DONGDUCHEON, South Korea - A crowd gathered in the early morning rain on May 21, 2021, at Rodriguez Multi-Purpose Live Fire Complex here, commonly known as Rodriquez Range, to witness two Soldiers reach the culmination of a grueling two-week course designed to delineate the elite of combat field medics, known as the Expert Field Medical Badge.
Adopted by the Department of the Army in 1965, the EFMB was designed as a special skill award to recognize exceptional competence and outstanding performance by Soldier medics. Soldiers in the medical career management field, as well as medical personnel from other services, are authorized to compete for and be awarded this prestigious badge.
The EFMB, the most sought-after peacetime Army Medical Department award, is equivalent to the Expert Infantryman's Badge.
The words "duty," "honor," "courage," and "service" exemplify the standards of the men and women who serve this nation. The prestigious Expert Field Medical Badge, earned by roughly 10 percent of Army medical personnel, recognizes these standards through exceptional competence and outstanding performance in a combat field scenario.
The 12-day course was conducted to recognize Soldiers demonstrating the level of professional skill and proficiency necessary to become expert field medics.
Three hours to complete a 12-mile road march may seem doable, but after two weeks sequestered in the field, eating rations, studying for, and passing a 60-question exam, performing day and night land navigation tasks, and completing warrior, communication, tactical combat casualty care and casualty evacuation lanes -- the physical, mental, and emotional strain of this grueling course takes a toll on a Soldier.
At the beginning of the course, over one hundred Soldiers from across the peninsula signed up to challenge their personal stamina and expertise as combat field medics, but by the last leg of the test -- the road march -- the participant pool had been whittled down to four contestants. Of those four, only two earned the distinguished badge.
2nd Infantry Division Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn Carns was on hand to address the Soldiers and civilians attending the awards ceremony on Camp Casey’s Schoonover Bowl. He highlighted the arduous demands of testing and the credibility associated with earning this highly esteemed medical badge.
"A wounded Soldier's survival is linked to the speed and expertise of care given on and off the battlefield," Carns said. "What makes the difference is well-trained medics. These Soldiers who earned the EFMB today are a sampling of the absolute best our nation has to offer America's sons and daughters in need of care."
Carns commended the duo for their drive and determination throughout the course.
"One of the lanes had over 200 steps to memorize and perform in order," he said. "Candidates get two chances for the written exam, but only one shot at the rest. These two men that stand before us today will always be expert field medics."
Lt. Col. Charles Douglas, officer in charge of the EFMB test board committee for the 65th Medical Brigade and commander of the 168th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, said the EFMB is a skills badge available to any medical personnel in the U.S. Army.
"EFMB is the most stringent skills badge with respect to grades, with a pass ratio of 10 percent," Douglas said.
The high attrition rate can be equated to the course's high expectations and discipline needed to withstand the series of comprehensive medical testing.
Candidates were tested in six parts based on their ability to safely intervene casualties in a combat situation.
The students began with a standardization phase where they learned what they will be tested on. Over the course of six days, candidates were assessed in different combat testing lanes, a written test, and a land navigation course.
Combat Testing Lane One tested candidates' ability to assess and treat casualties in a combat scenario, whereas Combat Testing Lane Two focused on their response to a chemical environment while wearing mission oriented protective posture gear.
Combat Testing Lane Three assessed candidates on casualty intervention using extrication and transportation. The lane required candidates to follow strict protocols in relation to medical evacuation and calling for a "Nine Line," the military standard used to request medical evacuation of a casualty.
Candidates who successfully completed all tasks and lanes with passing marks were then required to complete a 12-mile road march in under three hours for the final event.
When testing was complete, Dr. (Maj.) Edward Chang and Capt. David Johnson proudly earned the distinction of wearing the badge.
“It was a long and arduous road through a lot of rain, full of sacrifice but worth it,” said Johnson, a Southfield, Mich., native and commander of the 75th Medical Company (Area Support). “I wish my teammates could have crossed the line with me.”
For Chang, a head and neck surgeon with Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital and Command Surgeon of the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, completing the 12-day ordeal created a mix of emotions.
“I am elated, in that I did not expect to get this far, being the oldest candidate," Chang, a native of Lexington, Ky., said. "Being a senior leader, I wanted to attain this award in hopes of inspiring others.”