By Capt. Doug MagillMarch 23, 2018
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Two Medical Support Unit-Europe Soldiers made it to the final day of testing for the U.S. Army Europe's Spring 2018 Expert Field Medical Badge, held March 10-21 in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
Sgt. Pattisue Graham and Sgt. Kerstan Harrivel led a team of four Soldiers from the MSU - including Staff Sgt. Dionna Ferrell and Staff Sgt. Reuben Sublett during the event that began with 191 candidates across the entire U.S. Army Europe footprint. The 191 Soldiers included 12 candidates from international partners including Norway, Denmark, United Kingdom and Kosovo.
Of the 191 EFMB candidates, just 23 graduated.
"It's a huge accomplishment to make it as far as they did," said Col. Daniel Bohmer, MSU commander. "For our Soldiers to make it this far with such little time to train up is amazing"
Administrative challenges kept the unit from getting the names of candidates submitted until January, then February's battle assembly was canceled due to budgeting issues. Hurdles that great impact on the reserve component than its active duty counterpart. The result left the candidates with little time to prepare.
The testing was difficult enough as it was. Ultimately, only 12 percent passed, well below the 2017 Army-wide total of 17 percent.
The testing phase ran March 16-21 and followed a March 10-15 standardization phase that allowed candidates time to prepare for a 60-question written test, familiarize themselves with the three combat testing lanes, prepare for day and night land navigation, as well as a 12-mile ruck march which served as the culminating event. The written exam alone eliminated approximately half of the field.
Then, add adverse weather conditions the candidates had to perform the tasks in.
"It's a tough badge to get to begin with," said Col. Timothy Bosetti, 30th Medical Brigade commander, who's unit served as the host for the event. "To do it out here in all the rain and snow we had, is amazing."
The average daily high was 35 degrees Fahrenheit with intermittent snow and rain during testing week.
"It snowed for two days during testing," Graham said. "Some of the equipment was frozen and had to be kept in the trucks when it wasn't being used, but then it's not something that's supposed to be easy."
Each of three testing lanes had its own unique mission. Each testing lane started with the assembly, disassembly and functions check of an M4 rifle. Then, depending on the lane, candidates would move under direct fire, indirect fire, or through obstacles such as barbed or concertina wire.
Candidates were then required to perform tasks such applying a tourniquet, reacting to unexploded ordnance or extracting casualties from a vehicle.
Additionally, candidates were tested on a range of skills including treating casualties for shock, preventing hypothermia, applying intravenous fluid, treating penetrating chest wounds, performing needle chest-decompression, as well as treating wounds to the head, abdomen, eyes, and arms. Candidates were also tested on their proficiency with operating in a Chemical, Biological, Nuclear or Radioactive environment.
"It gives the candidates a chance to test their professional skills in austere environments," Bosetti said, himself having earned the EFMB earlier in his career. "The lanes are tough. Physically and mentally challenging. This builds resiliency and the confidence that if you can do this here, you can do it anywhere."
The Expert Field Medical Badge is a U.S. Army decoration, first created June 18, 1965. The badge is awarded to medical personnel and is the non-combat equivalent of the Combat Medical Badge.
The testing helps improve the Army's, and by extension, U.S. Army Europe's No. 1 priority -- readiness. The testing serves as timely training for medical personnel as Army Europe heads into its summer exercises.
Candidates that did not earn the badge, will have another opportunity later this year, as U.S. Army Europe conducts the testing twice a year - typically in March and September.
Graham said it was a valuable experience that will allow her to better prepare her fellow Soldiers for next EFMB training event.
"It's good to train here and take it back to the unit," she said. "I got to run the course and should be able to try again in the fall."