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EFMB: Service Members Earn Badge of Proficiency, Dedication


By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Public Affairs staff writer

One hundred twenty-four service members began their quest to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB) on Sept. 27 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL), N.J.
When the dust settled following a grueling 12-mile road march that EFMB candidates had to finish in less than three hours wearing 36 pounds of gear, just 21 Soldiers, an Airman and a Sailor had earned the prestigious badge which many say is the most difficult to obtain in the Army.
“All who competed for our coveted [EFMB] are winners because they are much better medics for having done so,” said Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Jeffrey B. Clark, director of Walter Reed National Military Medical Command (WRNMMC), which hosted the testing for the badge. “Each and every one of them needs to be very proud and know they tried something very few even step up to attempt. More importantly, know you are much better prepared to save lives on the battlefield, which is one of the greatest challenges and enormous privileges of all who wear the uniform of the United States of America,” the general continued.
Clark said the EFMB is a “symbol of excellence,” [and] “one which sets those who earn it apart from their peers.” First created in 1965, he added more than 100,000 service members have attempted to earn the EFMB, with only about 16 percent of them obtaining it.
“Today, less than 3 percent of Army medicine [personnel] have earned the [EFMB],” Clark added. Joining those ranks are the 23 service members who recently earned the EFMB at JB MDL. “You are ‘expert field medics,’” the general said to them.
This was the first time WRNMMC has hosted EFMB training and testing, which made it especially significant since it was during the 50th anniversary year of the badge’s creation, Clark explained. Regional Health Command Atlantic (RHC-A), which includes Army medical treatment facilities throughout the east coast, significantly contributed to the effort, the general said.
The diverse candidate pool of Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen who tested for the badge at JB MDL ranged in rank from privates to colonels, and came from throughout the Military Health System, including several from WRNMMC. They were put through an arduous two-week course including a week of standardization, followed by the written test, land navigation, weapons qualification, warrior skills tasks, medical and casualty evacuation tasks, tactical combat casualty care tasks, communications tasks, and the 12-mile road march.
Army 2nd Lt. Andrea Dorsey, a nurse from WRNMMC, not only earned the EFMB during the recent testing at JB MDL, but she was also the candidate who earned the highest score on the 60-question written test, answering 57 questions correctly. The 60 questions, which must be completed in 90 minutes, covered topics ranging from medical treatment, field sanitation, warrior tasks, battle drills and medical support for captured service members.
“I’m on top of the world right now,” said Dorsey after the EFMB was pinned on her uniform. “The EFMB is one of the most coveted badges the Army has to offer, especially for medical personnel. I really wanted to get it.” She added her preparation to earn the badge included a two-month long train-up, consisting of classes and morning ruck marches, with other WRNMMC service members.
Air Force Capt. Richard Pate, also a WRNMMC nurse and aide to Clark, was the first EFMB candidate to cross the finish line in the 12-mile road march, completing the challenge in just under two-and-a-half hours to earn the badge.
“This was a great military experience,” Pate said. “It’s quite an honor to put that badge on; not many people have earned it. It’s a really special thing,” he said. “I love seeing the Army, Air Force and Navy come together for what’s traditionally an Army badge and succeed,” said the Air Force captain.
Navy Lt. Brian Morrison, of the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Md., was the lone Sailor to earn the EFMB during the recent testing at JB MDL. A microbiologist, Morrison said he appreciated the preparation and training he accomplished to earn the badge, in addition to achieving his goal alongside members of other services. The Navy lieutenant added he found combat testing lane (CTL) 2 to be the most challenging. “You have to put on protective gear in the correct order, take equipment off in the right order, and it’s all very stressful because there are bells and whistles going off and you’re under a simulated chemical/biological attack. I found that lane to be the most rigorous.”
After completing CTL 3, the litter obstacle course which wound through the woods of JB MDL, Army Capt. Jangwoo Lee knew he was well on his way to accomplishing his goal of earning the EFMB with just the 12-mile road march to complete at JB MDL. A microbiologist from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), Lee said as a Medical Service Corps officer, earning the EFMB is an exceptional attainment. “It shows your dedication and proficiency. It’s really about being a Soldier.”
Lee also praised the camaraderie which developed among the candidates who tested for the EFMB. “We cheered up each other. This was not about competing against one another, but challenging ourselves and learning a lot while doing so,” he added.
Army Capt. Andrea Mountney, officer-in-charge of CTL 3, explained the lane encompassed nine tasks including medical and casualty evacuation tasks using one- and four-person-litter carries, extrication of a casualty from a vehicle, establishing a helicopter landing point, and loading casualties onto a helicopter, ground evacuation platform, and vehicles. Candidates concluded the lane by assembling and operating a Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS).
A research psychologist, Mountney does brain trauma research at WRAIR. She earned the EFMB in October 2014 at Fort Bragg, N.C. She agreed earning the badge is a rewarding experience which enhances one’s abilities to deliver exceptional care in the field, as well as sets those who earn the badge above their peers for career progression.
Army Lt. Col. Amy Blank, OIC of the recent EFMB training and testing at JB MDL, and Army Master Sgt. Ricardo Rebellion, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of EFMB, agreed the effort was a success.
“At our peak, we had 204 personnel on the ground supporting our124 candidates,” Blank explained. She added those 204 personnel included active duty Soldiers and Sailors, as well as reservists and  guardsmen from 17 different sites as far north as Fort Drum, N.Y., and as far south as Fort Bragg, N.C., in addition to service members from San Antonio and the Nebraska National Guards.
“This really started about three weeks ago when support personnel and cadre came in and accumulated all of the supplies and equipment, as well as handle the logistics for the training and testing,” Rebellion added. The following week, the candidates came in for standardization to train up for the testing.
Blank and Rebellion said the candidates and cadre faced an added challenge when the effects Hurricane Joaquin impacted the east coast during the mission. “The candidates and cadre trained through it because that is the standard,” the master sergeant said. There is no compromise when it comes to upholding the high standard, during EFMB testing and on the battlefield, he explained.
The night land navigation challenge also took its toll on the EFMB candidates, Blank said. “It poured down raining on one of the groups, and it was extremely dark out there,” she explained. “When the [candidates] were out there, they truly had to know how to navigate. They couldn’t rely on the moonlight.”
She added CTL 1, primarily a medical task lane, is “very long” and consists of “by-the-number, multiple” challenges, which also diminished the ranks of the candidates for the badge. Some of the tasks in the lane included performing tactical combat casualty care patient assessment; triage of casualties; control of bleeding using a tourniquet, hemostatic device and dressings; initiating a saline lock and IV; initiating treatment for hypovolemic shock and preventing hypothermia; inserting nasopharyngeal airway; treating a penetrating chest wound; performing needle chest decompression; treating an open abdominal wound and casualty with an open head injury; immobilizing a suspected fracture of the arm; and treating eye lacerations, contusions and extrusions.
Performing steps in the wrong order, failing to check vitals or indicate the use of a tourniquet on a casualty, will cause a candidate to earn a “no go,” Blank explained. Those who fail a certain number of tasks from any category cannot earn the coveted EFMB.
Rebellion said CTLs were added to EFMB testing to replicate situations service members face downrange. For each of the CTLs, service members are usually given one to two hours to complete the given tasks, all while reacting to obstacles and stressors, such as simulated indirect and direct fire, artillery simulators and smoke going off.  
Twenty-one years ago as “a young Army lieutenant,” Blank, now WRNMMC’s director of audiology and speech pathology, “lived through the rains of Fort Lewis, Wash.,” to earn the EFMB on her first attempt. Most people who earn the badge achieve it on their second, third or fourth try. “As a medical person, it’s what we all want to strive for,” Blank said. “It recognizes exceptional, competent and outstanding performance by field medical personnel. It is the highest skill award a military medic can earn,” she added.
Rebellion also earned the EFMB on his first attempt in 1996 while stationed to an infantry unit in Hawaii. “In an infantry unit, the medic is ‘the doc,’” he explained. He added the one thing infantrymen do is look for the EFMB on the uniform of the medic assigned to their unit. “It carries a lot of weight. As a combat medic you knew you had to have the EFMB. For us, it is a source of pride because you know how hard it is to earn. It’s an added source of respect.”