FORT HOOD, Texas -- The way combat medics maneuver and perform during warfighter operations has evolved drastically over the years. Providing the critical life-saving measures for the warfighter will always be a combat medic's number one priority, and these skills are required to earn one of the most sought after accomplishments in the Army medical field.

Six combat medic specialists from Army units across the United States were presented with the Expert Field Medical Badge Oct. 4 on Cooper Field.

The EFMB was designed as a special skill award for recognition of exceptional competence and outstanding performance by field medical personnel and was approved by the Department of the Army June 18, 1965.

Designed as a two-week event, 144 candidates initially began vying for the prestigious badge on Sept. 23, which allowed the candidates to prepare for what they would soon face.

"We go through a week of standardization so that's when every candidate actually gets to see the lanes and see what the expectations are on the ground," said Lt. Col. Jarrod McGee, Commander, 11th Field Hospital and EFMB officer-in-charge.

After standardization, the candidates were tested on the Army Physical Fitness Test, a written exam, day and night land navigation, three combat trauma lanes and a 12 mile road march.

The APFT was the first event candidates tested on after a week in the field familiarizing themselves with the EFMB standards.

Between having to score at least 80 points in each event, facing temperatures of 105 degrees during the day and the field conditions, the APFT saw the candidate rate drop by 35% percent from the original 144 candidates.

Once the remaining 22 candidates made it to the CTL portion, lane one provided some of the toughest challenges for the combat medics.

"All the medical tasks were performed on this lane," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Connery, combat medical specialist, Carl R. Darnell Army Medical Hospital, and lane noncommissioned officer in charge.

With 15 medical tasks to successfully complete such as patient assessment, triage casualties and treatment for a penetrating chest wound, this lane gave the candidates a great challenge.

"It's more of a realistic lane of what they would see in combat," Connery said. "They had to pull a patient from a vehicle and carry them off on a litter, drag them on a Skedko litter for a certain distance and react to indirect fire."

This was Connery's 14th time grading the competition since he earned his badge in 1993 and has been pleased with how the EFMB process has adapted with the warfighter.

"To me it's more realistic the way we are doing it now than how we did it back in the day," Connery explained.

Even though the candidates received training during their EFMB time, ensuring they are prepared when they start the process is crucial.

"The modern medical treatments and carries we teach them while they are out here," Connery said. "If they have no knowledge before they come out here then they are at a disadvantage. All the stuff is available online and in Army Medicine Department Center and School, Health and Readiness Center of Excellence (AMEDDC&S, HRCoE) pamphlet 350-10 for them to learn."

Maj. James Winegarner, emergency physician, Brooks Army Medical Center, was one of the skilled six to earn the EFMB and it challenged him every step of the way.

"It was stressful," Winegarner explained. "I think the accumulative stress of constant testing for several days on end was probably the biggest difficulty. There was a lot of pressure having to be perfect the first time since there were no redos."

Staff Sgt. Jenette Paschke, an operating specialist from the 499th Head and Neck Detachment, 11th Field Hospital, 1st Medical Brigade, has been in the medical field for seven years and successfully earned the EFMB on this her second attempt.

"I took it one day at a time and studied non-stop," Paschke said. "It's a mental game and I just had to get my mind right. Now that I have my badge I feel like I'm on cloud nine. It's amazing!"

Brig. Gen. Wendy L. Harter, Commanding General, Brooke Army Medical Center, was the guest speaker for the badge presentations, and was excited for what these six medical experts were able to achieve.

"Today, the EFMB test is the utmost challenge to the professional competence and physical endurance of the Soldier medic," Harter said. "It is the most sought after peacetime award in the AMEDD, and while the Combat Medical Badge is the portrait of courage in wartime, the EFMB is undoubtedly the portrait of excellence in the Army all of the time. Be proud of this accomplishment you've achieved today. You are now among only nine percent of the Army medical population who hold this badge."