Soldier's on Fort Hood Vie for EFMB

By Spc. Fabian Ortega
13th SC(E) PAO

I was there, at the beginning, with you at Valley Forge, binding the bleeding feet, assuaging the fevered brow. America’s best I’ve served- I am the Medic. I save.

An excerpt from the Combat Medic Creed.

Soldiers from various installations came to Fort Hood Apr. 16-27 for a chance to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge, the Army Medical Department’s most coveted honor.

More than 150 candidates prepared for two weeks of testing on areas such as detainee operations, field sanitation, common tasks, tactical combat casualty care, day and night land navigation, a written exam and a 12-mile road march.

The badge is similar to the infantry’s Expert Infantry Badge, where physical fitness, mental toughness and the ability to perform to high standards in critical tasks and Soldier skills test candidates mettle, in order to be awarded the most sought after peacetime awards in the medical field.

 “The biggest challenge is the time and preparation for coming out to the EFMB. A lot of Soldiers are under the impression that you can come out here and get trained up, that is a bad rumor,” said Maj. David Webb, 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 1st Med. Brigade operations officer and EFMB officer in charge.

Fort Hood and the 61st MMB, 1st Med. Bde. hosted the EFMB for the first time since 2002.  

The testing this year also implemented new standards since testing had last been held on Fort Hood, injecting a sense of realism into the lanes.

“In years past, the EFMB incorporated round robin type scenarios, where you are going from station to station testing,” said Webb. “Now it’s is taking all these skills you have and then you’re executing them in a scenario driven lane, and (candidates) are operating under a little more pressure,” Webb said. “We provide the candidate with an operation-order and they execute an operation in the lane,” said Webb.

With the opposing force shooting at the candidate, it makes the lane more realistic, similar to what Soldiers encounter on today’s battlefield, said Webb.

Spc. John McCreadie, a medic with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th ID and fresh off a deployment in 2006, said he believes the EFMB new standards are “helpful in combat.”

“Testing and standards are different in real life, but it definitely gets you thinking and you just have to be really on your medical skills,” McCreadie said.

Candidates had similar opinions on what the most difficult aspect of the EFMB is.

“The hardest part is remembering the sequence of everything, you have to carry a lot patients, it’s very physically demanding, once you have that physical demand alleviated, you have to remember all your steps for triage, patient care, with mortar simulators going off, it just keeping your baring,” said Spc. Janiell Gofarth, a combat medic with the 404th Air Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Division. “But if you practice like you play then you’re good.”

McCreadie, said, “The hardest  part is focusing on what needs to be accomplished for the day at hand and putting off other material from the previous days.” “If you don’t make the time to study and if you don’t stay up a little bit later than everyone else studying then you probably aren’t going to be successful,” he said. 

This year more than 80 percent of the candidates failed the written test, dropping the pool of 150 to a whopping 17, proving to some of the candidates that the EFMB is mark of excellence.

“It is a huge honor and an accomplishment for medical personnel in the US Army, it is very prestigious and it commands a lot respect as a badge and as an award,” said Gofarth. “The EFMB really means something because it says you really are an expert and a professional in your area of expertise, whether it is medical, dental or a combat medic.”

After two weeks of mental and physical anguish, only three Soldiers emerged as experts in the combat medical field, earning the distinguished EFMB.

“Now that it’s over, it’s a relief and it feels great,” said Lt. Bryan French a medic with 1/10 Cavalry, 2nd BCT, 4th ID. “I’m proud of my two other soldiers that came through,” said French, speaking of McCreadie and Pfc. David Shaffner, a medic with the 566th Area Support Medical Company, 61stMMB, 1st Med. Bde..

“I’m going go back with my platoon and go out to eat somewhere,” said McCreadie.

McCreadie was the honor graduate for this year’s EFMB, the written test winner and came in first on the 12 mile road march with a time of 2: 27 min.

When asked how he felt and what he looked forward to he responded, “It takes a while to absorb all this in and I’m looking forward to getting back to work and my team.”

 “Even if you don’t make it, to get the badge, the training is always well worth it. You will always come away as a better medic,” said 1st Sgt. Dwayne G. Ford, 566th ASMC first sergeant.