JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Spc. Raymond Alonso, a combat medic specialist with Charlie Company, 181st Brigade Support Battalion, is the first member of his unit to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge on his first attempt in more than a decade.
“Of the three expert badges, including the Expert Infantry and Expert Soldier, the Expert Field Medical Badge has a notoriously low pass rate. It is physically, mentally and technically demanding,” said Capt. Jim Kovell, commander for Charlie Company, 181st Brigade Support Battalion. “For comparison, the Expert Field Medical Badge has only a 29% pass rate. Compare that to the 50% pass rate of Ranger School; it shows how difficult it is to earn.”
Alonso joined approximately 150 other Army medics who completed the week-long test on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Oct 11-15.
The evaluation consisted of a written test of institutional knowledge. Candidates who pass advance to a physical fitness assessment before moving on to the land navigation portion of the test. Candidates demonstrate their proficiency in navigating while dismounted without electronic navigation devices.
“The land navigation course on JBLM is difficult because there are no distinct markers; you basically just have to shoot your azimuth and trust your pace count,” said Alonso.
After passing the land navigation portion, candidates are tested on their practical ability and attention to detail while performing evacuation, Tactical Combat Casualty Care and warrior skills.
Candidates who pass this portion must march 12 miles carrying their field equipment in three hours. Five minutes after finishing, candidates must clear, disassemble, assemble and perform a functions check on an M4 or M16 rifle in five minutes or less.
“It is a hard badge to earn, but crossing that finish line after the final event, knowing I had done it was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders,” said Alonso. “It felt so good. I was on cloud nine.”
The Expert Field Medical Badge is the most sought-after peacetime award an Army medic can achieve.
“As we were doing the final award ceremony, I found out I was the only National Guard member to earn the badge. So many Soldiers kept coming up to me asking about the National Guard and were amazed,” said Alonso.
Kovell says he wasn’t surprised Alonso earned the prestigious award.
“If you ask any of his battle buddies or NCOs, there was no doubt he was going to crush it in the test,” said Kovell. “He is a smart and dedicated medic and one of our rising stars in the field.”
Alonso said it was a team effort.
“I had 10 National Guard Soldiers join me in a two-week train-up before the testing. We shared best practices and knowledge that helped me,” said Alonso. “When I got back to drill that next day, everyone was asking me questions and congratulating me, and I just wanted to share as much as I could about the testing.”
Alonso plans to return to the University of Washington next year, join the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps, earn his commission and apply for medical school.