practicing the perishable skills and leaning from others advice.
"If you don't practice it you'll lose it," he explains. "You also have to utilize your resources which is one of the things the badge is hopefully teaching people, you can't just rely on yourself. You have to branch out and ask people for their input on how to do things. So it's also a humbling experience in that aspect."
Despite their training Auschwitz and Coglio needed to look beyond their own self reservations and face the events that left the battle scars of past failed EFMB attempts.
"The biggest thing I'm concerned about is Critical Task Lane 1, which is combat assessment and combat casualty care," explained Auschwitz. "This is my second time attempting EFMB and that is what I got kicked out on last time. This lane is very meticulous with around 242 steps you have to accomplish in sequence."
Coglio voiced similar concerns and shared his plan to overcome this obstacle.
"Before I step onto any lane I get nervous," stated Coglio. "But at the same time, I know that I know every step and that I can recite everything and do it all. So it's just a matter of taking a deep breathe, staying calm, and using my time wisely."
The EFMB course continued, and on Aug. 12, only 75 candidates remained to begin the 12-mile foot-march.
"This is something you have to be dedicated to; if deep down you don't want this, you shouldn't even show up," said Spc. Quinn T. Stoddard, medic, C Co.
Around 8:00 a.m. on day six, the clock ran out as the last and final candidate crossed the foot-march finish line, ending the 10th Mountain Division's EFMB testing lanes.
In total 60 candidates graduated.
An awards ceremony was held to honor those who earned the right to wear an EFMB and were greeted with words of inspiration by guest speaker Sgt. (Ret.) Gary B. Beikirch, combat medic, 5th Special Forces Group, Vietnam War.
During his speech he described his experiences as a combat medic in the central highland province of Kon Tum, Vietnam, where while wounded and under heavy enemy fire rendered aid to U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers.
His actions earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Beikirch left the graduating EFMB holders with a single final thoughts.
"In a crisis you look for people who know, you look for people who seem to be able to make things happen when others are confused or lost... those kind of people we look for possess a vision," stated Beikirch.
"A vision will enable you not to quit in crisis," he continued. "People are going to be looking to you. My question is, will you be ready?"