By David Moore, U. S. Army Support Activity - Joint Base-McGuire Dix-Lakehurst, NJMay 7, 2012
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- When it comes to earning the U.S. Army's Expert Field Medical Badge, its attention to detail and sometimes mere seconds that can make or break a Soldier's attempt.
"It's an elite badge; the best of the best medics wear it," said Army Sgt. Peter King, Combat Lifesaver instructor trainer mentor, 174th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East. "It's an honor to know you are one of only 20 percent."
On April 17, 112 eager candidates stepped up to their first formation. After the smoke cleared from the medical combat training lanes and a 12-mile ruck march ended, just 21 remained. Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho, Commanding General, U.S. Army's Northern Regional Medical Command Fort Belvoir, Va., personally pinned the EFMB on the remaining 21 medics, including King and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Hansen, also assigned to 174th Inf. Bde.
"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 Caravalho. "NRMC has found a new home for our EFMB program." Caravalho also credited the trainers, 87th Air Base Wing, and the Dix staff with playing a major part in the event's success. This was the first time Joint Base Maguire Dix Lakehurst hosted the EFMB testing.
Members of 174th Infantry Brigade, USASA-Fort Dix's Directorate of Plans, Training and Mobilization, and Security's Training Management, and Walson Medical Support Element provided daily support for the event. Overall, 150 military personnel, provided lane preparation, mentoring, grading, and technical support.
Candidates displayed high levels of motivation to garner the coveted badge. Army Master Sgt. Richard Malby, who served as the EFMB competition first sergeant from Walter Reed National Military Center, said, even in the final phases individuals were highly competitive, and cadre mentoring remained high for the candidates. To motivate candidates, he said mentors would camouflage their faces like the rock band Kiss. Each morning they began by singing Kiss's 'Rock and Roll All Night.'
"With the pressure of the event, I see where motivation and humor definitely eases the stress, and the Soldiers seem to perform better," said Malby.
The EMFB , created by the Army in 1965, remains the non-combat equivalent to the Combat Medical Badge. During the competition, in addition to a 12-mile combat-medic-load ruck march, candidates test their technical and tactical skills, completing warrior and medical tasks on three different combat lanes, day and night land navigation, and a written test. Despite having a standardization week to walk through the event, candidates dwindled rapidly during each phase of the competition.
Officers or noncommissioned officers in charge of the respective lanes reported attention to detail weeded out many of the candidates. For example, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Granke, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry Regiment and NCOIC of day and night land navigation course, said he cautioned candidates to try to stay off paved roads.
"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 agreed the toughest lane was combat lane one--a combination of more than 23 warrior and medical tasks in a combat driven scenario. Candidates completed more than a 100 critical steps to be successful.
"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," explained Sgt. 1st Class John Sample, a seven-time EFMB evaluator from the Medical Department Activity, Fort Drum, N.Y. Missing one step in a medical process can mean life or death when it comes to tactical combat care.
The lane began with candidates loading their medic bags before going out on a simulated combat mission. Missing one item, such as a dressing for an abdominal would, can cause the medic trouble later.
Army 1st Lt. Walter Peoples, 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. His two hour and 23 minutes time was 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, 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. He drove driving 12-hours from Fort Gordon, Ga., to surprise her.
Cpt. Champion said his wife 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," he laughed. In realisty 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. She Champion joked with her husband and said using a twist on their name. "I am 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 a badge recognized the world over--"the Army's Expert Field Medical Badge," he said.
"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.