FORT SILL, OK- For decades Soldiers have been driven to prove that they are the best at what they do. Special skill badges are worn on the uniform as a symbol of honor, a symbol of the hard work and dedication needed to proudly display the earned badge. For those in the medical field the Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB) is that coveted symbol. Those who wear the EFMB have proved that they are among the most technically and tactically proficient regarding medical capabilities and readiness.
In April Reynolds Army Health Clinic (RAHC), in conjunction with Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence, had the honor to host an EFMB competition concurrently with Fort Sill’s Expert Soldier Badge competition. “The EFMB is all about excellence and competence in your profession, Reynolds will deliver an opportunity for over 50 medical professionals to earn this distinguished badge, and it will be a great contribution to the Ready Medical Force,” said Col. Daniel Bridon Reynolds Army Health Clinic Commander.
The is the second consecutive year, and the third EFMB competition overall that Reynolds and Fort Sill have hosted. “Fort Sill and the Fires Center of Excellence has truly been a partner in helping to make this happen,” continued Bridon, “In addition to the support from the Fires community, MEDCOM has provided candidates and support personnel from across the Army.”
“It is a requirement that the cadre and testing personnel for the EFMB are previous badge holders,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Stanley Jackson the Command Sergeant Major for Reynolds Army Health Clinic. “Reynolds does not yet have enough EMFB holders to support all the requirements for the competition,” continued Jackson, “our fellow Military Treatment Facilities have really stepped up and provided us not only with candidates to compete for the badge, but current badge holders that have allowed us to meet the high standards of the EFMB and make this a huge success.”
For Reynolds Army Health Clinic the road to the EFMB started last October with about 20 Soldiers from RAHC that wanted to earn their EFMB. RAHC Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) led the training for the EFMB candidates. “The requirements for earning the EFMB are extremely difficult, and our candidates were very motivated to start their train up as soon as possible,” said Sgt. Farnsworth, Training Room NCO for the RAHC Medical Company. “I earned my EFMB at Fort Drum in 2021 and had no organized train up before I left,” continued Farnsworth. “When I returned, I wanted to pass on the knowledge I had gained to build a foundation of training that would help soldiers not only for EFMB but overall Army skills and competitions as well.”
In addition to the daily physical fitness workouts, the candidates also had to prepare for the new EFMB Physical Fitness Assessment. “Our candidates were trained in Tactical Combat Casualty Care skills led by Sgt. 1st Class Martin Gonzales and Cpl. Christian Bolton, two of Reynolds’ recent EFMB recipients, as well as day and night land navigation spearheaded by Sgt. 1st Class Timothy McCoole.” said Reynolds Medical Company Commander Cpt. Sarah Villalpando.
Through collective efforts from these NCOs, candidates were given ample opportunities to fine tune their Army warrior tasks and skills, along with countless miles of ruck marching supported by Sgt. Colton Miller a Laboratory technician at Reynolds.
“It was truly an exemplary display of teamwork and dedication by the candidates and RAHC NCOs that led to five RAHC Soldiers receiving their badge,” said Villalpando.
The current requirements for the candidates hoping to earn the EFMB are a mix of standard Soldier skills, albeit performed at a much higher level, and comprehensive medical treatment skills unique to the 68 medical series MOS. Prior to the competition, candidates must pass basic marksmanship on their assigned weapon, be current in their Basic Life Saving (BLS) or CPR certification and pass a written examination that tests specific medical skills.
The first phase of testing begins with the physical fitness assessment, a grueling test of endurance that is conducted in full combat gear which the candidates have thirty minutes to complete. The next day consists of day and night land navigation where the candidates must find three out of four points on each course.
The remaining days the candidates must conduct the three Combat Testing Lanes that test the candidates on medical evacuation skills, Army warrior tasks and, the most difficult of the three, the Tactical Combat Casualty Care lane which can take up to one hour and forty-five minutes to complete. The culminating event is the twelve-mile road march that must be completed in under three hours.
“The pass rates for the EFMB are historically low because even though the standards are clearly defined, it combines physical, mental, and emotional aspects. The complexity of providing battlefield care is exceptionally high to begin with,” Bridon said. “The goal of earning an EFMB is for our Medics to come out of this one hundred percent confident that they are the very best there is.”
Of the 51 candidates that came to Fort Sill for the competition, 14 earned their EFMB. Of the twelve candidates that were from Reynolds five earned their badge: Physical Therapist Capt. Taylor Matsinger, Occupational Therapist Capt. Courtney Livoti, Sgt. 1st Class Timothy McCoole, Combat Medic Sgt. Mitchel Canaveral, and Combat Medic Sgt. Ryan DeForest. Sgt. 1st Class McCoole, recounted his experience of falling just short of his EFMB at last year’s competition to earning his badge this year.
“Last April I attempted to earn my EFMB at Fort Sill. It was a last-minute decision because I had just competed in, and won, the Medical Readiness Command, West Best Leader Competition and went into EFMB the next day. I was dealing with an ankle injury from the previous competition and did not manage my road march pace well and failed the road march by less than ten seconds. It was devastating being that close and missing out on my EFMB by ten seconds,” said McCoole.
“This year I was determined to get the badge at Fort Sill. Some of my peers that came up short with me at Fort Sill that year went and got their badge at other locations which motivated me to try again. I had three months to make sure I was physically and mentally prepared to succeed this time. The team of candidates from Reynolds became very close and we relied on each other to study and test each other. Everyone that succeeded played a part in preparing and motivating each other.”
Cpt. Livoti was also trying again for her EFMB. “This was my second attempt at earning an EFMB. I truly believe what made me successful this year was the group of soldiers I was participating with. I was lucky to compete with others from my unit and we all held each other accountable in terms of studying, helping each other in our weak areas, and lifting each other up when the going got tough. I am especially grateful for the soldiers who already had their EFMB that devoted their time and knowledge towards training us. It will forever be engrained in my mind crossing that twelve-mile ruck finish line with multiple soldiers from my unit, including those who joined us just to cheer us on; that is the true meaning of esprit de corps."
Sgt. Farnsworth echoed the statements from McCoole and Livoti, “I think the key difference between the competition this year and last year was how our candidates fully bought into the training and the significant training time that was facilitated, versus how last year people relied heavily on their own training. Our candidates really supported each other through the whole process.”
“This was higher than usual pass rate for an EFMB,” Col. Bridon said. “We went from a 15 percent overall pass rate last year, to a 27 percent pass rate this year. I am extremely proud of all the candidates, and especially proud of the five candidates from Reynolds Army Health Clinic that earned their badge. Sgt. Farnsworth and our other NCOs increased our Reynolds’ candidates pass rate to 36 percent this year. It demonstrates how hard our Frontier Medics work and how dedicated they are to saving lives on the battlefield. When they go to their next duty station their new unit will see that badge on their chest and know they are among the best in their field.”