JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Soldiers are always training to meet the standard and do their best. They strive to win at the challenge. But when it comes to earning the U.S. Army's Expert Field Medical Badge it's the attention to detail even seconds that can make or break person from earning the Expert Field Medical Badge.

"It's an elite badge, the best of the best medics wear it," said Army Sgt. Peter King, trainer mentor Combat Lifesaver instructor with the 174th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East. "It's honor, to know you are one of only 20 percent."

After 112 candidates stepped into their first formation April 17 and after the smoke cleared from the medical combat training lanes and a 12-mile ruck march had ended, just 21 remained. These select medics were pinned with the EFMB Sunday, April 29, by Brig. Gen. (Dr. Joseph Caravalho Jr., commanding general of the U.S. Army's Northern Regional Medical Command headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va.

"Dix was the logical choice to host this event. The availability of resources and training area made Dix the logical choice because of its one stop shopping approach to host the event here," said Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho. "NRMC has found a new home for our EFMB program." Caravalho also credited the trainers, 87th Air Base Wing, and the Dix staff.

The event was held for the first time at the joint base with daily support from 174th Infantry Brigade, USASA-Fort Dix's Directorate of Plans, Training and Mobilization, and Security's Training Management, and Walson Medical Support Element. Overall, 150 military personnel, in addition to the EFMB competitors, were involved with lanes preparation, mentoring, grading, and technical support.

Candidates with high levels of motivation seemed to be the norm for moving up the later toward garnering the coveted badge. Army Master Sgt. Richard Malby, who served as the EFMB competition first sergeant from Walter Reed National Military Center, said, that even in the final phases individuals were highly competitive and cadre mentoring remained high for the candidates. He said one of the candidate platoons each day would put camouflage on their faces looking like the rock band Kiss. Each morning they began by singing Kiss's 'Rock and Roll All Night,' he said.

"With the pressure of the event, I see where motivation and humor defiantly eases the stress and the Soldiers seem to perform better," said Malby.

One such rock-star medic was Army Staff Sgt. Benjamin Hansen, a trainer mentor CLS instructor with 174th Inf. Bde. He and King both earned the EFMB.

The EMFB was created by the Army in 1965 and is the non-combat equivalent to the Combat Medical Badge. During the competition, besides the 12-mile combat medic load ruck march, candidates had to put their skills to the test doing simultaneous warrior and medical tasks on three combat lanes, day and night land navigation, and a written test. Despite having a standardization week to walk through the event, candidates began to dwindle during each phase of the competition.

Experts serving as officers or noncommissioned officers in charge of their respective lanes reported what gets many of the candidates is the level of attention to detail. For example, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Granke, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry Regiment and NCOIC of day and night land navigation had cautioned the candidates to try to stay off the roads. He cautioned them some roads may be marked as such and no longer exist. Terrain association becomes paramount for hitting all their points.

"Some of the candidates see the hard top and think they are on the right road, but they're not," said Granke. "Knowing how to navigate, especially for medics getting to casualties and collection points, is important."

EFMB Cadre and candidates said the toughest lane was combat lane one--a combination of more than 23 warrior and medical tasks in a combat driven scenario. But inside those tasks, they add up to more than a 100 critical steps to be successful. In a real battle missing one can mean life or death when it comes to tactical combat care.

"Lane one is historically the most challenging since all the combat care medical tasks are on this lane. To get a go on this lane you need to get a go on 11 of the 14 medical tasks," Sgt. 1st Class John Sample, a seven-time EFMB evaluator from the Medical Department Activity, Fort Drum, N.Y.

The lane actually begins by candidates loading the medic bag before going out on a simulated combat mission. Missing one item, such as a dressing for an abdominal would, can cause the medic trouble.

Army 1st Lt. Walter Peoples, assigned to Public Health Command Region-North at Fort Meade, Md. was the first to cross the finish line after a 12-mile ruck march April 29, in 2 hours, 23 minutes far below the mandated three hour event.

"I had a lot of support getting here, as well as support from the cadre and platyoon for this event. While earning the EFMB is certainly an accomplishment equally as important is the camaraderie and friends I have made here," Peoples said.

During the march in the soft sand of Range Road, 1st Lt. Margaret Champion, of Womack Medical Center, Fort Bragg, N.C., had a surprise waiting at the six-mile mark. Her husband Capt. Jerry Champion, was waiting to ruck the last six-miles with her after driving 12-miles from Fort Gordon, Ga. She didn't know he would be here.

Cpt. Champion said his wife had called the day before the combat-gear loaded ruck march to see if he would be there for the march.

"I said no way. Why would I want to ruck march," but he was already in town when he wished her good luck.

"She has worked two years to be here. She wanted to do something outside of the hospital and do it for the Army. I am very proud of her," he added. 1st Lt. Champion joked with her husband and said using a twist on their name. "Am I an expert now and not just a champion," she said.

During the graduation ceremony, Caravalho congratulated all the Soldiers for completing the competition and now bearing the badge that is recognized the world over--"the Army's Expert Field Medical Badge," he said.

"But the 90-plus individuals who may not be here, they need to be commended for their courage, too. They stepped up to the line and took on the challenge. It may not have been their day but I can assure you that sometime soon they will take on this challenge again and continue to strive for this badge," said Caravalho.