Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. -- Mentally, physically and emotionally grueling. That's how candidates described 12 days of testing for the Army's Expert Field Medical Badge, which ended Sept. 28 at JBLM.
Only about 10 percent of the Army's medical community has earned the badge, according to Maj. Erica Kane, 56th Multi-functional Medical Battalion Brigade executive officer. Kane organized the EFMB event for the 62nd Medical Brigade at JBLM.
"This is an opportunity for Soldiers within the Army medical department to demonstrate their 'extra mile' toward being committed to their profession," Kane said.
That "extra mile" included evaluations of 42 hands-on tasks, land navigation, a 60-question written test and ended with a 12-mile foot march.
"It is quite a grueling (evaluation) and it requires a significant amount of intestinal fortitude, physical strength and mental acuity to make it through all those tasks," Kane said.
More than 200 candidates from JBLM and other parts of the western United States began testing Sept. 16. Only 29 Soldiers made it to the final event, the 12-mile foot march, which began at 5 a.m. Sept. 28 along East Gate Road and ended at Cowan Stadium three hours later. Twenty-six Soldiers finished in time, earning the coveted badge.
Spc. Sam Arnold of the 520th Medical Company (Area Support), 56th Multi-functional Medical Battalion, finished the course first with a time of 2:25:12. He was followed by 1st Lt. Jessica Knoll, 555th Engineer Brigade, and 2nd Lt. Joseph Miller, of the 514th Medical Company (Ground Ambulance), 56th MMB. Madigan Medical Center's Capt. Stephanie Germeroth had the highest overall score through all testing phases, while Pfc. Nathan Harrington achieved the highest written test score.
"It was pretty tough," Miller said of the foot march. "It was a long course but was definitely worth it. The hardest part was the very meticulous standards that they upheld throughout the course and all the combat testing lanes."
Command Sgt. Maj. Walter Tagalicud, I Corps and JBLM command sergeant major, spoke to the recipients and about 200 guests in an award ceremony at Cowan Stadium after the foot march.
"The EFMB is more than just a badge that these Soldiers wear, it is about being an expert of your craft," Tagalicud said. "It is about being able to master the fundamentals of warfighting, demonstrating that you can shoot accurately, move quickly and communicate effectively.
"It is anticipating requirements and conducting requisite (pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspections) to ensure equipment and medical supplies are accessible and serviceable. It is confidently proving ones medical proficiency, treating wounds, applying tourniquets, and sending 9-line medevac reports, while reassuring the wounded that everything is going to be ok."
Tagalicud applauded the 26 EFMB recipients for not only the expertise they demonstrated, but for their character.
"It highlighted your impeccable character: you never faltered and you never quit. You fought through frustration, pain and fatigue. When your teammates needed help, you were the first ones who stayed up late to help. Today you can say, 'I did it.'"