FORT HOOD, Texas— Being an expert in your military occupational specialty is important for Soldiers, units and the mission. In the medical field, being proficient in your skill set saves lives, and the Expert Field Medical Badge recognizes those medical experts who are truly the best-of-the-best in their profession.
Medical professionals from across the nation participated in EFMB qualifications Oct. 13-30. Hosted by the 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade, 157 candidates began in-processing Oct. 12, followed by a week of familiarization and standardization, followed by a week of qualifications.
During standardization week, 149 remained to take the Army Physical Fitness Test, but that number dropped to 91 candidates left to take land navigation training.
The EFMB is one of the most coveted skills badges for medical professionals in the U.S. Army and allied nations, and the EFMB officer-in-charge, Capt. Bradley Sonoda, 61st MMB, has been involved with the event since 2014.
The quest for the EFMB ended early for 61 candidates due to an underutilized basic Soldier skill, and Sonoda shared some advice for future EFMB hopefuls.
“Land navigation is one of the most underestimated events,” Sonoda said. “It’s sometimes hard to balance between Soldier and medical provider skills and it gets overlooked.”
For Lt. Col. Nicole Spears, Commander, 61st MMB, this was her second opportunity to plan the EFMB event, and she was happy with how the competition and event was executed.
“Being able to be involved in the planning and execution of the EFMB, while giving them the ability to train through realistic, large-scale combat operations scenarios is a success,” Spears said.
After day and night land navigation testing, only 30 remained to engage the combat testing lanes. The CTLs tested their proficiencies in their Army Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills and combat medical skills. After CTL testing and the “final walk,” a 12-mile ruck march in under 3 hours, only 15 earned the prestigious EFMB.
Moorpark, California native, Capt. Carin Stevens, a veterinary corps officer with Public Health Activity, Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, came back after previously failing night land navigation on her initial attempt.
After continuously training on land navigation, Stevens mastered the event this time getting all four points correct, and that made earning the EFMB even more rewarding.
“I’m really excited to have earned the badge this time,” Stevens said. “I really want to come back and be involved in the EFMB process. I want to help people earn the badge in any way I can.”
Staff Sgt. Chares Garcia, an ear, nose and throat specialist from Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, recently reclassed in 2019 after being infantry for the past decade.
As an infantryman, Garcia earned the Expert Infantry Badge, and was eager to take on the EFMB challenge.
“It was challenging from beginning to end,” Garcia said. “But earning these badges proves you are an expert. I proved I was an expert as an infantryman and thought it was important to do it in the medical field.”
Adding more elite medical experts in the field is always a rewarding experience, and Sonoda looked back at this years’ experience with pride.
“My lane leadership and cadre were great and the candidates were motivated by the quality of the training,” Sonoda said. “Seeing candidates across the nation being coached and mentored to display the total medic concept of being a Soldier and medical provider is truly rewarding.”
U.S. Army Medical Command’s Command Sgt. Maj. Diamond D. Hough, served as the key speaker for the EFMB ceremony, and stressed the importance of this accomplishment as he congratulated the recently pinned EFMB Soldiers.
“From this day forward, you will be known as an expert,” Hough said. “Not everyone can do what you do. Our job is about people and being prepared to care for them. Today, you have proven that you are a little bit more prepared.”