By Alexandra SheaNovember 14, 2019
Eighty-two candidates from across the nation arrived to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to put their medical skills to the test during the 2019 Expert Field Medical Badge Competition hosted by Moncrief Army Medical Clinic. Competitors endured the week-long testing, that began Nov. 1, to earn the right to be called expert.
"The Expert Field Medical Badge test is the utmost challenge to the professional competence and physical endurance of the Soldier Medic," said the master of ceremonies during the awards ceremony. "It is the most sought after peacetime skill badge in the Army Medical Department."
Of the 82 candidates, only 15 earned the right to be called expert.
"Those 15 Soldiers dedicated the time necessary to master the skills needed to achieve the badge," said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Riddick, U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Fort Jackson. "They were the Soldiers that stayed up late practicing skills, taking notes during class and took every opportunity to get hands on experience. I don't think that they achieved the badge by accident; they had the physical and mental attributes we look for in awarding the EFMB."
Riddick and his staff spent more than nine months preparing to host the competition. Moncrief is a tenant unit on the post, meaning the clinic has limited resources and space to use for training purposes outside the clinic.
Additional support was supplied by the Army Training Center staff by way of equipment use and scheduling various training sites to test the candidates.
"This was a very successful collaborative effort," Riddick said. "That was possible because of the collective understanding, from all those involved, of the importance of training Soldiers."
Combat Testing Lanes were constructed at the training sites. Candidates were tested on treating casualties under fire; preparing to transport casualties: calling in a nine-line evacuation request and moving casualties to safe locations while under fire. The CTL lanes tested a candidate's ability to think and effectively communicate under the pressure of enemy fire and physical exhaustion from moving a casualty that can weigh upwards of 180 pounds or more.
"It was grueling the first week and the second week was very mentally taxing," said Capt. Alexander Parker, Moncrief radiation safety officer. "I'm relieved it's over. It feels good though (to receive the badge)."
Parker, along with the other candidates, spent the week before testing using hands-on training so they can meet the standards of each test lane. The next week competitors completed each task to earn the badge that included day and night land navigation, a physical fitness test, CTL lanes, an 80-question written exam, Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, communication tasks and the final 12-mile ruck march.
While sleeping was an option throughout the competition, many chose to spend additional time studying.
"I didn't think I would make it this far," said Spc. Fernando Segura, a biomedical specialist from Evans Army Community Hospital, Fort Carson, Colorado. "It was tough and stressful. The hardest event for me was CTL one - tactical combat care tasks."
Segura attributed his success to earning the badge to taking on one task at a time full force and helping out other competitors.
While each competitor is only in competition with themselves, studying with each other and keeping each other motivated was key to success, according to Segura and several other competitors. The teamwork and studying would pay off.
The candidates stood at attention as U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford "Beags" Beagle Jr. and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Jerimiah Gan presented them with the coveted badge and a commander's coin.
"There are no exceptions for entering the EFMB. There are no alternate events, no secondary rules and no deviations. EFMB is what I like to call black and white," Beagle said. "You either can or you can't. You either will or you won't. No one can ever take away from you what you have rightfully earned, the right to be called an expert."
After the ceremony concluded, awardees congratulated each other and were reunited with their unit members and their Families who attended the ceremony.
Each awardee will return to their units and wear their badge with pride and share the experience with others who wish to attain the badge for themselves in next year's competition.
"This is my second time (competing for the badge) and it felt good to finally accomplish it. It's something I've wanted for a long time," said Sgt. 1st Class Jalyssa Leavell, a combat medic specialist and drill sergeant leader at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy. "My advice to those who want to compete for the badge is to prepare and study prior to the written exam. Trying to do that and the hands-on test is just a lot to try and retain."