GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Medical professionals from across the globe came together in the hopes of earning the Expert Field Medical Badge during testing Sept.23 through Sept. 28 in Grafenwoehr Training Area.
A total of 174 candidates began this event, with 17 from Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Kosovo, Lithuania and Slovenia. By day 3, eighty were still in the running and by day 4, only sixty candidates were left with the hope of earning the badge. Today, thirty-one candidates, including 3 international Soldiers, were awarded the badge. 1st Lt. Andrew Porter, HHD 421st Multifunctional Medical Battalion was the distinguished honor grad, earned the most go's and had the fastest ruck march time.
During the competition, many of the medical Soldiers said this was one of the most challenging things they have tried to accomplish in their careers, adding that they are attempting to earn the badge for the bragging rights and to distinguish themselves from their peers. With a small percent of the Army's medical community wearing the badge, it is considered a grand achievement to Soldiers within the medical career management field, which includes combat medics, radiologists, physician's assistants and all other medical military occupational specialty personnel.
"Only 19 percent historically, earn the badge across the Army," said Sgt. 1st Class Erik Jacobsen, NCOIC Combat Lane Testing 1. "It's very difficult badge to earn, there is a proper order in performing each task, and you have to pay attention to detail in order to pass."
Many of the international candidates felt it was an honor to train alongside their American counterparts to learn different lessons and skills during the standardization week. Language was not a barrier, these medical professionals had one goal in mind, taking care of their patients.
"It's great for us to share and learn from Americans, because they do everything by the manual, step by step," said Master Sgt. Radek Kristof, Czech Army. "The Americans, give us a different way of thinking about different areas and that is helpful."
Candidates ranged from junior enlisted, non-commissioned officers, warrant officers and officers up to lieutenant colonel. Soldiers just starting their career to those who were in command, had their eye on the prize, earning the EFMB.
"I felt as the commander it was something that I needed to go through," said 7227th Medical Support Unit Commander, a reserve unit based out of Columbia, Missouri. "Having over 27 years in service, it's a dream for us to have this opportunity to participate."
The badge is meant to promote confidence and provide tangible recognition of personnel who can expertly perform common Soldier tasks and apply the principles of basic medical care in a field environment.
Multinational events like the USAREUR EFMB, continues to foster a "Strong Europe" campaign bringing together Allied nations. The EFMB links military medical assets from around the globe, creating the opportunity to improve interoperability between NATO allies.
The final day, candidates had to complete a 12-mile ruck march to their ceremony to claim their badge. One of the few female candidate left in the running, sat with anticipation as her grade sheet was being scored to find out if she could continue the next day.
"I love a challenge," said Spc. Victoria King, medic with 2nd Cavalry Regiment. "As the numbers got smaller here, I am proud of myself, and when I cross the finish line after the ruck march, I'm probably going to fall on the ground and celebrate."
Many of the candidates felt like the 5-day challenge was worth the ending results and now proudly wear the badge of honor.
"It's never too late to compete for the badge, just make sure you are prepared and have the time to dedicate to study," said King.