Currently, less than 10% of all Soldiers in the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) have earned their Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB).

Recently, 205 candidates began their journey at Warrior Base, Republic of Korea for the "Eighth Army 2018 EFMB by the DMZ" in hopes of earing the coveted badge. Six days later 18 graduated (8.8 percent) with three candidates being from The 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

Over the past five decades, hundreds of thousands of soldier Medics have attempted to earn The Army Medical Department's (AMEDD) most prestigious peacetime badge. The EFMB was established in June 1965 as a Department of the Army special skill award recognizing the exceptional competence and outstanding performance by field medical personnel.

The EFMB course requires that soldiers are physically fit and fundamentally sound in their warrior skills. In preparation for the EFMB, 6-52 AMD Battalion Physician Assistants (PA) Capt. Donald J. (DJ) Hamilton and 2-1 ADA Battalion PA Capt. Aaron P. Vanderburg developed a rigorous one-week training event to better prepare soldiers for the rigors of EFMB. Within the Brigade, there are 10 slots and over 45 medical personnel. During each EFMB, the brigade had over 10 soldiers wanting the chance to earn their badge.

"We developed an internal EFMB Competition in order to send the highest quality candidate to compete for their badge," Vanderburg said. "Each soldier was graded against their peers the candidates were chosen based upon performance."

Eleven candidates from the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade were sent to the course this year and three earned their badge, Sgt. Haeseung Lee and Sgt. Sung Seo from 6-52 ADA Battalion and Spc. (P) Esther Kim from The 2-1 ADA Battalion giving the Dragon Team an impressive 27 percent pass rate.

Over the past three EFMB events 30 candidates attempted the course, but only six Soldiers earned their badge (20 percent pass rate). Prior to this, there has not been a soldier in the Dragon Brigade to receive a badge in eight years.

"We reviewed the historical data that comprised the tasks soldiers failed the most. From there, we incorporated those tasks to with additional to build two comprehensive Combat Testing Lanes (CTLs)," Vanderburg said. "In addition to these two lanes, soldiers received a written test, a land navigation educational block and day land navigation course, and a timed 12-mile ruck march. Prior to this, the respective battalions conducted internal training in preparation for the event."

This was Sgt. Seo's third time competing for the badge.

"I've been here two other times and I have been so close," Seo said. "Land navigation is the hardest part of the course and what got me last time. I'm so excited to finally make it."

The first two EFMB training events in preparation for the 8A EFMB event were held at the brigade at Osan Air Base and the most current training event was led by 2-1 ADA in August 2018 in Camp Carroll preparing soldiers to compete for the badge.

"It was an absolute honor training everyone for this EFMB competition. Congratulations to Sgt. Lee, Sgt. Seo, and Spc.(P) Kim on earning your badges," Vanderburg said. "All of the time, effort and dedication has really paid off. All of my medics within the Guardian Battalion have great potential and are in prime position to lead from the front to become badge holders during the next EFMB."