Soldiers from across the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), in addition to Soldiers from Fort Stewart, Fort Bliss, Fort Belvoir, Fort Carson and Fort Benning, competed Nov. 17 - Nov. 20, 2021, at Fort Campbell, Ky., for their chance to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge, or EFMB.
In total, about 150 Soldiers competed for their chance to earn the coveted badge, validate themselves as Army medical professionals and distinguish themselves amongst from their peers.
In order to complete the badge, participants had to complete various Soldier tasks, such as day and night land navigation, medical testing lanes, warrior skills and communication tasks, CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear) protocol, a 12-mile ruck, and a physical fitness assessment.
This year’s EFMB was executed a bit differently than previous years. The PFA replaced the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), following the Army’s ongoing transition from the APFT to the ACFT. Testing lanes also saw modifications, adopting station testing for two of the lanes and a complete restructuring of the medical lane.
Previously, the medical lane required candidates to memorize an assortment of tasks, to include triage and abdominal wounds. Soldiers now have seven tasks, focused around the acronym MARCH (Massive hemorrhage, Airway, Respirations, Circulation, Hypothermia) and the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) card.
The idea behind restructuring the medical lane is to make it more realistic and reaction-based. Most medics utilize a similar plan and course of treatment when working with a real world casualty.
Capt. Alyssa Schlegel, the officer-in-charge from the EFMB test control office at Fort Sam Houston, and other test control officers validated the competition before the candidates arrived on site and were onsite to observe as the new EFMB took effect.
“They are actually executing a pilot for the medical lane of new tasks that we’ve written,” said Schlegel. “We’re here observing and working out any kinks before we actually publish the new tasks and the new EFMB, but going forward this will be the new EFMB standard, and we’re highlighting it at Fort Campbell.”
Since many installations across the Army declined to host EFMB testing this year, the event at Fort Campbell is one of only a few options for Soldiers right now to compete for the badge.
“I think that the EFMB is something that I hope that most medical professionals know about and yearn to achieve,” said Schlegel. “It can definitely set people apart from their peers when it comes to promotion boards and being selected for certain positions. It is a challenging competition, and I hope that we have a lot of candidates who earn their EFMB here today.”
The EFMB has one of the highest attrition rates in the Army; on average, only about 27 percent of those who attempt will earn the badge.
“Skill badges are very important to the Soldier and to the Army because it’s one of those things in the Army that a Soldier can either choose to do or not do based on how much he or she wants it, said Staff Sgt. Darren Kim, Able Company, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. “It’s really one of those things where they can control their own fate, and that’s important to have that. Not a lot of people get to actually control their own destiny while doing this, and it’s a good motivator for them.”
An additional goal behind the changes being applied to the EFMB is that changing these tasks better aligns the EFMB with the Expert Soldier Badge (ESB) and the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB), enabling Soldiers to be tested for multiple badges on the same lanes, says Schlegel, and to look for more changes to come.
Schlegel anticipates that the pass rate will decrease due to the new medical lane, but is positive that as the medical community learns the new standard and how to navigate it, it will rise again. In the meantime, the test control office will monitor and make improvements as needed.
“We have gotten great feedback from candidates and cadre members,” Schlegel said. “It’s not a perfect solution, but we’re working towards making it as realistic and great as we possibly can.”