With a pass rate of approximately 15%, the Expert Field Medical Badge is one of the most challenging and prestigious Army skill badges to earn. The requirements of the qualification push the physical and mental limits of the medics who step up to the challenge. The 168th Multifunctional Medical Battalion has been running the EFMB qualification at Warrior Base in Paju since the end of April. More than 250 medics from around the peninsula and as far away as Hawaii vied for the badge during the two cycles of the qualification.
The EFMB qualification spans a two-week period and comprises a written exam, three combat testing lanes, a day and night land navigation course, and a 12-mile road march. The candidates train for the first week and are tested the second week. Two evaluators observed each candidate during the combat training lanes in order to maintain the rigorous standards that the EFMB is known for. It is an intense program that tests both Warrior and medic skills.
"With or without the badge this is excellent training. Every medic who participates in the EFMB becomes a better trained medic," said Lt. Col. Michael Smith, 168th MMB commander and officer in charge of the EFMB.
Of the 140 candidates who entered the qualification, 20 medics earned the coveted badge on May 6. Soldiers with 2nd Infantry Division brought back 11 of those 20 prestigious badges.
The training week allowed candidates to traverse the combat training lanes and build camaraderie in preparation for the entirely individualized testing week.
"I was really pleased to see how my platoon came together. The medics from field units have a different skill set than their counterparts who work in hospitals. They helped each other by training and studying together and sharing their strengths," said Staff Sgt. Dennis Wynne of 4th Chemical Co. and EFMB second platoon leader.
The candidates were required to have a current CPR certificate, bringing a high level of training to the qualification but still able to gain substantially from it.
"The EFMB benefits every medic who participates not only for the intensive training but they also earn continuing education credits. Every medic needs continuing education units in order to maintain their training," said Maj. Frank Goring of the Division Surgeon's Office and a member of the EFMB test check board.
Some of the candidates met with success and supported their platoon members early in the testing period.
"I'm proud of how well my platoon has been doing. We are three days in to testing and the number of candidates is still well above the expected fallout rate. It was great to see them supporting each other by studying and working together," said Staff Sgt. Antonio Jefferson of 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery, EFMB third platoon leader.
Candidates could prepare for the mental challenges of the training lanes, but the physical challenges were an unknown.
"The train up for the testing was really valuable for reinforcing our MOS-specific knowledge and Soldier skills but it didn't quite prepare me for the grueling physical demands. We just did the land navigation last night so I am operating on only two hours of sleep today," said Lt. Kallie Smith of B Co., Tippler Army Medical Center in Hawaii.
Medics appreciated the valuable opportunity that the qualification represented.
"The EFMB reinforces what we do on a day-to-day basis, but in a much more stressful situation. It drains you, but really makes you a better medic," said 2nd Lt. Onissa Ortiz, of C Co., 302nd Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
Highly trained medics are an invaluable asset to any fighting force but earning an EFMB shows a level of accomplishment that makes them stand out from their peers. In remarks given May 6 at the badge ceremony, 2nd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Michael Tucker praised the work of medics and their contribution to the fight.
"During WWII, if metal entered your body, you had about a 30% chance of survival, today it's about 94%; what has changed are medics. I served in Afghanistan for 15 months as chief of operations for ISAF headquarters in NATO Command and I got to see medics from other countries in action. I can say that American medics are the best in the world. Nothing consoles the soul better than the knowledge that there are medics there to pick you up off the ground and help you live another day," said Tucker.