By Staff Sgt. Mike AlbertsOctober 27, 2010
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - One hundred and forty-six Soldiers began the grueling, five-day competition to earn one of the Army's most coveted skill badges. By graduation day, only 20 remained, and were recognized for their accomplishment as they received the Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB), at a ceremony held on Schofield Barracks' Sills Field, Oct 22.
The EFMB was designed as a special skill award for recognition of exceptional competence and outstanding performance by field medical personnel and approved by the Department of the Army on June 18, 1965. The purpose of the EFMB is to provide qualified medical personnel with tough, realistic training and to recognize those who demonstrate the highest degree of professional skill in warrior tasks and various medical skills in a simulated combat environment.
First Lieutenant Alex Burns, nurse, Schofield Barracks Acute Care Clinic, C Company, Tripler Army Medical Center, was the officer-in-charge of Combat Training Lane (CTL) 1 which was the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) lane. According to Burns, to earn the EFMB candidates must pass an Army Physical Fitness Test; qualify with their assigned weapon; have a current life support certification; pass 11 of 14 tasks for TCCC; pass eight of 10 tasks for evacuation of the sick and wounded; pass 10 of 13 warrior skill tasks; pass four of five communication tasks; pass a comprehensive written examination; pass a day and night land navigation course; and complete a 12-mile foot march in three hours.
All of the various tasks and scenarios, except land navigation, were organized into three CTLs at three separate locations. CTL 1 was at Schofield Barracks, while CTL 2, CTL 3 and the land navigation course were conducted at the East Range field training facility. Candidates competed for the EFMB over a five-day period.
Sergeant First Class Michael Johnson, surgical product line NCOIC, B Co., Tripler Army Medical Center, worked with Burns at the TCCC lane evaluating candidates. Johnson earned his badge several years ago and witnessed the competition change over time to become more operationally oriented.
"The candidates are no longer simply given a series of tasks to accomplish like applying a tourniquet," explained Johnson. "At each lane, Soldiers are [confronted] with a series of combat-based scenarios. For instance, at the TCCC lane each candidate will treat patients, but the lane includes [everything] from loading vehicles and maintaining weapons to using communication equipment and moving tactically while reacting to direct fire."
Among the candidates were five 25th Combat Aviation Brigade "Wings of Lightning" Soldiers, all assigned to C Co., 3rd Battalion, 25th General Support Aviation Battalion, 25th CAB. Captain Tirzah Eskew, team leader, Forward Support Medical Team (FSMT), advanced up to the land navigation course, and Capt. Zachary Mauss, section leader, FSMT, and Sgt. William Lyman, flight medic, FSMT, advanced to the TCCC lane. First Lt. Hayden Piscal, section leader, FSMT, fell just one minute and five seconds short of earning her EFMB during the 12-mile foot march.
Of the Wings of Lightning candidates, only 1st Lt. Michael Sudweeks, assistant team leader, FSMT, C Co., 3-25 GSAB, earned the badge. Sudweeks elaborated on the significance of his accomplishment.
"Personally, it's rewarding to be a first-time 'go,' achieving a badge that has a fewer than 20 percent passing rate," said Sudweeks. "Professionally, I hope it demonstrates that I'm willing to put in extra work and effort which is important, especially when I get to a unit that has a bunch of qualified medical personnel. The EFMB shows that I am willing to learn, which is not just good for me, but I also hope good for the unit."
Lieutenant General (retired) James Benjamin Peake, former United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs, from 2007 through 2009, and 40th Army Surgeon General, offered his congratulations to all of those that earned the EFMB.
"Our Army is an Army that values its medics and appreciates the extraordinary contribution that medical members of the team make, and that is really why the badge was created," said Peake.
"The complexity of the tasks, the fog of battle, the stress of combat, and the physical demands are all built into the challenges of this competition and represent all the challenges you will face on the battlefield. [You have] truly earned the Expert Field Medical Badge. I am so proud of what you do and for being here today. And I am proud of what you will do on the battlefield to take care of our Soldiers."