Since joining the Army in 2006, 1st Sgt. Stephen Raya has always aspired to be a Leader. For someone who was unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, he has accomplished quite a bit in his career. Searching for purpose, structure and a way to make his family proud, he decided to follow a few of his high school friends into the Army.

Over his 15 year career, Raya has become a Master Fitness Trainer, Master Resiliency Trainer, Equal Opportunity Leader, certified in Combatives Level 1 and 2, nationally certified in radiology and nuclear medicine, and a member of the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.

He has successfully demonstrated technical and tactical competence. His selection to first sergeant proved he was at the top of his game, but there was still one pinnacle of medical excellence he had not achieved. He didn't have the Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB).

Earning the coveted EFMB was always a goal for Raya. While stationed in Germany 13 years ago, he made his first attempt at earning the badge. His lack of attention to detail on Combat Training Lane 1, however, was where he fell short.

Lacking structured training combined with being a first-time competitor was too much to overcome at that time.

Fast forward to 2019: With some dedicated training and the motivation to succeed, this time, 1st Sgt. Raya was ready.

"My unit did an outstanding job in setting up training events to familiarize me and other candidates with the tasks that we would see during testing," he said. "Having this foundational knowledge enabled me to polish my skills during standardization week, which ultimately resulted in my success during the testing phase."

Eisenhower Army Medical Center established a rolling EFMB training program about 15 months ago, using it to prepare Soldiers to compete in any EFMB competition administered throughout the year.

The program consists of weekly ruck marches, a physical fitness program developed by unit Master Fitness Trainers, and hands-on combat training lane practice.

Additionally, coordination with Regional Training Site-Medical at Fort Gordon provides tactical vehicles and equipment which allows EAMC to provide vehicle evacuation and land navigation training. Training on various weapons systems is also offered by the EAMC Marksmanship Master Trainer. Validation of each candidate is conducted by the battalion prior to being allowed to attend a competition.

Eighty-two candidates arrived at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Oct. 25 to begin their quest for the Expert Field Medical Badge.

The pressure was high for Raya as the only first sergeant competing for the badge; coming back empty handed was not an option. He focused on three things to keep him motivated during his quest: his family, his unit, and his fellow competitors. Knowing his wife and two children supported his pursuit for the badge allowed him to concentrate fully on the task at hand.

The faith of his leadership was also pivotal. At the time of the completion, Raya had been in the first sergeant position for less than a week. Knowing that his leaders believed in him so much that they would allow him the time away from the unit so soon further solidified his determination to come back with the badge.

The camaraderie among the candidates in his platoon was the final piece of the puzzle. The members of the platoon served as motivation for one another every step of the way during the competition.

At the end, only 15 Soldiers walked away with the esteemed badge during the ceremony held at Victory Hall Nov. 7, and Raya was one of them.

As a new badge holder, he understands that his Soldiers expect their Leaders to be mentally agile, physically fit, confident, resilient, empathetic, and competent. Above all, he knows his Soldiers expect their leaders to lead by example -- and he has demonstrated that by volunteering to compete for and earn the EFMB.

Raya has earned the trust and respect of his Soldiers by being a credible Leader who does the things he asks of them. Armed with the knowledge of what it takes to be successful, he now has another job: "Pass this information on to my Soldiers so they too can be successful," he said.

And with that, the next generation of EFMB candidates from EAMC has gained another ally in their quest for success.