GRAFENWOEHR, Germany, Aug. 3, 2011 -- United States Army health professionals throughout Europe, along with health professionals from NATO-partner Germany have come here to attempt to earn the 2011 U.S. Army Europe Expert Field Medical Badge.

The Expert Field Medical Badge, or EFMB, is one of the most difficult badges a medic can earn in their profession and wearing it signifies a high degree of skill and proficiency, said event organizers.

“It’s a proficiency badge. It’s the hallmark for a medical professional, and is often seen as a benchmark of excellence in the medical community,” said Master Sgt. Peter Perkins, 212th Combat Support Hospital, Miesau, Germany.

More than 250 candidates will strive to earn the EFMB and are required to perform in a simulated combat environment that concludes with a three-hour, 12-mile forced road march on Aug. 13, for those candidates who have not failed. Before reaching the road march, candidates must pass several obstacles that test their mental toughness and medical skills.

Based at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, EFMB standardization and testing is separated into three combat testing lanes, or CTLs, as well as a day and night land navigation course.

“Land Navigation is a vital task that all candidates must complete. It is a very important task because a medic has to know where to find a casualty and how to get them to a casualty collection point,” said Master Sgt. Harold Pharis, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Office of the Surgeon, 21st Theater Sustainment Brigade.

On CTL 1, candidates are judged on Tactical Combat Casualty Care, testing their medical skills. Each candidate performs patient assessment and triaging casualties by the seriousness of their wounds.

“This [CTL 1] is the only lane where a candidate’s medical skills -- and only their medical skills -- are put to the test,” said Sgt. 1st Class Troy Ramsey, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. “The other lanes have tasks that test Soldier skills.”

During CTL 2, each candidate is required to perform Warrior Skills Tasks, which tests their Soldier skills. Candidates will have to know how to protect themselves from a Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear contamination, correct malfunctions on their weapons, and move under fire.

CTL 3 consists of medical and casualty tasks as well as communication tasks. During CTL 3 candidates must put their medical skills to work while under fire and also put a military radio together. They must also establish a helicopter landing point and load their casualties.

“Combat Lane 3 is primarily a medical evacuation lane, and is a very important lane for candidates to know should they ever have to remove wounded Soldiers from the battlefield quickly to get them medical treatment,” said Sgt. 1st Class William Ambrose, noncommissioned officer in charge of Behavior Health, Landstuhl, Germany.

Each lane is designed to test the mental toughness of candidates, whether it is an American health professional or a German health professional. The goal of each candidate is to provide the best medical care for all forces and make it to the Aug. 13 ruck march, and ultimately to receive the Expert Field Medical Badge, a sign that they are one of the elite in the military medical community.

“By the end of this competition there will be no difference between NATO Forces and American Forces,” said Pharris. “They will basically be one, with the goal of everyone making it to that 12-mile road march, and everyone crossing the finish line”.