For two weeks, approximately 130 medical Paratroopers assigned to various units within the 82nd Airborne Division conducted strenuous tasks in attempting to earn their Expert Field Medical Badge at the Medical Support Training Center located on Fort Bragg, North Carolina beginning May 7, 2018.
With a historic average passing rate of 18 percent, only 21 Division paratroopers were awarded their EFMB, making it one of the most difficult and prestigious Army special skill badges a medical professional can earn.
"We had some pretty difficult conditions with record high temperatures, but the candidates were motivated, " said U.S. Army Maj. Brian Coaker, deputy division surgeon, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division and EFMB officer in charge. "They went out there and did all the taskings, and they were persevering."
"Whether they came out of this with or without the badge, they are better, they have a better understanding of their job, and that builds readiness," he added.
EFMB is broken down into seven main segments, to include; one week of training, a written exam, day and night land navigation, three separate combat testing lanes, and a 12-mile foot march.
During the training week, each paratrooper has the chance to get hands-on experience for every tasking required of them during the testing phase, allowing them to practice mastering their weakest areas, and hone their strengths.
"It's a big discriminator with how they place amongst their peers," said U.S. Army Cpt. James Uregen, a combat testing lane OIC assigned to the 240th Forward Surgical Team. "Generally three percent of medical Soldiers Army-wide have their EFMB. It's one of the toughest badges and is exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally. "
Once testing week begins, the paratroopers plunged into long days with little sleep; they begin exercising their knowledge, strength, and skills, first with an extensive written exam, compromised of knowledge they are required to know in the medical field.
Land navigation is a basic skill every Soldier in the Army is required to know, conducted both during the day and at night. That goes for all medical personnel too, and this event is the first that can fail a large number having to earn their badge.
The three combat testing lanes are designed to test the Soldiers capacity to perform the physical application of their knowledge.
Each testing lane has multiple stations, all built to evaluate the individual's comprehension of four main groups; tactical combat casualty care, medical and casualty evacuation, warrior skills and communication tasks.
Tactical combat casualty care can consist of performing needle chest decompression, treating an open abdominal wound, treating a casualty with an open head injury, or controlling bleeding using a tourniquet.
Medical and casualty evacuation tests the abilities in creating a helicopter landing point, removing a casualty from a vehicle and moving a casualty using a litter or SKED litter, to name a few.
Warrior skills included protecting oneself from chemical, biological, radiological and neurological injury or contamination with joint service lightweight integrated suit technology gear, decontaminate with a chemical decontamination kit and treating for mild nerve agent poisoning.
A few examples of the required communication tasks included assembling and operating a single channel ground and airborne radio system and transmit a medical evacuation request.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class William Chavis, a medical platoon sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and the EFMB non-commisioned officer in charge, spoke about the candidates.
"The candidates received the training and gained a lot of knowledge," said Chavis. "Much of what they were trained on was medic skills they already knew. We just tested them to make sure they were doing it by the books. It's something that separates them from their peers."
After all testing lanes, land navigation, and written exams completed, the Soldier then must complete a 12-mile foot march, finishing it in three hours or less while carrying their weapon, fighting load carrier and a 35-pound ruck sack. Upon completion of all tasks during the strenuous two weeks, the proclaimed Expert Field Medical Badge is earned, putting the Soldier ahead of his career.
"I feel accomplished, this was the challenge I was looking for," said U.S. Army Spc. Joseph Culbertson, an EFMB recipient and a platoon medic assigned to Company D., 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. "I came out here thinking this was going to be the easiest thing I've done in my life, but I definitely had my ass handed to me. I cannot wait to be apart of this again as Cadre in the future."