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Soldiers from WRNMMC Earn Coveted Expert Field Medical Badge

01/22/2019

By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Command Communications​

When testing for the Expert Field Medical Badge began Nov. 4 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Army Sgt. Eric Duff and Spc. Marcus Scott, both of Troop Command at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, were among the 250 service members vying for the honor of having the coveted badge pinned on their uniforms when the dust settled.

After five grueling days of testing, in addition to months of preparation, Duff and Scott accomplished their quest and were two of the 73 service members to earn the EFMB during the recent testing cycle at Fort Bragg.

Created in 1965 during the Vietnam War, the EFMB recognizes Soldiers who demonstrate exceptional skills in both medical and Soldier tasks. Since then, testing for the badge has opened to service members from other branches who must also successfully complete a gauntlet of challenges that includes field medical skills, reacting to indirect simulated fire, protecting oneself from chemical weapons, as well as other tasks testing one’s physical and mental fitness.

Duff and Scott, both medics, were also the only two of nine service members from WRNMMC to earn the badge in November at Fort Bragg. Both agreed that the effort may have been one of the most difficult challenges they have undertaken during their service careers.

Many who earn the badge state their success is related to the amount of preparation they did before testing, and for Duff and Scott, it was no different. In addition, those who earn the EFMB usually do so after testing for it on more than one occasion, as did Duff and Scott. Pass rate for the badge averages less than 20 percent. “The pass rate for Fiscal Year 2017 was 18 percent, making the EFMB one of the most difficult and prestigious Army special skill badges to earn,” state officials from the Army Medical Department Center and School (AMEDDC&S), U.S. Army Health Readiness Center of Excellence (HRCoE), who oversee administration and testing for the badge.

“The EFMB stands you out as a medic,” said Scott, a Colorado native. He had tested for the badge twice before prior to earning it in November.  “I hate failing,” he stated, explaining why he kept going back to try and earn it. “There’s no way of passing the EFMB by yourself,” he continued, emphasizing the importance of teamwork in meeting the challenge.

Duff agreed, furthering, “I realized that it would be a better reflection on me as a leader for my Soldiers to see that I earned the EFMB. It would also be a better reflection on myself knowing that I could do it. I chose to go and do it because I knew I could, and if I can do it, anyone else can,” the California native said.

But not just anyone earns the badge, explained Army Capt. Emily Burkhardt, officer-in-charge of the EFMB Test Control Office (TCO) at AMEDDC&S HRCoE. She explained that only about 9 percent of the Army medical population are badge holders.

Prior to the week of testing for the badge at Fort Bragg, candidates received a week of standardization during which they are taught step by step how to correctly perform each task, Scott explained. He added its important candidates grasp and memorize what they are taught during this train-up period to be successful when testing occurs the following week.

But even before the standardization week, Troop Command at WRNMMC provided candidates months of training which included classroom and field instructions in preparation for EFMB testing.

Army Capt. Georgina Smith, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company for Troop Command at WRNMMC, helped EFMB candidates with train-up for the testing. Smith, who has earned the badge, explained achieving it demonstrates the candidate’s expertise in providing field medical care, as well as their ability to perform a number of Soldier’s tasks. She said testing is done under “very stressful conditions,” which is why only “the best” earn the EFMB.

“To earn the EFMB, you have to be of the highest caliber, have physical and mental toughness, attention to detail, and be a well-rounded Soldier,” agreed Army Capt. Christian Koscinski, who served as officer-in-charge of the EFMB testing with the 690th Ground Ambulance Company, 28th Combat Support Hospital, 44th Medical Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg during the most recent testing cycle. She added any military occupational specialty may test for the badge, but usually “only 18 to 20 percent are projected to make it through to the very end.”

“To guarantee we qualify only the most proficient Soldiers prior to the testing phase, they have to pass an Army physical fitness test, have a valid weapons card and be cardiopulmonary resuscitation qualified,” Koscinski said.

“The badge is more than something they get to wear on their uniform,” added Army Sgt. 1st Class Dontre Robinson, this cycle’s EFMB testing noncommissioned officer-in-charge, also with the 690th. “Graders hold all participants to the standard because wearing this badge is an honor. It sets them apart from their colleagues and says that they are elite and excel at medical knowledge under pressure and time," said Robinson, who earned the badge in 2008.

In addition to having to pass an Army physical fitness test, basic marksmanship qualification and CPR certification, candidates must also pass a written test; land navigation (day and night) testing; small arms and rifle disassembly, assembly, and function check; and movement under direct fire to earn the EFMB.

Badge candidates also had to successfully perform a Tactical Combat Casualty Care patient assessment; evacuate casualties using one-person carries or drags; control bleeding using a tourniquet; control bleeding using a hemostatic device; control bleeding using dressings; and initiate a saline lock and intravenous infusion. They also had to initiate treatment for hypovolemic shock and prevent hypothermia; react to indirect fire; triage casualties; insert nasopharyngeal airway; treat a penetrating chest wound; and perform needle chest decompression.

Other testing included treating an open-head injury and open-abdominal wound; immobilizing a suspected fracture of the arm; treating lacerations, contusions, and extrusions of the eye; evacuating casualties using two-person carries or drags; and loading casualties onto ground evacuation platform.

Candidates also had to react to an unexploded ordnance or possible improvised explosive device situation; don personal protective gear for a chemical/biological attack; know personal decontamination procedures; perform self-aid for mild nerve agent poisoning; and know how to load casualties into nonstandard vehicles.

They were also tested on evacuation of casualties using litter carries; extrication of casualties from a vehicle; loading casualties onto helicopters; establishing a helicopter landing point; and use of secure mode radio to request medical evacuation support.

A 12-mile forced ruck march that must be completed in under three hours carrying assigned gear and equipment from start to finish, culminates the testing.

Scott explained that the march was what he found most challenging during the testing. “It had rained basically the entire two weeks we were [at Fort Bragg]. It rained the night before the ruck [march]. The course was nothing but dirt and pretty nice for when it was dry, but it turned into mud when it rained. You started to sink in as you ran up and down the hills.” In addition, he said the ruck they had to carry was approximately 35 pounds dry, which became about 40 to 50 pounds when wet.

Duff agreed that he also found the ruck march to be the most challenging task.

The march was the last challenge candidates had to achieve in order to earn the EFMB, coming on the final day of testing following four days of rigorous challenges in the field.

“If anyone wants to try for the EFMB, it’s one of those things you have to keep going for if you don’t get it the first time,” Scott said. “Once you have it, you definitely stand out. It sets you apart from your peers,” he added.

Duff said he plans to help facilitate a training program at WRNMMC to help service members prepare to test for the EFMB. “We would definitely like to see service members attend, and definitely would like to see them earn the EFMB,” he furthered. For more information, email eric.q.duff.mil@mail.mil.