By Spc. Adam Turner, 1st Cav. Div. PAOAugust 18, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas - Many military medics have distinguished themselves by earning their Combat Medical Badge (CMB) while deployed in support of combat operations overseas, however, in the military medical community there is a badge that less than one percent of all medics have earned.
Hosting its first Expert Field Medical Badge Competition (EFMB) in eight years, the 1st Cavalry Division not only opened its unique event to all medics here on Fort Hood, but also welcomed military medical personnel from all branches of service and numerous installations from around the United States for the two week long course ending Aug. 13.
"The [EFMB competition] is something the division has been interested to do for a very long time," said Lt. Col. Dan Barnes, 1st Cav. Div. deputy division surgeon, from Omaha, Neb.
"It's all a matter of timing, and with the current deployment situation we all face, we didn't want to rush this thing. The standard has to be met and this is the best opportunity we have to not only conduct the training but to meet the EFMB standard," he added.
With a historic attrition rate of 80 percent, most of the 241 initial candidates knew that they might not make it through this combat based, scenario driven, reality focused medical training event.
"Everyone involved in building this competition is very excited to see it unfold. We took a very long hard look at ways to improve upon the training experience that goes along with this EFMB," said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Fowler, one of the many EFMB cadre.
EFMB candidates spent two weeks conducting various training lanes to test not only medical knowledge, but the most basic of Soldier skills. Cadre mixed day and night time land navigation with some of the most tedious and time consuming medical training these candidates could ever see in a training environment.
The combat trauma lane tested not only a medic's knowledge of buddy aid and first responder skills, but their ability to treat numerous casualties at once.
Upon arrival at the lane, a medic may find sucking-chest wounds, severed appendages, and probably the most demanding of all, a member of the EFMB cadre who constantly provided an ever changing status of all casualties, and the area the medic is working in.
These updates came with certain fluidity as the trauma lane's one hour and forty five minute time standard loomed over the EFMB hopefuls.
"We don't want to throw all of this information at them to keep them from performing well, but I think it is a fair assumption that a patient's condition is going to change-especially in the field. These guys have got to be ready for that, you can never get comfortable when someone's life is in your hands," said Fowler.
Medical skills were not the only ones on display as candidates performed on the Warrior Skills lane. A nearly one mile wooded course where Soldier Medics reacted to enemy fire, chemical attacks and loaded littered patients into tactical vehicles.
"Being an all around, complete Soldier is a prerequisite of this competition. These [medics] come out here to set themselves apart; to be the best, to prove something. They know what is at stake had any of this [training] been real in Iraq, Afghanistan or here on Fort Hood," Fowler said.
The competition wrapped up with a 12-mile ruck march in under three hours on the final morning.
As the pass/fail mark of three hours expired, only 18 of the original 241 candidates survived the week of daunting medical tasks and Soldier skills. Standing in formation during their graduation ceremony the newest EFMB warriors felt the toll of Lt. Col. Barnes' final remarks.
"These last two weeks are not simply testing; they are to prepare you for success," said Barnes. "All of you earned the EFMB by demonstrated skill, personal courage, and sheer determination. You persevered and are now the next generation to carry on the EFMB tradition."
"So, wear it proudly, [this] badge says more about you than you will ever know on this day. Congratulations."